How to Recognize It
The Basic Mesic Hardwood Forest is one of the most species-diverse natural communities in Rock Creek Park. A profusion of wildflowers and ferns on the forest floor make this forest stand out in spring.
Look for it in deep, shaded, moist ravines, or on cool, groundwater-fed lower slopes whose concave shape tends to collect deep, moist soils. The soils contain elements like calcium that make them less acidic than other soils in the park, and more fertile. The source of the calcium is mineralized groundwater, or igneous bedrock. The fertile soils give the plant life of this community a more lush look than that of the Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, which is similar but much more common in Rock Creek Park.
Listen to a podcast about this natural community.
Can you find this combination of key features?
Identifying This Natural Community
- Tall, large-diameter tuliptree with American beech or northern red oak in the canopy
- (Optional) bitternut hickory, white ash, American basswood in the canopy
- Sugar maple or American hornbeam trees in the understory
- Mayapple, other wildflowers (spring)
- Several kinds of fern (late spring through early fall)
- Northern spicebush and/or pawpaw
- Notable diversity of plant species
- Located in a ravine, or on a lower, concave-shaped slope where groundwater might moisten the soils (but not in an area subject to flooding)
If so, welcome to Rock Creek Park’s Basic Mesic Hardwood Forest!
Not sure? Check out the Tips to Distinguish (below), or the Compare Natural Communities tool.