Many decades of logging and wildfires led to a precipitous decline in the Appalachian red spruce by the middle of the 20th century. In 2013, Transylvania County’s Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR), a nonprofit, high-elevation native plant garden and research center, undertook a partnership with the Nature Conservancy to restore red spruce trees to the Southern Appalachians. Two years later, in 2015, the effort was formalized and expanded into the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative with the assistance of numerous federal, state, non-profit, and educational partners.
The initiative has been highly successful. Southern Highlands Reserve has propagated more than 10,000 red spruce trees, 5000 of which have been planted on public land. SHR’s current goal is to plant 50,000 trees and to continue to grow. This will not only increase the red spruce trees but also help to restore the flying squirrel population in the southeast.
This year, as we enter the 2022 holiday season, a red spruce from Pisgah National Forest has been selected as the US Capitol Christmas Tree. This 78-foot-tall giant named Ruby will make its way from North Carolina through Virginia and on to Washington, D.C., starting in early November with stops throughout the state, including at the Pisgah Ranger Station and Visitor Center on Monday, November 7.