Plants on the Plateau
Highlands’ rich collection of plants, and healthy populations of wildlife comprise one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Since the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is a rain forest, vegetation grows in lavish proportions. The hollows and summits found on the Plateau have allowed an astonishing variety of plants to thrive, many are holdovers from the last Ice Age.
To appreciate the depth of this bounty, take a stroll through the Highlands Botanical Garden, located behind the Highlands Nature Center on Horse Cove Road (an easy stroll from downtown). Wander through 12 acres of woodland trails to discover nearly 500 species of wildflowers, ferns, mosses and trees flourishing on the Plateau. It’s open year-round from dawn to dusk, free of charge. While you’re at the Highlands Botanical Garden, make a point to go inside the Highlands Nature Center and buy a copy of Highlands Botanical Garden: A Naturalist’s Guide to make the most of your visit. It’s the first-ever guide to the garden, with maps, historical overview, and profiles of hundreds of native plants. Not so much identification guide as botanical celebration, this commemorative Botanical Garden volume introduces readers to little-known aspects of our native plants, from the backstory to their names to their ecology and natural history.