The temperate deciduous forest is a type of biome, occurring in zones above and below the equator around the world. The eastern United States is a large deciduous forest zone. The deciduous forest does not survive in extreme environments and experiences an average annual temperature of 10 degrees Celsius and sees between 30 and 60 inches of rainfall per year. Most people living in suburban and rural eastern America have deciduous forests near their homes and can benefit from the many activities for which deciduous forests are ideal.
In deciduous forests, we find trees like maple, oak, elm and hickory. These species differ from most evergreens, which are tall, but with few low branches. Deciduous forest trees have branches starting much lower to the ground that are strong enough to support the weight of a human. For these reasons, tree-climbing is a great activity in a deciduous forest. Just be careful not to fall!
Camping in temperate deciduous forests is particularly enjoyable because it is usually warm enough to sleep comfortably in a tent. In addition, the temperature difference between night and day, when not at altitude, is not very significant, meaning it is possible to be comfortable during the day and stay warm by the fire at night. Because of the low-hanging branches, it is easy to suspend bear-proof boxes with your provisions from nearby trees.
Temperate deciduous forests are home to many edible fruits, nuts and fungi. Knowledgeably gathering these resources is fun, rewarding and tasty. Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries grow wild across most of the eastern United States and can be harvested in the summer. You'll find them in the sunny clearings in the forest. Many deciduous forest trees produce edible nuts. Depending on the area, you can find black walnuts, hickory nuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, among others. Be careful when picking nuts, fungi and berries, as some are poisonous. Buckeyes, nuts very similar to chestnuts, are poisonous and cannot be eaten. It is best to get an identification guide before you go foraging, especially if you are looking for nuts or fungi.
The temperate deciduous forest is home to many animals. Common bird species include hawks, cardinals, owls and woodpeckers. Larger animals, such as white-tailed deer, raccoons, foxes and bears can also be found in the deciduous forest. Grab an identification guide and see how many birds and mammals you can find. Be careful of getting too close to bears and any animal that seems sick or rabid.
- Blue Planet Biomes: Deciduous Forest; Connie T.; 2001
- NASA Earth Observatory: Temperate Deciduous Forest; May 12th, 2011
- New Hampshire Public Television: Nature Works: Temperate Deciduous Forests
- Mother Earth News: Foraging for Edible Wild Plants: John Vivian; Oct./Nov. 1999
- Food Skills for Self Sufficiency: Collecting Wild Nuts for Self Sufficiency
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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