I decided to write this blog in response to questions I get about trees. I am ask ‘why are there hardwood trees here, why are there pine trees here?’ Generally speaking you will find pines on the ridge tops and hardwoods in the bottom. There are some exceptions to this however. ….past logging practices can change tree species i.e. sometimes a logging contractor will remove pine only! Great questions and a favorite topic of mine. In order to explain we must talk about 3 topics: 1) Shade tolerance 2) Aspect and 3) Water Availability.

Shade Tolerance – This subject was covered in my ‘Forest Ecology’ course and was probably the most interesting course I had. It showed me through scientific terms why certain species grow in certain places. Some areas grow pine best, others grow hardwoods best. Below I have a simple table with species by shade tolerance (this is an incomplete list but still helpful). In simple terms….shade tolerance is a measure of a tree tolerance to shade. Some trees simply will not grow in the shade. Interestingly, trees are discussed in their ability to tolerate shade NOT sun!!

Water Availability – Bottomland hardwood forests are a type of wetland community found along the floodplains of rivers and streams. The timing, duration, and frequency of flooding play important roles in determining the type of vegetation present in these forests. Bottomland hardwood swamp communities have soils saturated with water much of the time. Pines do not grow in the sites referred to as “poorly drained” in simple terms these are sites where water pools and ponds for long periods of time after a heavy rain event. Typical tree species might be gum, oaks (Cherrybark, Nuttall and Shumard) and bald cypress.

Aspect – This refers to the direction of the land in relation to the sun angle. I remember walking a deep hollow in Jefferson County, AL with a hardwood buyer. He ask me…’do you see any difference in the timber here?’  After a moment I noticed the hardwood on one side of the hollow was much better than the other. He ask me to pull out my compass, I noticed the timber on the northeast facing slope was better than the southwest facing slope. WHY? The southwest facing slope is exposed to long hours of hot afternoon sun and the soils get hot and evaporate water quickly. The sites typically grow pines and drought tolerant species like hickories, Mountain Oak and Black Jack Oak.

Well now you have a layman’s understanding of forest ecology. I love talking about and sharing these things as I walk a client through property they are consider purchasing. I have sold lots of property as I engage people in discussions about the flora and fauna of a specific property.


Written By:

G. Kent Morris

Registered Forester

Associate Broker, Bickerstaff Parham Land LLC

Accredited Land Consultant