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Woodland Plant Communities are Dominated by Tall Trees With a Strong Shading Impact on All Plants Below

A plant community covered by a tree canopy of at least 50 percent is considered to be a woodland. As with prairies and wetlands, there are many different kinds of woodlands: There are a variety of woodland types: oak woods, maple-basswood forests, mixed deciduous woods, coniferous woods and flood plain forests are just a few. These are communities that are dominated by tall trees with a strong shading impact on all the other plants below.

On the ground beneath are many grasses, sedges, ferns and forbs. Most of these woodland plants are what are called spring ephemerals---beautiful, delicate, low growing plants whose annual growth cycle is necessarily compacted early in the spring when they can catch the light and energy coming through the overstory canopy before leaf out.

Between the dominant overstory and the rich ground layer is a middle layer of shrubs and small trees that will eventually become the overstory if conditions become favorable.

Efforts to restore the total ecological complexity of woodlands are relatively new, but it is both important and possible.

However, it is a slow process usually beginning with eradicating a serious exotic plant—buckthorn—that is literally taking over precious woodland acreage. Before restoration is possible removal and control of buckthorn and other exotics is imperative. Other challenges include the inability to use equipment in cramped quarters and the limited seed resource available to restorationists and ecologists. Interestingly, as with the other major plant communities, fire is an important tool for preparing and maintaining woodland sites.

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