South Carolina, the “palmetto state,” is home to at least 3,000 vascular plants. From the coastal areas to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the interior, a wide variety of plant life exists, from grasses to large pine trees to the state tree, the cabbage palmetto. However, many native plants in South Carolina have become endangered due to clearing and commercial development of wild areas.
Many invasive aquatic plants threaten South Carolina’s coastal regions. They often cause the native species to die because of their rapid spread. Native aquatic plants include the hardy water lily, native water canna, pond cypress, bald cypress and water tupelo.
South Carolina’s coastal regions are home to many species of plants. However, the barrier islands have fewer native species because of the high winds, which cause salt to blow onto the land from the ocean, preventing the growth of many plants. Some of the native coastal plants include: sea oats, gaillardia, dotted horsemint, the herb St. John’s wort, the shrub yaupon, loblolly bay, swamp mallow and yellow jessamine, the state flower.
South Carolina hosts many species of native trees, both deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees include: pond cypress, bald cypress, Florida maple, sweet birch, American hornbeam, flowering dogwood, common persimmon, several species of oak, several types of hickory, bigleaf magnolia, red mulberry, several ash varieties, and three elms, including the medicinal slippery elm. Evergreen trees include Southern red cedar, spruce, slash and longleaf pine, American holly, live oak, red bay, Southern magnolia and the cabbage or “sabal” palmetto, which is a medium-sized palm tree that serves as the state tree.
A good number of South Carolina’s native plants are appropriate for use in residential and commercial landscapes. Trees include the following: paw paw, Eastern redbud, fringetree, Pagoda dogwood, persimmon, Carolina silverbell, common with Hazel, American holly, red cedar, red maple, yellow buckeye, sweet birch, beech, tulip tree, sycamore, white oak, American linden, Carolina hemlock. Herbaceous perennials include: blue star, green dragon, wild indigo, black cohosh, bleeding heart, trout lily, Joe-Pye weed, wild geranium, alumroot, lobelia, cardinal flower, bee balm, phlox, black-eyed Susan, blue-eyed grass, and many more.