The Fauna of the Forest Floor

As visitors travel through our hiking trails that mander through some of our forests, we urge them to be on the lookout for a wide variety of interesting plants, lichens, mosses and mushrooms that find the slightly shaded forest floor a perfect place to take root.  Throughout the different seasons, their appearance may change slightly but with a good field guide in hand, most are easy to identify.   Please be sure to inquire about our well stocked library before venturing out to the trails.


The Temperate Deciduous Forest

The temperate deciduous forests of the mountainous regions of Virginia follow a seasonal pattern whereby trees bud and leaf with the return of spring and spend the summer gracefully shading most of the forest floor.  Although sunlight still penetrates through the lush overhead foliage, the understory of the forest is often quite shady and cooler than the surrounding meadows and therefore, the fauna can be quite different.  

Early in the spring before the trees' foliage becomes dense, the forest floor is often a sea of scattered forest wildflowers that take advantage of the short lived sunlight as they produce flowers and seeds.  Often nestled in last fall's remaining leaf litter, tiny woodland wildflowers begin to emerge and as the day length increases and the woodland paths become warmer, related species often form sporatic patches throughout the woods.  Digressing off of the main hiking trails and meandering through the understory is quite easy during this time period and visitors are likely to see groves of Mayapples, clumps of Virginia Bluebells, small stands of Duthmen's Breeches and perhaps a solitary Wild Columbine, Jack in the Pulpit or a Lady's Slipper!

Dutchman's Britches, "Dicentra cucullaria"

Thyme-Leaved Bluets, "Houstonia serpyllifolia

Wild Columbine, "Aquilegia canadensis"

Wild Violets, "Viola papilionacea"