Nurse logs Jess Riddle
February 17, 2009


Nurse logs are common in older forests on moist sites in the Southern
Appalachians.  Hemlock is probably one of the most common species
forming nurse logs since they reach large sizes, decay slowly, grow in
moist sites, and are common; however, I usually think of nurse logs in
terms of the species most likely to grow on them.  Black birch (Betula
lenta), yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis), and rhododendron are the
most abundant species on logs, but hemlock and red spruce are also
common and other species will at least occasionally sprout on logs.
The most species I've seen on a single log is nine.

In the swamps closer to the coast, wet sites in a somewhat drier
climate, red maples (Acer rubrum) often matures on old baldcypress
(Taxodium distichum) stumps.

I'll try to dig up a few photos.



Great thread to start! I found 11 species of tree on a nurse log in
Cataloochee once. I'll look for the photo. Here are some shots of those
crazy ones on Chapman Prong in Greenbrier. I bet Paul Jost remembers the one
in the last shot.

Will F. Blozan , February 17, 2009

President, Eastern Native Tree Society
President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.


Olympic National Park, WA - colonade of sitka spruce and western hemlock straddling a nurse log. photo by Edward Frank

Cook Forest State Park, PA - photo by Edward Frank

Cook Forest State Park, PA - photo by Edward Frank

Don Bertolette writes (March 26, 2009)

On the topic of nurse logs, I ran across a recent photo I took in a foxtail pine forest  ...a foxtail pine may live to be 2000 years...once dead, they may remain vertical for decades. Once horizontal, it may take even longer to degrade into duff.
The young foxtail seedling growing at the tip of the dead and down, soon to be duff foxtail pine in the foreground, probably came from a seed that may have taken years to encounter the right combination of seasonal moisture, soil warmth, and scarification regime to burst into life and lend optimism to a forest currently facing changing climate conditions.

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