Nature Notes

Vol. III August 11th, 1925 No. 7

By Charles Landes, Nature Guide

Plants like individuals group themselves together into communities having like interests. Flowers have common interests binding them together such as soil conditions, moisture, light, temperature and other influences of their habitat that affect their growth and distribution.

Plants adapt themselves to seasons, altitude, shade and many other factors of environment and so we come to identify certain flower groups as members of the same community.

There are 417 varieties of flowering plants in Mt. Rainier National Park and they distribute themselves into a number of quite definite communities. First of all we have zones of plants upon the mountain determined by altitude with boundaries not sharply marked but very noticeable between the lower extreme of dense forest and the upper extreme of Arctic habitat. In the forest region the flowers and smaller plants are all shade loving and we have a community of mosses, ferns, Salal, Oregon grape, huckleberry, Pyrolas and other shade-loving plants.

In the upper zone we have the plants near the snow line, a community of very hardy plants with a short growing season and a habitat of pumice fields and rocky cleavers. This is a sparsely settled community of the hardiest individuals of several families of plants. Lyall's lupine, Polemonium elegans and two representatives of the mustard family with several other varieties of plants comprise the community.

The cliff dwelling plants give us another community of hardy explorers. A few dainty ferns, the beautiful red and purple penstemons, the delicate hairbell, the virilc sedum are xeamples of plants able to maintain themselves in this habitat of little soil and moisture.

The small stream courses give us our most beautiful combinations of color in flower communities. What can be more beautiful than a babbling mountain stream lined upon each bank with the red monkey flower, (Mimuls lewisii) and scattered over the bed of the stream with the green moss, great beds of the yellow Alpine monkey flower, (Mimulus Alpinus) Those with the yellow fireweed and others mark the entire course of many of the streams in the meadows of the Alpine park lands.

The swamp communities we find at all altitudes but best developes in the sub-alpine zone where we find lowland and alpine plants intermingling to give us our richest flower zone. These swamp plants are distinguished by their rich verdant foliage as well as their beautiful flowers. The marsh or swamp is a rich urban plant community with many representatives that group themselves about the ponds like streets or scatter themselves over the marshlands.

The trees of the sub-alpine meadows group themselves into little communities for the larger number growing together protect one another from the fierce winter storms and so what one individual cannot accomplish the community can by mutual protection.

Then we have the communities of saprophytes and Parasites. These are plants that require a particular host to feed upon or else are dependent upon the dead and decayed bodies of other plants. These are communities dependent upon the things upon which they feed.

Many other relationships might be pointed out but these examples are sufficient to show that plants like animals group themselves into a variety of communities and for various reasons.

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