By Steven L. Stephenson
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Additional info for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
For example, in a mature conifer-dominated forest the canopy layer is well developed, and the individual canopies closely intertwined. The dense shade cast by such a canopy often means that lower layers of vegetation show little diversity: the understory tree and sapling layers sometimes consists of only a few scattered individuals. The seedling layer is In forests dominated by broadleaf trees, the canopy layer is more open, with more light reaching the forest floor. As a result, the sapling, shrub, and herbaceous layers are usually much better developed than in a conifer-dominated forest.
Certain ferns) can have a major negative impact upon the growth and survival of seedlings. Many of the herbaceous flowering plants found in a Central Appalachian forest produce their flowers in spring, usually before the leaves are fully developed on the trees making up the overstory and understory. These plants, often referred to as “spring wildflowers,” are most apparent on moist sites, where their flowers can literally carpet the forest floor. Among the better-known members of the spring wildflowers are various species of trillium, spring beauty, chickweed, false Solomon’s seal, lady’s slipper orchids, violets, and turk’s cap lily.
For the most part, the Native Americans, who may have arrived as early as fourteen thousand years ago, had little impact on the extent of forest cover, at least in more mountainous regions such as the Central Appalachians. However, there is every reason to believe that the Native Americans did have an appreciable influence on forest structure and composition in some localities. For example, they were known to have cleared small areas of forest for their villages and crops. Even more importantly, Native Americans used low-intensity fires to keep forests free of undergrowth, thus providing more suitable habitat for the game animals they hunted.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson