The dynamic and diverse natural landscape that makes up Congaree National Park is defined by the presence of both flood and flame. Here visitors can experience both a unique old-growth bottomland hardwood forest, home to numerous national and state champion trees and one of the most biodiverse forests in the nation, as well as an upland pine forest where fire plays a key role in its health and survival.
The bottomland region that makes up much of Congaree National Park is regularly covered by floodwaters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. These floods deposit fresh, nutrient rich soil across the landscape that helps to maintain the health of this ecosystem. Forested wetlands, oxbow lakes, sloughs, and slow-moving creeks cover and cover the landscape and provide essential habitat for fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life, as well as bald cypress and tupelo trees. In other parts of the floodplain, slight changes in elevation have helped to create a variety of different ecosystems that support a diverse array of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects, as well as trees such as giant old-growth oaks and massive loblolly pines.
Along the bluffs on the northern edge of the floodplain stands an upland pine forest. Now dominated by loblolly pines, remnants of the once abundant longleaf pines that covered this upland region have managed to hold on and can still be seen. These fire-resistant trees depend on wildfires to regularly burn across the landscape, clearing out competitors such as sweetgum, turkey oak, shrubs and vines, while also helping to create and maintain open, grassy pine savannahs that are home to wildlife such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake, and southern fox squirrel, all of which are today threatened or endangered due to habitat loss.
Across the southeastern United States, old-growth bottomland forests like that found here at Congaree once covered approximately 30 million acres, while longleaf pine savannahs covered an estimated 90 million acres. Due to logging and the clearing of the landscape for farming and the building and expansion of cities and towns over the past 400 years, only a few scattered remnants of these once common ecosystems persist. Today, Congaree National Park helps preserve examples of these now uncommon natural landscapes and the diverse plant and animal life they support, as well as allowing visitors to experience and learn about what makes them so unique, as well as why they are worth saving.
Curious what species of plants and animals can be found at Congaree National Park? Search our species database below.
Species Attribute Definitions
Occurrence values are defined below. One or more Occurrence Tags may be associated with each Occurrence value.
Present: Species occurs in park; current, reliable evidence available.
Probably Present: High confidence species occurs in park but current, verified evidence needed.
Unconfirmed: Species is attributed to park but evidence is weak or absent.
Not In Park: Species is not known to occur in park.
Adjacent: Species is known to occur in areas near to or contiguous with park boundaries.
False Report: Species was reported to occur within the park, but current evidence indicates the report was based on misidentification, a taxonomic concept no longer accepted, or other similar problem of error or interpretation.
Historical: Species' historical occurrence in park is documented. Assigned based on judgment as opposed to determination based on age of the most recent evidence.
Animals: May be seen daily, in suitable habitat and season, and counted in relatively large numbers.
Plants: Large number of individuals; wide ecological amplitude or occurring in habitats covering a large portion of the park.
Animals: May be seen daily, in suitable habitat and season, but not in large numbers.
Plants: Large numbers of individuals predictably occurring in commonly encountered habitats but not those covering a large portion of the park.
Animals: Likely to be seen monthly in appropriate habitat and season. May be locally common.
Plants: Few to moderate numbers of individuals; occurring either sporadically in commonly encountered habitats or in uncommon habitats.
Animals: Present, but usually seen only a few times each year.
Plants: Few individuals, usually restricted to small areas of rare habitat.
Animals: Occurs in the park at least once every few years, varying in numbers, but not necessarily every year.
Plants: Abundance variable from year to year (e.g., desert plants).
Unknown: Abundance unknown
Native: Species naturally occurs in park or region.
Non-native: Species occurs on park lands as a result of deliberate or accidental human activities.
Unknown: Nativeness status is unknown or ambiguous.
The Checklist contains only those species that are designated as "present" or "probably present" in the park.
The Full List includes all the checklist species in addition to species that are unconfirmed, historically detected, or incorrectly reported as being found in the park. The full list also contains species that are "in review" because their status in the park hasn't been fully determined. Additional details about the status of each species is included in the full list.
The checklist will almost always contain fewer species than the full list.