Exploring the Forest Floor

By Sydney Chandler

A beautiful fall day: the leaves on the trees are few, the blanket of leaves on the floor is deep, and the camouflaged forest floor prompts curiosity and mysteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABare Trees

On this fall day, drops of blood along the Wood Duck Trail create a spooky Halloween mystery. The trail of blood follows the path but then disappears into the woods. What circumstance caused this Halloween mystery? An injured animal? A benign human nose-bleed? And what was the fate of this individual? The turn-over of leaf cover from wind and trail traffic will soon erase much of the evidence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHalloween Mystery Trail

Beneath the leafy forest floor is a plethora of fall activity. Fallen seeds work their way into the moist soil, insects get comfortable for over-wintering, and decomposition supports soil health. Milkweed seeds will remain dormant through the winter before sending out roots in the spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMilkweed Seeds Disperse

The turkeys also know of treats below the leaf cover. They brush away the leaves and munch on seeds, plants, and insects. This leaf cover will provide the soil with vital nutrients to support a more plentiful spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurkeys Dig Through Leaf Cover

For fall, the ample leaf cover on the ground is a result of the bare trees. What other effects occur as trees become bare? Can you observe a change in bird behavior as their canopy coverage is reduced? What mysteries can you find on the covered forest floor?

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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