Hanging Rock State Park  »  Ecology

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Image of a trail through the forest with sunlight streaming through
       the trees.

More than 300 species of mountain flora are found in the park. The most abundant plants are rhododendron, azalea, galax, mountain laurel and a wide variety of ferns. The majority of the park is forested by oak and pine, but in moist locations hemlock provides a canopy. Hanging Rock is one of the few places where Canadian and Carolina hemlock grow side by side.

In the highest elevations of the park, much bare rock is exposed. Mosses and lichens, the pioneers of mountain forests, have invaded portions of this bare rock, beginning the process of succession. As the underlying rock weathers and cracks, soil gradually fills the small crevices and flowering plants take hold. Such wildflowers include pink lady's slipper, turkey-beard, bird-foot violet and fire pink. Over thousands or even millions of years, with adequate amounts of water, these plant communities may become even more diverse and forests will creep uphill, ultimately covering the mountain.

The park's forests are home to many animals typical of the piedmont and mountain foothills. Mammal species include white-tailed deer, raccoon and gray fox. On summer evenings, bats can be seen flying overhead looking for insects or dipping down to a stream for a cool drink.

Birds are abundant in all seasons, especially in spring and fall when migrating species add to the resident population and the otherwise quiet mountain air is filled with the melodies of songbirds. Whippoorwills, eastern screech owls and barred owls add special effects while amphibians, including American toads, spring peepers and chorus frogs, lend harmony to warm evenings.

The moist forests and streams of Hanging Rock are home to a variety of salamanders. One species, Wehrle's salamander, is found only in this area of the state. Lizards and snakes are abundant and diverse. Most snakes are seldom seen and harmless, living in areas where insects and amphibians are plentiful.