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Nature Intro to Ozark Trees



An Introduction to Ozark Trees


The oaks are the most common species of trees in the watershed. Several species of hickory grow in association with oak. Oaks and hickories are called hardwoods, because their wood is dense and hard. The white oak family includes white and post oaks as well as chinquapin oak. The red oak group includes red and black oaks. Pine is restricted to areas with acidic soils derived from sandstone. Pine, a softwood, grows faster and taller than hardwoods. 

The site where a tree grows often determines what species that tree is and how well it grows. Soil depth and fertility, and aspect (slope direction) are the factors that control what kind of trees will grow on a certain site in the forest. South and west slopes tend to be dry because they are exposed to the hot sun. Post oak and pine, which do well on dry sites, are usually found on the sunny south and west slopes and ridge tops. Ridge tops tend towards the dry side, but can surprise you with their soil depth and fertility. North and east slopes are moister because they receive less sun. This is where you will most often find red oak. Bottom lands along the river and streams have the deepest and wettest soil. Here you'll find trees that like moisture including walnut, sycamore and maple

Black oak is our most common tree. It can grow virtually anywhere, but is most common on drier sites. White oak also can be found on any site but is most abundant on north and east slopes, where it makes its best growth. 

Cedar comes in on old fields and on glades that haven't been burned. It will occasionally grow in an opening in the deep forest. Cedar grows slowly and can live a long time on extremely harsh sites. The cedar you see growing on river bluffs can be hundreds of years old. 

The different height levels of trees in a forest are called "stories" just like levels in a building are called stories. The next time you look at a forest, see if you can see the different "story" levels of plants. 


In This Section

Overstory trees: The overstory level of trees is made up of the very tallest trees that stand over the rest of the plants. 

Understory trees: The understory is the group of small trees, shrubs and vines that grow under the taller trees. 

Evergreens: These trees are called "evergreen" because they do not shed their leaves in autumn.

  Written by Hank Dorst and Jessica Crandall.