Southern Highlands Reserve Launches Digital Database to Advance Native Plant Research

December 21, 2017

Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR) is pleased to announce the development of a digital database to advance its work in native plant research and education. The database is a powerful tool for SHR to conduct research on more than 10 years of plant observation data, weather data, and plant accession records. The research database will further enhance SHR’s capacity to conduct research on native plants in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.

At 4,500’ in elevation on the top of remote Toxaway Mountain, the plants in SHR’s gardens thrive in conditions more extreme than surrounding areas. With increased variability in temperature and precipitation and exposure to the elements on a mountainside, SHR’s native plant collection is sensitive to environmental pressures. With the onset of shifts in weather patterns such as storm intensity, drought, and other extreme conditions due to climate change, SHR now has the ability to monitor and analyze how plants respond to these long-term changes through the use of the phenology reports and information in the database.

The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust recognized the value a native plant database would bring to SHR for the Southern Appalachian Mountains and ornamental horticulture worldwide. In January of 2017, the Trust awarded $20,000 to SHR to assist with the development and implementation of the database, the seed money essential to complete the project successfully.  SHR hired locally-based consulting firm Sounds Essential to design the database working hand in hand with SHR’s Executive Director and Director of Horticulture.

“The support of the Trust helps SHR not only fulfill our mission, it also enables the Reserve to serve as a valuable resource for our community,” says SHR’s Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks in regards to the grant. “As we encounter rapid changes in the environment, having the ability to obtain and share information related to high elevation ecosystems and native plants is a crucial component of our mission to advocate for the value of the ecosystems within the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Southern Highlands Reserve is open April – October for garden tours by reservation only. Please visit for more information about SHR, gardens, events, and projects.