old-growth forest

Forest as elder, where trees coexist in the full spectrum of their development—from seedling to sapling to ancient, to snag and generative nurse log: old-growth forest features include thick duff, trees hoary with age, and certain indicator species that rely on the settled richness of variety in plant, insect, lichen, and other life forms. It seems to take about two centuries for these features to develop, by which time a forest crosses a threshold between a monoculture of trees of similar age— often the result of catastrophic fire or clearcut—to a multiage population of trees, with attendant opportunities for broad range in plant and animal populations. What old age gives the individual person, old growth conditions give a forest: a life-library of survival wisdom, flexibility, initiative, and a sustaining life process. Formerly called virgin forest, as untouched wilderness, old-growth forest has become controversial and precious. Besides the old-growth forests dominated by Douglas fir in the Pacific Northwest, old growth includes local stands of redwood in California, ponderosa pine east of the Cascade Mountains, eastern hemlock in the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as cedar, cypress, tulip tree, oak, and other species, often in tiny forest remnants.

Kim Stafford

In Sandpoint, a logging truck crossed the road in front of them, loaded with such behemoths that it had taken only five logs to fill the trailer—old growth Douglas fir, with chartreuse clusters of lichens still clinging to the bark of the newly cut logs and sap still oozing from their cuts, glistening like sugar glaze in that new light.

— Rick Bass, President's Day

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