Station 1: Forest Plants
Diverse, lush vegetation is the first thing you probably will notice about this forest habitat. The basic requirements for plant growth are mineral nutrients, water, carbon dioxide, light, a medium to grow in such as soil and a tolerable temperature range. With these requirements met, plants manufacture chlorophyll, grow, and reproduce. Trees compose the overstory and shrubs and ground cover plants such as forbs, grasses, moss and lichens compose a vegetation understory. The primary tree species you will notice are ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. You should be able to see each of these species from this location.
Ponderosa pine is native to North America from British Columbia to Mexico and is the most widely distributed pine in the United States. The species often forms park-like forests and is tolerant of drought as evidenced by its ability to grow on dry sites. Larger trees, often referred to as yellowpine, have thick, scaly bark making them somewhat fire resistant. Bark is brownish-black on younger trees and is cinnamon-red colored on mature trees. Needles are in bundles of threes or twos, and are 5 to 11 inches long. A tiny bristle is found on each scale of the cone. It is the most important commercial pine in western North America and is second only to Douglas-fir in total timber production.
Douglas-fir is native to western North America from Canada to California. Although it is most abundant on moist sites, the tree is drought-resistant and often found on dry sites with ponderosa pine. Bark on older trees is gray and rough with deep cracks. Cones are about 3 inches long with thin scales. They have little wing-like protrusions from the underside of the scales called bracts. Some people think the bracts look like a mouse crawling into a hole. Needles are short, about one inch long, blue-green, flattened and stand out from all sides of the twig like a bottle brush. When crushed, the needle has a strong, fruity fragrance. Douglas-fir ranks first in the United States for timber production; its strong, durable wood has many uses. Common understory shrubs along the trail include ocean-spray, snow-berry, ninebark and wild rose. As you proceed to the next few stations, try to find an example of these four shrubs.
Usually found with ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir, ocean-spray has a panicle, or flower cluster, of creamy colored blossoms in the spring. The seed pods persist through winter and spring. Leaves are alternate and doubly serrated. Individual plants can grow over 10 feet tall. The seeds of this shrub were eaten both raw and cooked by native Americans.
Snowberry has small, opposite, smooth-edged leaves and produces small white berries in the fall. The shrub is 3 to 7 feet tall. Although it is found with ocean-spray, snowberry prefers areas with a little more shade.
Three different species of rose grow here. Leaflets ofits compound leaves are serrated. Blossoms are pinkand produce fruits called hips, which are red andfleshy. Various sizes and amounts of thorns arepresent depending on the species. Rose hipsprovide food for birds.
Ninebark is not plentiful but easily distinguished by its distinct shreddy bark. Leaves are alternate, lobed and serrated. The plant has clusters of white flowers and prefers sunny, open hillsides. Ninebark is a medium-sized shrub that can grow 2 to 7 feet tall. Over 100 plant species have been identified on Mineral Ridge. They are not all described in this website, but the Plant Checklist can help you keep a record of those that you do find and identify. Use the plant list with any of the various plant field guides commercially available. If you make a positive identification of a species not included on the list, let us know.