Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The "Second Forest"

This is a good time to see the "second forest"--the layer of exotic shrubs underlying the native tree canopy. Honeysuckle, multiflora rose and privet, having evolved on other continents and under different climate constraints, all leaf out earlier than the native species.

Historically, an eastern forest would have been carpeted with spring ephemeral wildflowers of great variety, flowering and collecting another year's energy stores before the trees leaf out and grab all the sunlight. The exotic shrubs throw a wrench into the works, leafing out early and shading the native wildflowers before they have a chance to store enough solar energy for the next year.

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