Species composition and vegetation-environment relationships are described for Linville Gorge Wilderness, a rugged landscape straddling the Blue Ridge escarpment of the southern Appalachian Mountains. A hierarchical classification is presented for 28 community types, which span eight broad vegetation classes. Vegetation classes associated with infertile conditions are most widespread. THERIC OAK-PINE FORESTS dominate ridgelines and upper-slopes. ACIDIC COVE AND SLOPE FORESTS are present, but are limited in distribution. The atypical concentrations of the latter class on high-elevation ridgelines results from underlying nutrient-rich bedrock. Vegetation composition is most strongly associated with soil nutrients, soil texture, and topographic position. The combination of rugged topography, infertile soils, relatively low annual rainfall levels, and lack of anthropogenic disturbance is responsible for the unusual combination of southern Appalachian vegetation communities that characterize Linville Gorge Wilderness. Published by Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. Abstract reproduced by permission.