Unique NC Plants and Fungi That Belong in Sci-Fi Movies

Unique NC Plants and Fungi

The bizarre, but beautiful Jack O'Lantern Mushroom makes our list of the most unique NC plants and fungi. (Shutterstock)

By Leah Sherrell

July 25, 2023

Have you seen giant trees and glowing mushrooms? You can find that and more in North Carolina. Read for our list of 5 unique NC plants and fungi.

If there’s one thing you’ll hear over and over about North Carolina, it’s the natural diversity of our state. In other words, there’s a lot of unique NC plants (and fungi) out there.

We have beaches, mountains and the foothills in between. They’re fun to explore throughout the year and their unique characteristics mean some really cool things can grow here – like giant trees, carnivorous plants, and bioluminescent mushrooms.

READ MORE: How Do I Pick the Most Delicious Watermelon? A Guide for North Carolinians Who Love Watermelon Season.

Here’s a list of 5 things (some are plants, some are not) that grow in our state and what exactly makes them so special.


Glow-in-the-dark Jack O’Lantern Mushrooms are orange fungi that glow in the dark! They grow deep in the woods of western NC, so if you camp or do any night time hiking you may spot some. Have you seen seen them before?

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Unique NC Plants You Have to See

Tulip Poplar Trees

These trees are the tallest species that grows in North Carolina and some of them are older than the U.S.

Found in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, the largest tulip poplars are 100 feet tall, 20 feet around, and are over 400 years old. They were able to reach their incredible height and age because the forest has never been logged.

Venus Fly Traps

You’re probably familiar with these carnivorous plants.

They’re sold in plant stores, featured in movies, and generally a pretty cool phenomenon. Venus Fly Traps, which attract flies into their jaws and digest them as food, are only native to a 75-mile radius around Wilmington, NC. You can find them on a stroll through Carolina Beach State Park where you might spot two more carnivorous plants, pitcher plants and sundews!

Jack O’ Lantern Mushrooms

Omphalotus Olearius, the scientific name for this orange fungus that glows green!

They grow deep in the woods of western NC and when it gets dark out the gills on the underside of the mushroom cap start to glow. If you go camping or do any night time hiking you may spot some, but don’t try to eat them! They resemble a popular edible mushroom called chanterelles, but are poisonous and will cause a variety of stomach issues if ingested.

Wild Carolina Indigo

Carolina Indigo is usually associated with South Carolina as one of its historical cash crops. However, it also grows in the coastal plains of North Carolina. Though not as world renowned as Indigo Tinctoria, “true indigo”, Carolina Indigo has long been harvested and used to make the iconic bluish-purple dye.

White Spring Truffles

This particular crop has long been awaited in North Carolina. Usually found in Europe, white truffles are an especially hard crop to grow in North America. However, after two decades of figuring out the right conditions to grow this delicacy, North Carolina farmers at Burwell Farms have put our state on the map as a leader in North American production of this sought-after, edible fungi.


  • Leah Sherrell

    Leah Sherrell is a multimedia reporter for Cardinal & Pine. A graduate of UNC-Wilmington, she's a resident of Kernersville with a background in video production and communication. Leah uses many forms of media to explore the multifaceted lifestyles and cultures present in North Carolina.

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