Nestled just outside downtown is the Highlands Botanical Garden, with almost 2 miles of trails on 12 acres that includes a lush forested area and Lindenwood Lake. The Garden is part of the Highlands Biological Station’s 24- acres daytime adventure.
The trail begins at the Nature Center, 930 Horse Cove Road, to the left of the building and leads into the woods. At springtime, the forest floor is speckled with all manner blooming flowers including iconic Trilliums, Jack in the Pulpit, Speckled Wood Lily, and more.
Paige Engelbrektsson, Nature Center Education Specialist for Highlands Biological Foundation (HBS’ nonprofit-partner organization) said in June visitors should see three classic shrubs that turn the Garden into a “fireworks display,” including Mountain Laurel, Punctatum Rhododendron, and Catawba Rhododendron.
Along the Bog Boardwalk by Lindenwood Lake hikers will spot several pitcher plants flowering by the water’s edge, including Purple Pitcher Plant, Sweet Pitcher Plant, and Yellow Pitcher Plant.
“Walking through the Botanical Garden, rain or shine, brings visitors into a microcosm of the Highlands Plateau’s stunning biodiversity,” said Engelbrektsson. “Over 400 species of plants create a wealth of color and richness for both people and wildlife. On sunny days birders can spot the many species that call our campus home while native pollinators of all kinds flock to our demonstration gardens. Visitors often spot our well-known snapping turtles along the dam and when the sun begins to set, frogs of all kinds call from the edges of Lindenwood Lake.”
She added that rainy days in the Garden remind her of the importance of rain to the region.
“So many of our iconic species thrive because of our high rainfalls and wet soils,” said Engelbrektsson. “The salamanders tucked into their underground burrows or swimming below our miniature waterfalls are a fantastic example of this. And strolling along the boardwalks in the fog or sitting by the stream in a light mist offers a unique kind of peace, the chance to soak up the moment as the plants are soaking up the rain.”
As of mid-May, the Highlands Nature Center remains closed, but they are offering virtual garden tours, which allows people to connect whether they live in Highlands or across the country.
Engelbrektsson said HBS’ “A Garden in Every Season” tours will be live-streamed via their Facebook Page on the first Monday of every month at 11:30 a.m. Additional live-streams may be added throughout the summer.
The Botanical Garden is free of charge. It remains open dawn to dusk year-round. Any changes will be noted on their website HERE. The Botanical Garden is part of the Highlands Biological Station, and The Highlands Biological Station is a multi-campus center of Western Carolina University.