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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reached a major milestone! It now has documentation of 20,000 species of animals, plants, and other organisms found in the park. We’ve gathered details on the different species you can find in the park and what to expect when you visit!
20,000 Species in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Scientists from across the world are always hard at work cataloging the abundance of diversity in the national park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park refers to the documentation of 20,000 species as a “biodiversity milestone.” The park has been able to track the species through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. This ongoing project studies where species can be found, how abundant they are, and how they interact with one another. In its 21 years of existence, the ATBI has documented over 9,500 species for the park and 1,006 species in the park that are completely new to science! The ATBI project is managed by Discover Life in America. The director of science and research for Discover Life in America said that they think there are still tens of thousands of species that are yet to be discovered in the park!
Newest Species Found in the National Park
There are quite a few animal and plant species that are newly discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the animals that was recently discovered was the giant bark aphid, which is the largest aphid in the United States. These animals are grayish black and live on the surface of deciduous trees. The frosted elfin butterfly is a rare butterfly recently noted in the park. Before this animals changes into a butterfly, the caterpillars feed on lupine and indigo. Another animal found in the park is the yellow passion flower bee, which exclusively pollinates the yellow passion flower. The last animal recently documented in the park for the first time is the nine-banded armadillo. As far as plants go, one of the recent finds is the Blue Ridge three-lobed coneflower, a wildflower that is native to Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Popular Animal Species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
In the national park, more than 60 species of mammals have been documented, as well as 40 species of reptiles and 44 species of amphibians. There are also more than 200 species of birds and 67 native fish species. The most famous species in the park is the American Black Bear. Biologists estimate about 1,500 black bears call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park home, which is approximately 2 bears per square mile of the park! The park supports the largest protected bear habitat in the East. The white-tailed deer, squirrel, and bat species are other common animals seen in the park.
Popular Plant Species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 1,600 species of flowering plants. That includes 100 native tree species and over 100 native shrub species. There’s also a number of non-flowering plants, including about 50 ferns and fern allies. During the spring and summer, millions of people come to the Smoky Mountains to see the variety of gorgeous wildflowers that blanket the forest floors. Some of the most popular wildflowers include white trillium, trout lily, and wild geranium.
Ways to Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Part of the reason the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is so popular is because people love exploring the variety of species found there. You can choose to explore by hiking one of more than 150 trails in the park, or take a scenic drive to see the beauty of the Smokies from your car. Here are some of the most popular hikes and scenic drives:
If you’re hoping to spot a waterfall during your visit to the Smoky Mountains, Laurel Falls is one of the most popular. This 80-foot waterfall is named for the mountain laurel, which is an evergreen shrub that blooms along the trail and near the falls in the month of May. You can also hike to Grotto Falls along the Trillium Gap Trail, which runs through an old-growth hemlock forest and behind the 25-foot-high waterfall. It’s also a great area to spot salamanders, one of the most popular species in the park. Other great hikes are the Alum Cave Trail, Abrams Falls Trail, and Andrews Bald.
Popular Scenic Drives
If you prefer to take in the sights from the comfort of your vehicle, you’re in luck. There are plenty of scenic drives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that visitors love. The most popular is the Cades Cove Loop Road, which is an 11-mile, one-way loop that features historic sites, gorgeous views, and the opportunity to see wildlife. You’ll have the opportunity to see black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and more! You can also drive Newfound Gap Road, which is especially beautiful during the fall, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Foothills Parkway.
Learn More About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Start planning a visit to the Smoky Mountains to see a variety of species for yourself! Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help you prepare for your trip, and get ready for a visit that’s full of fun and amazing sights.