Virtual Nature Trail
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Cherry Bark Along the red pine trail Moving down the Red Pine Trail we stop next to a large black cherry tree with its unmistakable black, scaly bark. Ahead, in the heart of the red pine stand, it is cooler and shadier under the dense canopy of the still intact pines. Pine needles cover the forest floor and there are fewer under story plants. The trail underfoot is soft and springy due to the build up and incorporation of pine needles into the soil. The red pines are controlling the conditions of their ecosystem by their dense shading layer of branches and needles. Unfortunately for the pines, these shady conditions do not allow young pine trees to grow but instead favor the growth of shade tolerant hardwood seedlings like ash and oak and maple. These hardwood seedlings will eventually grow up into even this section of the established tree canopy and slowly shade out the pines. Again, this is the process of ecological succession.

 

Barberry Ahead and to the right side of the trail are abundant Japanese barberry shrubs. These shrubs are among the first plants to unfold new leaves in the spring. They are an "exotic" plant species, introduced from Asia many years ago. If you look at the barberry plants you may still see some of the red berries that have overwintered on the shrub. These berries must not be very palatable to the wild animals of the Trail or they would have eaten long ago. The abundance of the Japanese barberry is especially apparent in the early spring when most other plants are still in their winter dormancies. Entire hillsides green up over night as the barberry springs into leaf.

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