Plants & Shrubs

Maple LeavesMAPLES

The distinctive pattern of the sugar maple is familiar from the Canadian flag. Its bright red color is one of the big draws in New England's fall foliage season.

Oak LeafOAKS

Oaks are perhaps the most important hardwood trees in the Appalachians. Their acorns provide an important food source for a variety of birds and mammals including bear, deer, and quail. Oak species can be divided into two major groups—red oaks and white oaks. White oak leaves (such as the one pictured here) have rounded lobes, while red oaks have pointed lobes. In fall, oak leaves turn deep red or brown.


These small trees with their delicate white blooms are members of the rose family. Also known as sarvis, they bloom each spring from March to May depending on the elevation. As the name indicates, the tree produces small, berry-like fruit.


Balsam fir trees are common to the Appalachian Trail in New England. They are even found in the southern Appalachians in highland areas such as Roan Mountain and Clingmans Dome. Fraser fir trees are also found in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the fraser fir trees are dying off. Acid rain is weakening the mature trees, which then fall prey to the balsam woolly adelgid, an aphid-like insect. The main difference between the Fraser and Balsam firs is the cones. The Fraser fir cones are usually twice as wide as they are long, while balsam cones are longer than they are wide. The healthy balsam fir pictured here is in Vermont's Green Mountains.


Found in the southern Appalachians, these flowering shrubs are plentiful along some sections of the Appalachian Trail. There are a number of species of azaleas, all of which bloom in the late spring. The pink variety is called Pinxter flower while the red, orange, and yellow varieties are referred to as flame azalea.


This evergreen shrub puts forth clusters of white-to-pink, honeycomb-shaped flowers during June and July. It is the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but can be found along the Appalachian Trail anywhere south of New England. The shrubs can grow quite large, often in thick groves.

Catawba rhododendronCATAWBA RHODODENDRON

The large clusters of pink flowers of the catawba rhododendron bloom each late spring through early summer along the Appalachian Trail. The blooms are quite prolific along some parts of the Trail, most notably the Roan Highlands on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in southwest Virginia. During the winter, rhododendron leaves curl up in cold temperatures, the colder the weather, the tighter the curl.