September 17th, 2009

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Peninsula trip, day three: Hoh Rainforest

Nurse Log Colonnade


A "nurse log" is a fallen tree. It illustrates both the profligacy of life (it's everywhere) and the practicality (nothing is wasted). Nurse logs are first colonized by mosses and liverworts, then fungi and ferns. Later still, saplings take root, using the extra light to grow faster. Saplings send their roots outside the nurse log as shown here; whoever reaches the ground first can outcompete the others. Occasionally, on a big nurse log, you'll see three or four trees in a row. (This one only has two.) Eventually, the whole log will be reabsorbed into the forest, leaving trees standing on root buttresses.

We first became fascinated with nurse logs at Twin Falls and Wallace Falls state park. Because those two parks are second-growth forest that were logged early in the 20th century, the nurse logs there are primarily stumps.

We have to go back to the Hoh so I can take a whole series of pictures of nurse logs, from freshly fallen to reabsorbed.

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Except as noted: Hoh Rainforest, WA
All: September, 2009