Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Midwestern Eastern Deciduous Forest summer

Late spring (mid-May) in the Eastern Deciduous Forest at Indian Creek Nature Center near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Notice how sunny the forest floor is due to the trees not being entirely leafed out.
Summer (late June) in nearly the same location at the Indian Creek Nature Center as the  picture above.  Notice the forest is much darker due to the trees being leafed out.  Not so noticeable in this picture is the thicker summer vegetation.
Summer in the eastern deciduous hardwood forest is quite different from the spring.  Spring can be cool and wet with plenty of sunshine hitting the forest floor (click here for a post on the spring forest).  Come June though, the trees have completely leaved out and the once sunny forest floor can become quite shady, often with only about 5% of sun hits the forest floor.  Spring forest wildflowers disappear and are succeeded by a thicket of more heat and shade tolerant herbaceous plants. While spring forbes can be quite pleasant and easy to hike through, summer forbes are a lot more itchy and on the defense.  Plants like Stinging Nettles and Poison Ivy are extremely abundant and can make a short hike quite painful.  The mosquitoes can also add to this pain and humid warm air (typically in the 80's) can also make this a sweaty experience.  Enough of the negative though!  The forest is quite a refuge from the summer heat and sun.

While the summer forest can be quite itchy,It is quite a refuge from the summer heat and sun.  It is also one of the most wondrous and active habitats around.  If I were to describe the summer forest in one word it would simply be GREEN.  Absolutely everything is beautifully green.  The forest floor is green with mosses and a thick layer of bushes and leafy plants.  Above, smaller understory trees like elms, dogwoods, and ironwoods are green.  Towering higher, canopy trees like oaks, maples, walnuts, ash and hickory's form another thick green layer.  Each of these layers of green is also full of life, which can often be difficult to see due to thick vegetation.  Birds of all types, Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Cat Birds, Turkeys, Warblers, Gnat Catchers, Ducks among many others fly through out the layers of vegetation and fill the woods with songs all day long.  Whitetail deer, rabbits, and squirrels also abound.

The forest floor as well as the understory are also full of berries this time of year.  Black Raspberries, Dogwood Berries, Mulberries, Chokecherries, and Goose Berries are quite an abundant food supply for forest life or the hiker who can positively identify the plants.  These plants produce their fruit in hopes that some passing animal will eat them and carry the seeds to new locations.

Goose Berries
Black Raspberries
All of this greenness and abundant berry production continues until fall when the weather cools off and drys out.  Once berry production ends, an abundance of nuts that grow on trees throughout summer, including acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts, ripen and fall off the trees.  But until then, forest life has plenty of time to gather the abundance of the summer forest and relax in the shade until fall and winter when things become harsher.

1 comment:

  1. Nature is so beautiful. It never fails to mesmerize us. And I absolutely love forests. I am going to try and plan a hiking trip soon. Thanks for the post.