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Flora and Fauna of the Great Smoky Mountains

The breathtakingly beautiful Great Smoky Mountains are known for their lush flora and various fauna. This mountain range, located on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, is hundreds of millions years old, and is home to thousands of plants and creatures of all kinds, which find habitat in the temperate climate and diverse terrain of this region.

Flora of the Great Smokies


Pink Dogwood Blooms in the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are comprised of of over 3,500 species of plant life, of which 130 are trees. The trees of the great Smokies represent every natural species of Eastern North America, and make up three major types of forests, some of which are old-growth. The three major forest types of the Great Smokies include the following:

Spruce-Fir Forest

This forest, whose main species are red spruce and Fraser fir, makes up the highest peaks of the great Smokies. In addition to its namesake trees, this forest is also home to species of trees and shrubbery such as rhododendron, mountain ash, yellow birch, cherry, blackberry and hobblebush.

Northern Hardwood Forest

A northern hardwood forest is found in cooler temperatures of the Smokies’ higher elevations, which is mostly made up of species that are typically found in the northern parts of North America. Beech and yellow birch are the predominant species of this forest, but maples, buckeye and basswood trees are found here as well. Other plant life of this forest includes hydrangea, bloodroot, goldenrod, coneflower and grass and shrubbery of all kinds.

Cove Hardwood Forest

The incredibly diverse cove hardwood forest of the Smokies is home to over 130 species of trees, the most dominant of which are yellow birch, buckeye, tuliptree, sugar maple, hickory and hemlock. The understories of this forest are home to redbud, rhododendron, dogwood and dozens of shrubs, vines and grasses.

Fauna of the Great Smokies


A Young Elk Calf Wearing a New Radio Collar: Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

The Smokies are home to over 400 species of animals, which include various kinds of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The black bear is king of the Great Smoky Mountains, as its population here is higher than anywhere else east of the Mississippi. Other animals of the Great Smokies include, but are not limited to, the following species:

  • White-tailed deer
  • American Black Bear
  • Coyote
  • Red fox
  • Gray fox
  • Bobcat
  • European Boar
  • Elk
  • River otter
  • Box turtle
  • Wild Turkey
  • Whip-poor-will
  • Bald eagle
  • Golden eagle
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Barred Owl
  • Screech Owl
  • Northern water snake
  • Timber rattlesnake
  • Trout
  • Bass
  • Lamprey



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