The hot, dry climate of Jockey's Ridge State Park attracts a unique plant and animal community to this harsh, yet fragile, environment. Many people think that Jockey's Ridge is an area essentially without plant life; but that's not the case. Even though shifting sands provide a challenge to plant growth, several plant communities are present in the park.
Small pockets of American beachgrass grow along the base of the dune. Thickets of wax myrtle, bayberry, red cedar, live oak and red bay are found in protected areas near the parking lot. Southern red oaks, hickories, sweet gum and loblolly pine may be found to the west of the dune.
This maritime thicket gives way to the brackish waters of the Roanoke Sound and the western boundary of the park. Here, visitors can find phragmites, also known as the common reed, big cordgrass, black needlerush, marsh pennywort, marsh-elder, cattail, lance leaved sagitaria and several different types of sedges.
Though visitors will not encounter many animals on the ridge, early morning hikers will often see tracks that rabbits, foxes, lizards and other animals have left in the sand during the night. Heavy rains form temporary pools in the lower level of the dunes. These pools serve as a source of water for raccoons, opossums, mice and muskrats. Bird life is abundant in late summer and fall when large numbers of migrating birds travel southward. Warblers, sparrows, flycatchers and other species may be seen in the shrub thickets. The sound-side of Jockey's Ridge is home to a variety of waterfowl in the winter.