Sherpa Guides > Virginia Mountains > The Appalachian Cove Forest

The Appalachian Cove Forest

Cove forest (such as the stand of virgin trees at Ramseys Draft Wilderness Area) is the name for a type of forest community unique to the Appalachians. American basswood is an indicator tree. Other canopy trees of cove forests may include tulip poplar, sugar maple, red maple, yellow birch, beech, white ash, bigleaf magnolia, Allegheny chinquapin, bitternut hickory, and Eastern hemlock. Farther south, Carolina silverbell is an important indicator tree for cove forests.

A colorful understory is characteristic of cove forests and may include such trees as Eastern redbud, sourwood, Fraser magnolia, witch-hazel, and flowering dogwood. However, the dark, dense canopy at Ramseys Draft has shaded out most undergrowth. Before cove forests mature into old-growth stands where the thick canopy shades out the undergrowth, everything appears abundant—trees, shrubs, wildflowers, birds, even salamanders. Birds tend to sort themselves out in tall forests. Some hunt the canopy, some the middle, and some the undergrowth. In cove forests, the American redstart and various flycatchers share the canopy. Also, the Blackburnian warbler may challenge the limits of hearing with its high, thin call from above.

Where there is laurel and azalea, listen for the buzzy sound of the worm-eating warbler. The yellow-breasted chat prefers tangled growth and dense brush for nesting. Its unusual combination of chirps and whistles is sometimes delivered from a perch high above its low but well-hidden nest. Wildflowers indicative of cove forests include wood anemone, mayapple, red trillium, white trillium, wild ginger, Canada violet, large-leaved white violet, and hepatica.

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