Found in northern latitudes, temperate forests are characterized by warm summers and moderate to freezing cold winters, during which time most or all plant growth ceases. Year-round precipitation and extremely fertile soil contribute to the heights and longevity of trees, the forest's largest members.
The trees most often found in temperate forests are coniferous, needled evergreens. Accompanying them are deciduous hardwoods, such as oak, maple, poplar, beech and elm, growing tall, their trunks rising high and straight before branching out to form the forest's canopy. Nuts such as walnut, almond and filbert provide food for many woodland creatures, including squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, badgers and gophers.
Flowering shrubs occupy the understory of the forest at its perimeter and in clearings. Dogwood, spirea and lilac bloom in early spring, while sumac provides deep red color to the understory in autumn. Vines like American bittersweet, poison ivy, poison oak and native wild grapes crawl along the forest floor and scramble up long-dead tree trunks, taking advantage of an open, sunny spot in the forest's canopy.
Lower Level Plants
Many flowering herbaceous woodland plants bloom in early spring, before the trees leaf out, while the sunlight reaches all the way to the ground. Others are shade-loving and grow best in the dappled to full shade of the forest floor. Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, columbine, trillium and bloodroot finish blooming by the time the deciduous trees are in full leaf. Ferns, hostas, mosses and lichens grow in the moist, deep shade and fertile soil.
- Photo Credit Paul Edmondson/Photodisc/Getty Images