Flora of the Boreal Forest
Boreal forests are found in northern climates around the globe from Canada and Alaska to Scandinavia and Russia. So well suited for northern climates is the flora found in boreal forests that some types of boreal flora are found growing nowhere else in the world. Flora grown in boreal forests have to be able to adapt to extreme climate conditions. Boreal forests are not only the world’s largest biome but the world’s coldest as well. Most boreal forests can experience snow up to eight months per year. Much like other forests of the world such as rainforests and deciduous forests, boreal forests have complex ecosystems and the flora that grows in these forests plays a huge part in the natural balance of these areas. To observe how the flora of boreal forests work together in order to ensure the health of the forest is truly a wonder of nature.
The largest type of flora found in boreal forests is evergreen trees. Many types of evergreen trees are found growing throughout boreal forests with deciduous trees, wildflowers and other types of plants growing in their shadows. Evergreens have the ability to grow in boreal forests where other types of flora find it difficult to reproduce. Boreal forests due to their extreme northern locations enjoy less sunlight than other parts of the world. Evergreen trees have adapted and can carry out photosynthesis in their needles, even in the coldest parts of winter. Some types of evergreens such as white spruce have adapted by growing their branches at different angles to deflect heavy snow.
Evergreens sustain many different types of both flora and fauna within the boreal forest. The soil found in boreal forests is nutrient poor due to the cold climate, which delays the breakdown of plant matter. Dropping pine needles further acidifies the soil but this provides a wonderful growing habitat for lichens, mosses and berries such as blueberries. These plants that benefit from evergreens provide food for large plant eating mammals of the forest such as moose and elk.
Evergreens commonly found in boreal forests include: Scotch pines, lodgepole pines, different types of spruce, fir trees, cedars and perhaps the hardiest tree on Earth, the Larch. Larch trees can survive even the coldest of Siberian winters.
There are a few types of deciduous trees that grow scattered about towering evergreens in boreal forests. These leaf dropping trees are cold hardy and even though they are not as populous in a boreal forest as evergreens they too play an important part of the boreal ecosystem. They provide food for foraging mammals and decaying leaves nurture the soil just enough to nourish deciduous seedlings. Deciduous trees that inhabit boreal forests include: White birch, oak, maple, quaking aspen and willow trees.
Shrubs can be found growing throughout boreal forests and are necessary for sustaining wildlife that inhabits the forest. Many types of shrubs produce edible berries. The leaves, seeds and berries of this type of flora are consumed by both herbivores and omnivores. Shrubs of the boreal forest include: snowberries, blueberries, loganberries, laurel, serviceberry, heather and cranberries.
Cranberries can be found growing wild near bogs of the boreal forest. Bogs and lakes can be found throughout many boreal forests and were formed by glaciers that melted thousands of years ago creating depressions in the Earth’s surface. Bogs provide a growing habitat for flora such as moss, algae and water lilies. Moss and algae provide food for animals and fish, while water lilies provide shelter for amphibians like frogs and snakes.
Wildflowers fill the meadows of boreal forests. These flowers are cold hardy and are usually fast growers in order to propagate in a short growing season. Wildflowers can be used by animals of the forest as food primarily by grazing mammals and they provide shelter and nesting habitat for smaller mammals and birds. Wildflowers of the boreal forest include: Fireweed, green horsetails, alpine sunflowers, chicory, thistle, timothy grass and black eyed Susans.
Before the Bering Land Bridge disconnected Eurasia from North America many different species of flora was allowed to spread throughout the boreal forests around the world. While there are a few species of flora that are unique to each different type of forest, most flora species of the boreal forests remains the same throughout the world. These plants thrive in a harsh winter climate that no other plants would dare take on.