Flora and Fauna Found Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is home to an abundance of plants and animals. The disparity in elevation is partly responsible for the wide variety of wildlife found along the 469-mile drive. The stunted spruce and fir forests of the highlands give way to tulip poplar, oaks, maples, and pines, and eventually to sycamores along the James River in Virginia. In spring an array of flowering shrubs and trees provide a beautiful display of color, with peak blooming earlier in Virginia than in North Carolina’s higher elevations. Flame azalea reach full bloom around mid-May in the area between Rocky Knob and Roanoke and a month later in the high mountains south and west of Asheville.
Similarly, mountain laurel blooms in mid-May around Otter Creek and not until early June in other areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The showy purple blossoms of Catawba rhododendron can be seen from early to late June, depending on the elevation. Many wildflowers, some rare, provide an ever-changing show from April through the autumn when they are joined by the vivid yellow, red and orange hues of the fall foliage.
It’s always delightful to see animals in their natural habitat. When traveling along the Parkway at night, you may see foxes, raccoons, skunks and opossums. In the early morning and at dusk look for deer and black bear. Chipmunks, squirrels and groundhogs are active during the day. Along the trails it is possible to find many types of colorful salamanders, particularly in cool, moist places. Much of the Parkway follows the flyways of migrating birds, and over 100 species can be seen during the spring migration season. To increase your chance of getting a good look at various birds and other animals, bring a pair of binoculars when you visit the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC.