Trees and Shrubs
Prince William Forest Park is the largest contiguous piedmont forest type in the National Park Service. The park sits in a transitional zone between northern and southern climates, and eastern and western physiographic provinces. On your journey through the park's 15,000 acres you will find several rare communities, including a seepage swamp, remote stands of eastern hemlock, and several populations of rare plants. As surveys are conducted, other rare communities may be located.
From the top of the forest canopy to the bottom of Quantico Creek, forest ecosystems act as entire communities, much like cities do for humans. Different animals and insect use the various 'stories' for the forest high rise for different reasons. Understory trees and vegetation, including dogwood, redbud, ironwood, mountain laurel, American holly, solomon's seal, spotted wintergreen, and sassafras, are found throughout the forest. Ferns, mosses, vines, briers, and numerous wildflowers form the groundcover. Cardinal flower and hercules club are common in the park, although uncommon and protected elsewhere.
White Pine, Pinus strobus
The White Pine is easiest to identify by the five needles in each vesicle. An easy way to remember is white five letters so there are five needles in every white pine bundle. During colonial times white pines were marked with arrows, these were designated as king trees, which were to be used for the royal navy for building sails. Early lumber tree because it can float on water which makes it easy to transport
White Oak, Quercus alba
This is a large growing tree which dominates the forest canopy. This tree like many oaks is a great wildlife species. The acorns are a favorite to many wildlife species even early settlers would boil and eaten or grounded into a flower. White oak is a favorite of early and modern loggers for the constriction of houses. White oak was used in the construction of the cabin camps which are in the park.
Yellow Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera
Red Maple, Acer rubrum
Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana
One of the most common species in Prince William Forest Park. Virginia Pine is easy to identify its flaky bark, and two needles in a bundle is direct give away. It is a pioneer species and is the first tree to enter a sight enriching the soil and making it possible for others to grow. When the Cabin Branch Pyrite mine was found to be contaminated and not allowing anything to grow at the site the National Park Service planted 5,00 Virginia Pines in hopes of bringing the site bake to its original setting
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum
The roots and bark supply oil for perfume soap and sassafras tea, and have been used to flavor root bear. It was believed that the bark also acted as a cure-all for diseases. But resent research has found the roots and bark of the sassafras to have cancerous properties.
American Beech, Fagus grandifolia
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia
Mountain laurel is poisonous to several different animals, including horses, goats, cattle, sheep, and deer. The honey which is made from mountain laurel pollen is believed to be poisonous. The wood has been used to make tool handles and tobacco pipes.
American Holly (llex opaca)
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
American Chestnut, Castanea dentata
Chestnuts were picked and soled commercially to venders in New York. Commercial pickers looked for an easier way to pick these chestnuts and found the Chinese chestnut which is native to Asia which is a small growing tree which allows for easy picking. The first Chinese Chestnut tree was brought to New York City; the Chinese Chestnuts brought a decease known as the Chinese chestnut blight which American chestnuts are not resistant to. This blight has completely obliterated the population of American Chestnuts. Look through the park and you may find a sapling or two which has not yet been attacked.
Low Bush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium
This small shrub is common through out the park. Low Bush Blueberry is fire-tolerant and its numbers often increase in an area following a forest fire. These wild blueberries are edible just like commercially grown.