The Southern Highlands Reserve is a native plant arboretum and research center dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We accomplish this mission through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region, and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. Located in Western North Carolina at an elevation of 4500 feet, the varied topography and forest types found on our 120 acres allow us to emulate many of the plant communities found in the higher reaches of the Southern Appalachians.


Plan Your Visit!

Southern Highlands Reserve offers tours for individuals, small and large groups by reservation.

Genius Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve

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What They Are Saying

Dan Nadenicek

Dan Nadenicek

Dean, College of Environment & Design
University of Georgia

At the Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR), Robert and Betty Balentine, Director Kelly Holdbrooks, and SHR staff members are engaged in an atypical but highly important type of philanthropy: providing for the future of the region and the planet through stewardship, research, and advocacy about sustainable landscape practices.

When you visit, you will find that intended purpose subtly linked to an amazing garden experience of native plants, water features, trails, and vistas. Those stewardship lessons have also become the basis of an annual symposia series in which renowned horticulturists, landscape architects, scientific researchers, and others present their work and comment on the importance of the SHR vision.

Gary Smith

W. Gary Smith

FASLA Landscape Architect
for SHR Masterplan

More than any garden I know, at the Southern Highlands Reserve, it's almost guaranteed that you will make a personal connection to nature. When we made this garden, all we had to do was pause, listen, and put our egos out of the way - and that's what allowed us to tap into the deep inner spirit of this place.

Through design we abstracted and intensified the beauty, joy, and inspiration. It was almost as if we all were under some sort of magic spell. Even though everyone put in a huge amount of effort, in the end it was as if the place had made itself. As a designer, I can't imagine there will ever be another experience like it.

Allan Armitage

Dr. Allan Armitage

Professor Emeritus of Horticulture
University of Georgia

I am one fortunate fellow. I have traveled throughout the world to some of the most beautiful gardens, preserves and parks. I am constantly asked, "What are your favorite places to visit?" Without a moment’s hesitation, I mention the Southern Highlands Reserve. Without sounding melodramatic, I can honestly say visiting SHR provides natural beauty, tranquility and serenity unlike anywhere I have ever traveled. And thanks to the dedication and hard work of the founders and staff, I will be able to visit for many more decades to come.

Put on the tropics, put on the far reaches of the world, put on any dream you have – but be sure you put the Southern Highland Reserve on your bucket list. It is too wonderful too miss.

What's New

20 hours ago

Southern Highlands Reserve

For #EarthScienceWeek we’re sharing the Natural History of the #BlueRidge Escarpment. SHR resides there with more than 300 rare species and natural communities, a few hundred yards from the Eastern Continental Divide at the headwaters of the Savannah River basin. This unique location sets the stage for micro-habitats and a living laboratory for rare and endangered species.

Our modern landscape was transformed about 65 million years ago with continental collisions and basaltic volcanism forming the mountain ranges in the Southeast. The Ice Age pushed flora and fauna that now only occur in the Arctic down to this shelf in the southern Appalachian Mountains when glaciers were as close as Pennsylvania.

Steep rugged mountains of the Blue Ridge Escarpment separate two distinct physiographic provinces: The Blue Ridge and the Piedmont. At the transition zone between these two, there is an abrupt elevation change with vertical relief ranging from 1,300 – 2,500 ft. Its upper boundary at the Eastern Continental Divide separating river systems that flow west into the Gulf of Mexico from those flowing east into the Atlantic Ocean. The Escarpment influences weather patterns, giving #TransylvaniaCounty the region’s highest rainfall.
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Comment on Facebook

Loved learning about this. Thank you so much!

Living in the Yahoola Valley just below and southeast of the AT, sometimes fast moving fronts hit the mountains and pop right over us.

Amazing beauty and diversity! Thanks for protecting so much of it and sharing!

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Southern Highlands Reserve 5-Day Forecast

Real-time forecasts from the Southern Highlands Reserve weather station

Chance of Rain
Chance of Rain
High 56° / Low 28°
High 51° / Low 33°
High 54° / Low 38°
Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
High 61° / Low 37°
Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
High 59° / Low 36°

Support the Reserve

Your donation will make you a part of a group working toward a vision of education, restoration, and research in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Southern Highlands Reserve is a nonprofit organization under the IRS code section 501(c)(3).