The Southern Appalachian Mountains are one of the most floristically diverse regions in North America and a global plant diversity hotspot. The WCU Herbarium (WCUH) and the herbarium of Highlands Biological Station (HBSH) together form a regionally significant collection of plants containing over 30,000 dried specimens. This website represents a special digital collection of montane island plant specimens from WCUH and HBSH, featuring over 1,000 specimens dating from the 1890s to the present.
We use the phrase “montane islands” to describe five distinctive, high-elevation plant communities of the Southern Appalachians due to their unique habitats relative to the surrounding areas and their isolation from like communities by distance. These five community types are not necessarily the only communities that act like islands. However, the communities we have chosen to highlight here are significant contributors to the biological diversity of the Southern Appalachians, containing endemic, refugial, disjunct, and rare species. In addition, they are especially vulnerable to disturbance from climate change, human recreation, fire suppression, and pollution. The community descriptions given here are all adapted from:
Schafale, Michael. 2012. Guide to the Natural Communities of North Carolina, 4th Approximation. NC Natural Heritage Program, NCDENR, 208 pp.
Red Spruce- Fraser Fir Forest
Heath (Shrub) Bald
High Elevation Rocky Summit
High Elevation Granitic Domes
Funding for this project was provided by the Western Carolina University Hunter Scholar Award and National Science Foundation Project #1410439 “The Key to the Cabinets: Building & Sustaining a Research Database for a Global Diversity Hotspot”