Natural History

This page has a few resources for science research and education in the Mitchell County / Yancey County area.

The Southern Appalachians region is one of the most botanically diverse areas of the planet’s temperate zones. This guide to wildflowers of Mitchell and Yancey Counties can help you identify many of the herbaceous plants you find. The guide is under construction, and you can help us improve it – if you notice problems, contact Nancy.


Because of the rich flora, we also have a rich insect fauna. This guide to moths of AS IF Center can help you identify moths you see in the area. It’s not a dichotomous key – you can leave some questions blank if you don’t know the answer, and you can give multiple answers if you’re not sure.


This visual checklist of moths is an easy way to learn about moths of the area – browse through the list and see what resembles the moth you are searching for. This checklist takes a while to load but it’s worth it – super handy to use.


Fireflies are abundant at AS IF Center. In May and June you can find us on the front porch pretty much every night watching the firefly show. This JE Lloyd paper on fireflies has a thorough description of the different signals of each species. Check out this great Science Friday episode about fireflies and this citizen science firefly watch run by the Boston Museum of Science.


The area has an interesting herpetological fauna, especially with regard to salamanders which are more diverse in the Southern Apps than anywhere else in the world. This page on the amphibians and reptiles of NC and this Appalachian guide to salamanders are good places to start learning about them. For frog ID, this  Frogs and toads of Georgia page has audio files so you can identify frogs by their call.


This geological map of North Carolina was produced by the NC Geological Survey in 1985. For more information and other maps, visit the NCGS map page.


The  Spruce Pine mining district has unusual geological exposures and abundant mineral deposits. Every electronic device in the world uses silicon chips that were grown in crucibles made from  Spruce Pine quartz. The area also has abundant feldspar and mica deposits as well as semi-precious stones such as garnets, rubies, and emeralds. Just down the road from AS IF Center at High Cove is a large exposure of olivine, an uncommon mineral produced in the earth’s mantle. The nearby town of Bandana has a large vein of marble, and the Grandfather Mountain window and Linville Falls fault are excellent places to study geological history.

To learn more about our natural history,  visit our site on iNaturalist.