The Plants of the Temperate Deciduous Forest

Written by kariss lynch
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The Plants of the Temperate Deciduous Forest
Leaves of temperate deciduous trees change colour in the fall. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Temperate deciduous forests are located in eastern portions of the United States and Canada, most of Europe, and certain portions of China and Japan. Large trees with leaves that change colour and drop according to season characterise these forests. There are three levels of plant life: trees, moss and ferns, with wildflowers and other small plants covering the forest floor.

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Tall trees make up the highest level of vegetation in this biome. The trees grow thick, their leaves shading the forest floor below, limiting sunlight. Hardwood trees, such as the maple, oak, birch and magnolia, are predominant. However, some coniferous trees mingle with the others, including spruce, fir and pine. The oak tree is the most common. These trees produce large seeds that drop, and the resulting seedlings struggle to grow through the vegetation on the forest floor. This wood is the most commonly used for building.

Moss and Mushroom

Moss are rootless evergreens that coat the bottom of trees in deciduous landscapes. Carpet moss covers the floors of deciduous forests in North America and Europe. It is a light golden colour in the spring and shifts to a dark green as it matures. The tawny milkcap mushroom is also native to deciduous forests. It is commonly found in North America and Japan, where it is known as the chichitake mushroom. The cap grows 2 to 5 inches wide on the forest bed.


Wildflowers struggle to grow on the forest floor with limited sunlight due to the dense canopy. Many of these flowers bloom in early spring before the trees are filled out, and by summer, shed and remain dormant until the next spring. The Guelder rose is native to deciduous forests in England and Scotland and often grows near marshes on the forest floor. The Dutchman's breeches, another wild flower, grows small white buds on its long, leafy stems.


Ferns and shrubs fill in the middle layer of this fertile biome. The lady fern is found in these forests and is a popular decoration in many households. It grows from 24 to 36 inches tall and is found primarily in North America and Eurasia. The leaves grow long and wide, adding another canopy for plants growing on the forest bed. The plants form a circle as they grow, extending and forming more rings as they multiply over time, occupying semi-shaded areas.

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