Looking up at (SPECIES) trees in (TYPE) forest.

Danielle Austen photo

hardwood forests in spring.

Jim Ruff photo

Spruce-Fir Forests
The tallest places are home to forests usually found in Canada or Maine. Above 4,500 feet, Fraser fir and red spruce are most common, but you will also find yellow birch, mountain-ash, hobblebush, and blackberries. To spot this forest from a distance, look for dark green evergreen trees near the summit.

How to tell spruce from fir: The easiest way to identify spruce and fir trees is to look at their needles. Spruce trees have square-tubed needles that easily roll between your fingers. Fir trees have flat needles that are hard to twirl. Remember, “S” is for Spruce and Square and “F” is for Fir and Flat.

Northern Hardwood Forests
Northern hardwood forests are found between 3,000 to 5,000 feet. American beech, yellow birch, and maple trees are the most common, although many other species also grow here. The trees here are deciduous, which means their leaves drop in the winter. In the fall, this forest produces the most brilliant fall color.

Cove Hardwood Forests
Below 4,500 feet, moist coves and hollows support large trees, such as sugar maple, basswood, and birch. Coves are sheltered valleys with deep, rich soil that support forty to sixty different species of trees and shrubs. Scientists often describe this forest as the most diverse in North America.

Pine-Oak Forest
Five types of oak and as many pines populate the dry, rocky slopes at low elevations. This forest is characterized by its patchy understory, or gaps in the trees that allow sunlight to hit the forest floor.

Balds are places without trees at mid- to high-elevation. The Parkway has grassy and heath balds. Both types have specific plant and animal communities. Traditionally, health balds are called laurel hells, because the laurel grows so thick and tall that explorers became lost and never returned.
Although balds have existed for thousands of years, some are giving way to forests. These trees may look like young saplings, but are often 200 years old. They are often call orchard vegetation because they look like manicured orchards.

Last updated: November 16, 2016

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