Plant Industry - Plant Conservation Preserves

Plant Conservation Preserves are lands permanently protected for the conservation of North Carolina’s native flora and their habitats. There are currently 26 Preserves, all managed by the NC Plant Conservation Program under the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. All Plant Conservation Preserves are accessible only by permit. See below for information regarding obtaining an access permit.


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The Plant Conservation Program has the unique mission to acquire and manage preserves for the explicit purpose of ensuring the survival of our native flora.

Although North Carolina has many public conservation lands such as State Parks, Game Lands, and National Forests, the goal of these areas is not typically to protect imperiled plant species and many of these lands were established in areas where the rarest species simply do not occur. Native plants may have specific management needs not met by, or even in conflict with, the primary mission for which the land is managed. A system of public and/or private conservation lands designed to protect plants is the best way to ensure their survival.

State and federal laws provide almost no legal protection for plants, even imperiled species. They are treated as the property of the landowner, who is in no way obligated to maintain them. Even when landowners voluntarily safeguard rare plants on their property, the protection often lasts only until the property is sold or the landowner’s priorities change. For these reasons, the survival of our native flora relies heavily upon land ownership permanently and specifically dedicated to its conservation.

Plant Conservation Program (PCP) works with partners, especially the NC Natural Heritage Program to identify the most important sites for protecting imperiled plant species. With the resulting acquisition plan in hand, PCP works with local land trusts and landowners in an attempt to permanently protect these sites. With landowner support and funding availability, PCP may purchase property at fair market value. Once established, PCP works to preserve the integrity of the site for the benefit of the rare plant species present.

Plant Conservation Preserves are designed to protect some of North Carolina’s most imperiled plants and their natural habitats. 

Plant Conservation Preserves also protect:

  • hundreds of common native plant species and many NC significantly rare plant species
  • locally adapted and unique genotypes
  • vestiges of our Natural Heritage, including native plant communities and declining or historic landscapes
  • reservoirs and safe havens for native pollinators
  • native animal species and their habitats
  • wetlands and water quality
  • open space

Stewardship of Plant Conservation Preserves 
Upon establishment of a Preserve, PCP works to restore or maintain the integrity of the natural habitat for the benefit of the species for which the Preserve was established.

Active management is often necessary to ensure the viability of target species populations. Many Preserve habitats and target species require natural distrubances to main their integrity. The natural condition of most Preserves had been altered prior to acquisition. As a consequence, many rare plant species that occur in these types of communities have declined, especially in habitats historically maintained by fire. In addition to management, staff implement monitoring programs to determine the status and trends of target species populations.

Guided Tours of Plant Conservation Preserves

Access Permits for Plant Conservation Preserves 
Visits to Plant Conservation Preserves require a permit. To apply for a Preserve Access Permit, follow the instructions on our permits page.