With the Pisgah National Forest in our backyard, PARI’s guests are often lucky enough to encounter a few of our furry and feathered neighbors while visiting the campus and hiking the surrounding trails. With more than 70 species documented along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s likely that you’ll get a glimpse of some of our more noticeable neighbors, like wild turkeys, deer, and barn swallows that keep the campus bug-free. But our luckiest guests may even spot a newly repopulated red wolf or one of our two neighboring black bears!
During the spring and summer months, PARI’s grounds bloom with colorful wildﬂowers, peculiar plants and fungi that are unique to the region. Climate, unique soil and altitude (2,500-3,000 ft.) combined to cultivate 95 common and uncommon flora species. From bright and beautiful daffodils and dwarf iris to quirky and eccentric yellow fringed orchid and lady slippers, a visit to our campus and surrounding area promises a rainbow of color and delightful disc.
PARI’s lush forest, high meadows and dark skies provide an inviting habitat to many species of birds. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science visited and in one day identified 41 bird species. This high number was contributed to the ‘perfect home’ provided by PARI’s 31 species of trees. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and the Audubon Society are in partnership to create dark and inviting bird habitats. PARI is one of only two certified Dark Sky Parks in the Carolinas.
PARI’s location was chosen in part due to the large amount of mica mineral content in the surrounding mountains, which acts as a radio wave insulator, ideal for the implementation of our radio telescopes. You can also ﬁnd mica, granite and quartz among the interesting rock formations and gorges in the area.