Flora and Fauna

Western North Carolina’s climate follows a subtropical classification. Summer months are warm with typically mild winter months. The temperature can reach above 90°F during the summer, and can fall below 10°F (-12.2°C) or even 0°F (-17.78°C) in the harsher winters. The average temperature can range from 68°F (20°C) to 80°F (26.67°C) in the summer months, while in the winter months the typical range is 32°F (0°C) to 50°F (10°C).

This area of North Carolina receives frequent rainfall due to the presence of moist winds moving over the mountainous region. This causes around 80 to 90 inches (203.2 cm to 228.6 cm) of rainfall to accumulate. The rainfall occurs more often during the summer months, which is associated with the unpredictable thunderstorms in the area. Less rainfall occurs during the colder month; however, the rainfall in the winter is consistent with the frequency pressure systems moving into the area, which occur on a regular basis. Snow and wintry mixes can occur in the colder months because cold air is blown southward from the northern states. The average snowfall for this region is around 10 inches (25.4 cm) a year and at higher elevations the average increase drastically. This climate leads to a large range of diversity within the community.

One such range of diversity can be seen by the mixture of deciduous and coniferous forest species. Deciduous plants lose an appendage seasonally, such as leaves, fruit, or petals. These plants discard their leaves to conserve water during the colder months to survive better, and they have to regrow their leaves during the spring. Deciduous plants in the region include the American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Mountain-laurel (Kalmia latifolia), dogwoods (family Cornaceae), oak (genus Quercus), various plants of the genus Rhododendrons such as flame azalea (Rhododendon calendulaceum), and many more. Conifers do not utilize leaves or flowers but instead grow needles and cones. Most conifers do not lose them during the colder months; instead, they persist year round, which allows them to survive in the colder regions. Needle usage of conifers causes a great loss of water during the winter and increased predation and damage. Other conifers will lose their needles and regenerate them. Conifers in the area include the Douglas-Fir of the genus Pseudotsuga, which is part of the economic in the area and various species from the genus Pinus such as the White Pine (Pinus strobus).

The climate of the area leads to a large abundance of plants including the meeting of both the deciduous and coniferous forest. The climate and variety in the plant community gives rise to many animal species being present in the area. These range from mammals and birds to reptiles and insects. The common mammals found in the area include: Larger mammals such as the white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and black bear (Ursus americanus), medium mammals such as the coyote (Canis latrans) and bobcat (Lynx rufus), smaller mammals such the raccoon (Procyon lotor), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), and skunk (Mephitis mephitis), and various other mammals. The birds present in the area include eagles and hawks (family Accipitridae), vultures (family Cathartidae), owls (family Strigidae), crows (genus Corvus) and hummingbirds (family Trochilidae). Various butterflies and spiders such as the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) represent the insects of the area. The reptiles and amphibians in the area range from frogs (order Anura) and salamanders (order Caudata) to snakes (suborder Serpentes) and turtles (order Testudines). These are just a few of the various species of plants and animals found in the region of North Carolina, which has a rich diversity of life throughout.