• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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Missing from our forests

Dispatches from the Field > Missing species > Missing from our forests

Highland rush.

Highland rush.

Artwork by Lance B, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Highland rush (Juncus trifidus)

  • Status: Missing
  • Last seen in park: 1950
  • Species story: This is a cold-loving plant found from Greenland to Canada, where it grows in cliff crevices. It also lives in a single place in Shenandoah National Park, on a vertical cliff of metamorphosed basalt at 4,500 feet. This species was only collected once in Great Smoky Mountains on Mount LeConte, but attempts to re-locate it, even using notes in a letter supplied by the original discoverer, have proved fruitless. Is it gone for good?
Green salamander.

Green salamander.

Artwork by Lindsey C, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Green salamander (Aneides aneus)

  • Status: Missing
  • Last seen in park: 1929
  • Species story: The green salamander was found only once in the park, at the base of Mount LeConte. While Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers ideal habitat for many other salamander species, repeated searches have never found this particular rare amphibian again. For those ready to search more, the green salamander is tiny-3-5 inches long-and distinctive with its bright lichen-green skin. Like other amphibians, the green salamander is highly sensitive to habitat and climate changes.
American chestnut tree.

American chestnut tree.

Drawing by Tesa A, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

American chestnut (Castanea dentata)

  • Status: Functionally extinct in many areas
  • Last seen in park: mature trees: 1940s, sprouts: extant
  • Species story: Chestnut blight, caused by a fungus from Asia, killed four billion American chestnut trees nationwide by the 1940s! Before the blight, about a third of all trees in the Smoky Mountains were chestnuts. Today, only single spindly saplings survive. Blight-resistant trees still exist elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe. Read more about chestnut research in the park.
Twin flower.

Twin flower.

Drawing by Hannah H, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Twin flower (Linnaea borealis)

  • Status: Missing
  • Last seen in park: 1890s
  • Species story: This flower is a well-known disappeared wildflower collected in "Sevier county, mountain woods,” as the finder wrote. Botanists continue to search, but it has never been found again. Scientists speculate that it may have disappeared due to habitat change within the park with less fire and more dense forests, as well as increased development outside the park.

Did You Know?

Scientists estimate that 100,000 different species live in the park.

What lives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Although the question sounds simple, it is actually extremely complex. Right now scientists think that we only know about 17 percent of the plants and animals that live in the park, or about 17,000 species of a probable 100,000 different organisms.