The Satulah Refugee
The Highlands Plateau has many unique features, one of which is that you can see many northern species reaching their southern range limits and briefly overlapping with southern species that reach their elevation limits. Some of these northern relics are indicative of times past, when glaciers drove species south and this acted as their refuge during the last ice age. One such glacial refugee is the Common Juniper, Juniperus communis variety depressa. Globally, the Common Juniper has one of the largest ranges and is found circum-globally in the more northern reaches from Canada, Alaska, and parts of New England in North America through Siberia and in most northern European countries. In many of these areas, the Common Juniper, is, well, pretty common. However, in the United States, this species has crept south along the Rocky, Sierra Nevada, and Appalachian Mountains into more southerly areas. Many of these southern extensions, particularly those within the Southern Appalachians, are highly scattered and disjunct. In North Carolina, only three major populations are known, but only one within the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment, Satulah Mountain. This makes Satulah Mountain, from a botanical perspective, unique in the NC Mountains. Nowhere else will you be able to see this species naturally grow amongst species more typical of the Southern Appalachian granite domes. The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, in recognition of this unique character of Satulah Mountain, is currently working on a new management plan that will focus on ensuring this special population survives for generations to come. We currently have a student with the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment working with this species to help determine what we as land managers can do to ensure the long term survival of this species on Satulah Mountain.