By Steven L. Stephenson
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Additional resources for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
STRUCTURE OF A FOREST COMMUNITY In a well-developed Central Appalachian forest dominated by broadleaf trees, it is usually possible to recognize seven distinct strata (layers) of vegetation. These are the overstory (or canopy), understory (or subcanopy), sapling, shrub-vine, seedling, herbaceous, and ground layers. The overstory layer is made up of larger individuals of such trees as northern red oak, chestnut oak, white oak, red maple, sugar maple, American beech, yellow poplar, and cucumber magnolia.
These were the Calamites, which are closely related to the horsetails or scouring rushes (both common names apply to members of the modern genus Equisetum) that can still be found in the Central Appalachians. The most widely known tree-sized calamite was Calamites. Calamites was smaller than Lepidodendron and probably reached a height of no more than about thirty feet. The most distinctive feature of Calamites was the trunk, which had longitudinal ribs, appeared to be segmented (or “jointed”), and produced both branches and leaves in whorls (fig.
Trees are blown over by high winds or felled by logging), the greatly increased level of light reaching the forest floor provides an opportunity for shade-intolerant species to become established. Some species of trees 55 potential was an important factor when forests were migrating northward after Pleistocene glaciation. Clearly, both biotic factors and environmental (abiotic) factors related to such things as the local differences in soils and topography are important in determining the distribution patterns of trees species as well as the composition of the assemblage of species found at a given locality.