We often go walking and see plants, trees and animals. What is the difference between a group of trees and a forest or woods? Why do we call a place a forest and what will we find when walking there?
A forest is a natural area where many, many trees grow. Not just one or two or five. In this area you will also find shrubs/bushes, flowering plants and animals. What kind of trees, plants or animals you will find depend on where you are in the world. There are many different types of forests because there are thousands of types or species of trees.
The other type of trees are called Deciduous trees. These trees have broad wide leaves. In some areas of the world these leaves that do not stay on the tree all year. The leaves will change color when day light becomes shorter and the weather turns cold. These leaves will fall from the tree. If the deciduous tree is in a tropical forest the weather does not change very much and the leaves will stay on the tree all year.
When walking around my area I will usually find what we call a mixed forest. It means there are both confers and deciduous trees growing in the same location. Each forest has three layers. There is the canopy – the area way up in the trees where the leave and needles are. There is the understory which has the shrubs and bushes and last is the forest floor with small plants and flowers.
A forest is a community of plants and animals that depend on each other for survival. The trees provide food and shelter for the animals. The animals help by spreading the seeds of these plants, and other very small animals help break down the dead plants into nutrients and minerals that help feed the trees. These small animals are call decomposers.
The Eloise Butler Wildflower garden is a mixed forest. As we walk around we can find different types of confers and different types of deciduous trees. This garden has many small shrubs and lots of wildflowers on the forest floor. The animals in our wild garden are squirrels, birds, ground squirrels, some wild turkeys and once in a great while you might see a coyote walking along the fence line but not very often. Large animals are rare in our garden because we are in a large city and the garden is fenced in to give the plants protection. So we won’t find deer who like to eat so many of the forest floor plants.
What will you find when you go walking in the woods? Can you make a chart in your science notebook and record the species of trees you see? If you stop by a library and check out a field guide (a book about specific plants or animals) you could begin to learn the names of your trees. Are they oaks, maples, elms, white pine or blue pine? There are lots of trees and so many names. Carefully draw a picture of the shape of your tree and one of their leaves. Then write the name next to it. Also be sure to label it either a confer or deciduous tree.
Have fun walking in the woods!
Books to Read:
What is a Forest? by Bobbie Kalman
Walk in the Woods by Kevin Beals and Gina Cervetti