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How Can You Tell a Forest is Old?

If you find extensive tracts of the Wood Anemone, a small wildflower of shady deciduous woodlands, you are probably in an older, established forest. It takes about five years for anemones to flower and longer to spread through underground rhizomes. This plant prefers moist, mucky soils and in New York, I have seen it growing in red maple wetlands.

This wildflower’s dainty white flowers are pollinated by hover flies, a species that eats nectar and pollen. It is a poisonous plant if eaten and folklore nicknamed it the wind flower because its blossoms flutter in the breeze.

This is just one indicator of a mature forest. The types and sizes of trees, a rich leaf litter, multi-layered canopies and even the species of wildlife can all help determine how old a forest may be.  If you are in the eastern U.S. or Canada, and see widespread areas of the wood anemone, you can assume it’s a relatively undisturbed older forest.

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