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Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center and Botanical Gardens

The Highlands Biological Station (HBS) is an inter-institutional center of the University of North Carolina and is administered by Western Carolina University. It is made up of the Highlands Nature Center, Laboratory, and Botanical Garden are part of the Station, which is supported in part by the Highlands Biological Foundation.  

The Highlands Botanical Garden was established in 1962 as a refuge and demonstration garden for the diverse flora of the southern Appalachians and its unique communities.

Nearly 500 species of mosses, ferns, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees flourish in natural forest, wetlands and old-growth plant communities connected by a series of trails and boardwalks.  Several unique demonstration gardens display collections of Native Azaleas, Plants of the Cherokee, Mosses and Liverworts, Wildflower Meadow, Butterfly-pollinated and Rock Outcrop species.  The trail network in the Botanical Garden is part of the Highlands Plateau Greenway and the North Carolina Birding Trail. Highlands Botanical Garden is open year-round, dawn to dusk, free of charge. Come enjoy the wildflowers along our woodland trails, lake, and creek, have a picnic lunch, take one of our tours or workshops.

Highlands Nature Center provides more than 50 different day programs for public, private, or homeschool groups in grades K-12. Classes are designed to meet the curriculum requirements of the North Carolina science Essential Standards for each grade level, and supplement existing lessons by bringing additional resources to the classroom.

Programs can take place in natural outdoor settings as well as in the classroom and are designed to provide hands-on learning experiences through activities, games, observations, and field studies.