If you happen to live in the eastern half of America, Europe, or Australia, you might have come across deciduous forests or heard of them. What’s so special about them? In this article, I’ll try to explain what deciduous forests are and also name some plants you might encounter in them.
Deciduous forest plants are quite varied, and the forests themselves can be an amazing thing to look at. Let’s learn more about them.
What Is A Deciduous Forest?
Deciduous forests are forests where the trees are deciduous type trees. Deciduous type trees, in contrast to evergreen trees, do not keep their leaves all year long. They are full of green leaves during the spring and summer, but when colder seasons come around, the leaves lose color and fall off. The trees enter a dormant state to preserve energy, and then the leaves begin to sprout again once Spring and Summer arrive.
This cycle helps them survive much tougher conditions, but many of them require fertile soil to properly thrive. Deciduous forests are often comprised of five layers. The layers are divided by the height and the plant life found at that particular height. It starts from the ground layer containing mosses to the herb layer, shrub layer, small tree layer, and tree layer containing the biggest trees in the forest.
What Kind Of Plants Live In A Deciduous Forest?
Due to the shedding of leaves and later their decomposition, deciduous forests contain high mineral content in the soil. As a result, rich plant life can be found in deciduous forests owing to the soil. Most plants in deciduous forests prefer a temperate climate.
In many deciduous forests, canopies can be formed by the largest trees resulting in smaller trees getting less sunlight. This promotes growth amongst trees as they all try to compete for sunlight resulting in deciduous forests having some of the largest trees.
As it has been stated, deciduous plants and trees primarily populate these forests. However, due to circumstances and adaptations, some breeds of conifer trees can also be seen in these forests. Their cone shape stands out amongst the tall trees.
Shrubs and smaller plant life found in deciduous forests are generally characterized by big and wide leaves. Alternatively, some of them have distinct shapes, like maple leaves.
Examples Of Plants In A Deciduous Forest
Now let’s look at a few plants that are commonly found in deciduous forests:
Oak trees are often prevalent in deciduous forests. North American deciduous forests have the largest variety of oak species. These types of trees are identifiable by their spread-out, serrated leaves. They drop acorns which help with the germination and growth of other oak trees.
Despite all this, some oak species are being endangered due to deforestation and climate change. Oak is a hardwood tree, and the wood sees a lot of use which is why it often gets cut and turned into lumber.
Walnut trees can grow up to as high as 40 meters, and their dark brown bark is quite noticeable. These types of trees and their species are seen in North America and China. The walnut that many people eat simply refers to the seed inside the fruit from walnut trees.
Due to the textured bark that walnut trees possess, many of these trees get cut and used for constructing furniture. The tree leaves are long and thin, contrasting some other deciduous trees.
Maple trees are popular deciduous trees, with them being the national tree of Canada. Outside Canada, they also heavily populate Asia. Maple trees can go up to 45 meters in height, and their roots are great at absorbing minerals, so, in many places, they are often found separate or alone due to inhibiting the growth of other plant life near them.
Maple leaves are veined, which helps identify them. While they are usually green, different shades of maple leaves exist, including brown and red. Maple trees are an important source of syrup and are often used in decoration.
In North America, Sycamore trees are usually the largest deciduous trees characterized by their mottled bark, which reveals both dark and light bark. The leaves are quite large and have serrated edges. These are very strong and durable trees and can withstand much harsher conditions. Due to how tall they are, they are often able to get the most sunlight since they stand above the other trees.
Pussywillows are a shorter species of willow trees that are found in upper North America. They are often the first trees to sprout during spring. They can survive in partial shade, so their shorter size does not pose an issue. The rich soil in many deciduous forests helps these willow trees grow faster.
They are generally only found in deciduous forests as they don’t take well to wind or snow. Colder climates make it extremely hard for them to thrive, and they prefer the temperate climate found in many deciduous forests.
Bumald Spirea is a hybrid plant that is identifiable by its bright pink leaves during spring. They are usually found in clusters and prefer the temperate climate in many deciduous forests. Spirea plants can grow with partial sunlight and are often found in the shrub layers in many forests. These are mainly used for planting along the fence line.
Cottoneaster is a deciduous shrub that is primarily found in many parts of Asia at higher altitude lands. They have numerous small leaves that often have tiny red fruits sprouting from them. Despite their small stature, they are quite resistant to harsh conditions, light droughts, and heavy winds and can survive many winters without too much trouble.
How Do These Plants Adapt To The Changing Environment?
While the mechanisms differ depending on the species of plants, there are some common tactics they use. One way they survive changes in the environment is simply resilience. Some trees are strong enough to survive strong winds and other dangers meaning they simply continue to thrive even against difficult odds.
As it has been said before, deciduous trees shed their leaves to enter a dormant state during winter. These leaves decompose into the ground, ensuring nutrients and mineral content remains high. Some trees also drop their seeds onto the ground, and due to the high-quality soil, these seeds have a high chance of maturing into trees. Through this many plants ensure their species continues to thrive, and spreading out seeds ensures their chances of survival.
Recent studies show that through germination and their seeds getting carried, deciduous trees are moving towards the west and going into areas with more moisture. As a result, due to climate change, they are migrating toward newer areas, and in a couple of years, it might be possible to see newer deciduous forests sprout up.
What Threats Do Plants Face In A Deciduous Forest?
Despite their ability to adapt to changes, deciduous forests still face threats. One of the most common threats is humans themselves. Deforestation for lumber is common in deciduous forests since the trees possess great lumber that is used for construction and furniture. Deforestation has driven some deciduous trees to near extinction, and some deciduous forests have died to forest fires.
Another threat is pests and diseases. The climate that most deciduous forests have often resulted in many different types of pests, which can spread diseases. Various larval worms can often start eating through many leaves and destroy trees. Invasive species being introduced can also end up devastating some species.
Some forests in North America have been subjected to storms or hurricanes. Flooding can end up leveling forests, and there is very little many trees can do to protect themselves from such natural disasters. Flooding can also heavily affect the soil content meaning it can be impossible to grow the trees again for many years until soil content returns to normal.
Where Can You Find Deciduous Forest?
Deciduous forests can be found in areas with temperate climates. This is usually in the middle-latitude regions like Asia, Russia, Europe, and the eastern half Of North America. They prefer areas that have a large body or bodies of water around them and do not like snowy areas.
After reading this, you should have a better understanding of deciduous forests. They are quite interesting, and there are many more deciduous trees and plants than the ones we’ve covered due to a large amount of variety in these forests.