The Black Mountains of western North Carolina are a 15-mile range in the Pisgah National Forest. The highest peak in the Appalachian Range, Mount Mitchell, is found there, as well as some of the East Coast's largest and oldest stands of virgin forest. Tree species in the Black Mountains are primarily hardwoods and include two formerly dominant species that are famous for being devastated by acid rain and insect invaders.
Fraser Fir, Abies Fraseri
A popular Christmas tree choice, the Fraser fir is one of the Black Mountains' namesakes. Before being heavily logged in the early 1900s, Fraser fir and red spruce grew thickly atop the Black Mountains, giving the range its name. Though logging has since been restricted in the mountains, the Fraser fir population has been devastated by the effects of acid rain and an imported pest, the wooly adelgid. Fraser firs usually grow to be between 50 and 60 feet.
Red Spruce, Picea Rubens
Once common across most of the East Coast and eastern Canada, the red spruce is now an endangered species in Connecticut and New Jersey. This tree also grows in the upper ranges of the Black Mountains, though it has also been heavily affected by acid rain, the wooly adelgid and other insect pests. The red spruce can grow up to 115 feet.
Yellow Birch, Betula Alleghaniensis
Found mainly in the eastern mountains of Canada, the yellow birch grows more sparsely in the pine forests of the Black Mountains. It grows to be between 65 and 75 feet tall and is an important food plant for moose, deer, birds and woodland rodents.
American Beech, Fagus Grandifolia
This smooth-skinned, slow-growing grandfather of the eastern hardwood forests occurs from Nova Scotia to Texas. Its seeds are an important food source for mice, squirrels, chipmunks, bear, deer and foxes. American beech can grow to be over 130 feet tall.
Chestnut Oak, Quercus Prinus
The chestnut oak occurs primarily in the Appalachian Mountains, occupying much of the woodland that was formerly dominated by the American chestnut. Chestnut oaks can grow to be 65 to 80 feet tall.
Northern Red Oak, Quercus Rubra Var. Borealis
The tallest and fastest-growing of the oak family, the northern red oak can reach heights of nearly 100 feet. This oak, along with others, is an important food tree for forest wildlife.
Black Cherry, Prunus Serotina
Known best for its use as a furniture wood, black cherry can achieve heights of 125 feet in its North Carolina range. Migratory birds rely on the fruit.
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia Latifolia
This 10- to 40-foot tall, evergreen understory tree grows primarily in spruce and fir forests. Known best for its symmetrical octagon-shaped pink flowers, the mountain laurel is one of the first species to return to disturbed forest sites.
Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis
This 60- to 70-foot evergreen tree grows abundantly in the Black Mountain forests of North Carolina. Fallen hollow trees are used frequently as dens by black bears. Hemlocks can live to be over 400 years old.