Natural Plant Communities

Basic mesic hardwood forest

Found in low-lying areas with moist, fertile soils, this type of forest is the most diverse in the park. Look for large-diameter tulip trees, sugar maples, mayapples, and paw paws.

Chestnut oak / mountain laurel forest

Found on hilltops with poorer soil, this type of forest has abundant chestnut oak trees and a blanket of mountain laurel on the forest floor.

Coastal plain oak forest

Generally found on flat or rolling areas on the east side of the park, this type of forest is a mixture of oak trees. These areas were largely cleared during the Civil War era.

Mesic mixed hardwood forest

The most common type of plant community in the park, sandwiched between the most- and least-fertile soils in the park on moderate slopes, this forest is made of American beech, oak, and tulip trees.

Mixed oak / heath forest

White, black, scarlet, and chestnut oak dominate the canopy while a sparse understory of low-growing hillside blueberry and black huckleberry bushes may be found on the forest floor.

Oak - beech / heath forest

Found on rocky hilltops with poor, acidic soil, this plant community has a distinctive look of evergreen mountain laurel shrubs under a canopy of oak and American beech.

Red maple seepage swamp

Fed by groundwater at the base of slopes, this wet and muddy environment is where you can find the distinctive skunk cabbage.

Tulip tree small-stream floodplain forest

On floodplains adjacent to the creek, it takes trees and plants tolerant to occasional flooding to survive here. Tulip trees, sycamore, box-elder, river birch, green ash, and American elm thrive in these areas.


Other Plant Communities

Successional forests

Although they come in several varieties, these plant communities grow where the forest has been disturbed by human or natural processes.

Mowed areas

The park's maintained landscapes in picnic areas and on the golf course are areas of low plant and animal diversity.

Maintained meadows

The park manages some areas to create meadows to increase habitat diversity and food sources for animals.

Non-native plants

A wide variety of plants introduced by humans to the North American landscape can create problems in the park as these non-native species crowd out native plants and threaten the ecosystem.

Learn More

  • Nature

    Learn more about the natural side of Rock Creek Park

  • Animals

    What animals live in the Rock Creek Park?

Last updated: December 17, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

5200 Glover Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20015


202 895-6000
Rock Creek Park's main phone line.

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