Nearly pure stands of aspen trees can be found on the highest slopes in Bandelier, particularly in moist settings. Outside of the riparian areas, aspens support the highest diversity of life in the park. They are an important food source for animals and insects that are able to easily digest aspen wood and leaves. The fast-growing, short-lived nature of aspens creates a recycling system that frequently replenishes the soil. Woodpeckers, foxes, and colorful wildflowers make their homes here. Today, aspen is used in the making of traditional pueblo drums.
The presence of aspens can indicate that a fire has recently occurred in the area. They grow quickly in areas that have been burned by high-intensity fire because of the increased availability of sunlight. Conifers quickly encroach on aspen groves when fires has not regularly occurred - something that is readily seen in the upper elevations of Bandelier along Highway 4.
Last updated: August 8, 2017