From mountains and coastal plains to swamps, North Carolina possesses a diversity of habitats that support a diverse range of plant life. Those chosen as official state plants earn the distinction by being significant: perhaps economically, perhaps by their ubiquitous quality, and sometimes because they are distinctive natives.
State Carnivorous Plant
The North Carolina state carnivorous plant is Dionaea muscipula--the Venus flytrap. The plant is native to only one place in the world, a coastal plain of the Carolinas, with Wilmington, North Carolina at its center. The area radiates out about 75 miles from Wilmington, and from within this place, the Venus Flytrap has been collected, cultivated and sold throughout the world, prized for its strange eating habits.
The flytrap catches prey by means of sensitive bristles that grow on hinged, fan-shaped leaves. When prey touches the bristles, the leaves slam shut. If the prey moves around inside, the plant knows live food has arrived. The leaves seal; digestion begins.
State Christmas Tree
North Carolina's state Christmas tree is the Fraser fir. North Carolina is home to many Christmas tree farms and over 90 percent of the Christmas trees produced are Fraser firs. The Fraser fir is native to the Southern Appalachian mountains, which run through the western side of the state. Botanist John Fraser explored North Carolina's mountains in the 18th century; the tree is named for him.
Lilium michauxii--the Carolina lily--is named for Andre Michaux, another 18th century botanist. The Carolina lily grows across the state, from the mountains to swampy coastland. Four-foot-tall stems are topped by up to six flowers, sporting spotted petals in brown, red and orange.
The petals bend back toward the stem until they overlap one another. The plant blooms in summer, but in the right conditions, the Carolina lily can bloom through fall.
North Carolina's state flower grows from a tree, specifically Cornus florida, a kind of dogwood. Dogwoods are very common in North Carolina, growing throughout the state. bursting into bloom in spring. They're often known for white flowers, but some varieties produce pink flowers and these, too, are seen throughout the state.
The petals of the dogwood are not truly petals, but bracts, which are leaf-like structures typically occurring with the real flowers of the plant, these flowers usually diminutive. In the fall, dogwoods create small red drupes that birds eat. Drupes are hard fruits with pits.
Even more common than dogwood trees in North Carolina are pine trees, the pine being the official state tree. No particular pine is honored, since there are eight different pines native to the state: the pitch pine, the longleaf pine, the loblolly pine, the table pine, the pond pine, the eastern white pine, the Virginia pine and the table mountain pine.
Pine trees have always played a part in the state's development, having provided wood, resin and turpentine. The fast-growing loblolly pine is one of the most prevalent pines, rooted throughout the state in a wide variety of soils.
State Berries, Fruit and Vegetable
North Carolina chose two plants to be its official berry: the blueberry and strawberry, both of which, like the Fraser fir, are important to the state's economy. Sweet potato, the official vegetable, is also agriculturally important to the state: North Carolina produces the most sweet potatoes of any state.
Not so with grapes, which are only a small part of the state's economy. Grape production does have a time-honored role, though, since the native scuppernong grape, the official state fruit, was the first grape to be cultivated in the United States.