Monday, November 29, 2010

Hitchiti Experimental Forest

For our lab on November 11 we took a class trip out to the Hitchiti Experimental Forest.  Here we got to experience hands on all the things that the forest had to offer.  I’ll go over a few things that we learned about.
Wild Ginger

During our lab we came across some wild ginger (pictured above).  This small plant grows in patches close to the ground.  When you tore the leaf, it emitted a pleasant odor.  Also, the root can be used as a spice for cooking.  There were patches of this plant all over the trails at Hitchiti.

Leaf Litter Decomposition

While at Hitchiti we noticed that the forest floor was covered with dead leaves.  If you dug into the soil, you could see that there were levels of decomposition.  Fresher leaves were on top and the level of decomposition increased as you went down.  This is called leaf litter decomposition.  The compost created by the leaves provides a mineral rich soil for plants to grow from.  This is why so many plants can be seen growing out of the forest floor.  The picture above shows some decomposing leaves.  I looked for a picture with the layers of leaf decomposition but could not find one.  

Southern Pine Beetle and its Impact


While at Hitchiti we noticed several dead pine trees that could be attributed to the southern pin beetle (pictured above left).  This beetle will attack and kill a live pine tree by boring into the bark.  These beetles have been spreading across the southeast.  They leave the forest full of dead pines, as in the photo top right.  These dead pines eventually fall, sometimes taking other pines with them.  The effect of this is a breach in the forest canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the floor.  This means that conditions are becoming more favorable for smaller trees and shrubs to grow.

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