Arkansas has at least 2,600 native plants, and there are many naturalized exotic species. Cypresses, water oak, hickory, and ash grow in the Mississippi Valley, while the St. Francis Valley is home to the rare cork tree. Crowley's Ridge is thick with tulip trees and beeches. A forest belt of oak, hickory, and pine stretches across south-central and southwestern Arkansas, including the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. The Mexican juniper is common along the White River's banks. The state has at least 26 native varieties of orchid; the passion flower is so abundant that it was once considered for designation as the state flower, but the apple blossom was finally chosen instead.
Arkansas's native animals include 15 varieties of bat and 3 each of rabbit and squirrel. Common throughout the state are mink, armadillo, white-tailed deer, and eastern chipmunk. Black bear roam the swamp and mountain regions. Among 300 native birds are such game birds as the eastern wild turkey, mourning dove, and bobwhite quail. Among local fish are catfish, gar, and the unusual paddle fish. Arkansas counts 20 frog and toad species, 23 varieties of salamander, and 36 kinds of snake.
Twenty three animal species were listed as endangered or threatened as of April 2003 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lists the leopard darter and fat pocketbook pearly mussel as threatened species. The bald eagle is listed as endangered, along with the Indiana and gray bats, cave crayfish, pink mucket, several species of mussel, pallid sturgeon, least tern, and red-cockaded woodpecker. Among six endangered or threatened plants listed in 2003 are the Missouri bladderpod, pondberry, eastern prairie fringed orchid, and running buffalo clover. In 1983, Arkansas established the Non-Game Preservation Committee to promote sound management, conservation, and public awareness of the state's non-game animals and native plants.