LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Rich Cove Forest

Figure 4. The rich cove forest is perhaps the most diverse forest type in North America. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

In keeping with their name, the rich cove forests of the Blue Ridge are rich in species, tree production, and scenic beauty. Cove forests are dominated by large trees of many species. The example shown in Figure 4, at about 3100 feet, happens to be dominated by tulip poplars, but other examples are dominated by Canada hemlock, buckeye, basswood, sugar maple, birch, cucumber tree, white ash, American beech, or some combination of these.

What these forests have in common is their diversity of species, the grandeur of their giant trees, and the beauty of their understories. The smaller trees in this forest type are home to dogwoods, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, and Carolina silverbells. Together these heavily flowered species create a situation in which the trees obscure the forest — as in Figure 1, another illustration of the rich cove forest.

Cove forests are known to contain more than twenty-five different species of canopy trees and numerous other species in the understory and shrub layers. As a result, they are often described as the most diverse forest type in North America.