Fall Color Finder
Visual Reference Guide To Fall Colors
The southern Appalachians boast over 130 tree species-more than all of
northern Europe. That variety is represented throughout the mountain region and
results in a variety of color variations, as well as a variety of timing for
the change of color. Also, the combination of evergreens like Spruce, Hemlock
and the Rhododendrons provide excellent contrast to the changing Hickories,
Dogwoods, Oaks and many others.
Types of forests in the southern Appalachians
Elevation, moisture and exposure to the elements play a role in determining
the type of forests and the trees present within each particular type. In the
southern Appalachians, there are 5 main forest types...
- Cove Hardwood (below 4500')
Mainly broadleaf, deciduous trees. Yellow Poplar, Basswood, Sugar Maple,
American Beech and Yellow Buckeye. A very common forest type in our region.
Examples are easily found throughout the mountains, in sheltered mountain coves
and in the vicinity of water sources, streams, rivers and creeks.
- Northern Hardwood (above 4500')
Predominantly broadleaf, deciduous trees, similar to lower elevation northern
forests. American Beech, Yellow Birch, Striped Maple, Pin Cherry. Many examples
of this forest type are found along the higher regions of the Blue Ridge
Parkway and in the Great Smoky Mountains.
- Spruce-Fir (above 4500')
Evergreen, similar to northern Maine or Canada's boreal forest. Fraser Fir and
Red Spruce. Unfortunately, the Fraser Fir is under attack by a parasite, the
wooly aldegid, and many of our best examples of this type of forest are dieing.
Found on high mountain peaks like Mt. Mitchell, Richland Balsam, Clingman's
- Hemlock (below 4000')
Hemlocks are evergreens, occasionally reaching large sizes in the mountains.
The understory often consists of white and purple rhododendrons. Most often
found along streams and shady slopes.
- Pine-Oak (below 4500')
Oak, Hickory, Yellow Poplar, Dogwood, and some Pines, with Rhododendron and
laurels on the understory. Found on drier slopes and ridges throughout the
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