Nature’s Control Freaks

Sun-loving trees such as Trembling Aspen and White Birch are the first to colonize open areas. Under these, shade-tolerant Sugar Maples grow. Maples live for 200 years or more, eventually outliving and replacing the “pioneers.”  When mature, maples take control in two ways. Their canopy intercepts sunlight, excluding shade-intolerant plants from growing beneath them. Their dead leaves create a thick mat that excludes most seeds from reaching the soil. But maple seeds can reach it, and their seedings can survive in shade for several years.  After they die another generation of maple seedlings arises.  When a maple tree falls, creating a hole in the canopy, sunlight reaches the seedlings and they shoot up, eventually filling in the gap, the maples’ control once again complete.