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Dwarf Forest

Dwarf Forest

IN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST ON RICH MOUNTAIN

A leisure drive along the crest of Rich Mountain in the Ouachita (Wash-i-tah) Natural forest will find you stopping to enjoy the Dwarf Forest.  You will learn many interesting facts about the natural environment while observing the beauty of the forest.

The purpose of this website is to educate fifth and sixth grade students about the species of oak trees that live in the Ouachita National Forest on Rich Mountain. They will learn the basic tree facts and the effects of prevailing south winds and the frequent freezing fogs, mist and rain has on the oak trees on the crest of Rich Mountain.

Rich Mountain’s dwarf forest resembles the Krummholz or stunted trees at the timberline on high mountains.  The forest’s appearance is the result of severe pruning by winter ice storms.  The ancient ice-pruned White Oak trees which are part of the elfin or dwarf forests shows the narrow transition line between the dry Scrub Oak forest of the south slope and the White Oak forest of the north slope.

The Ouachita Mountains were at one time a westward extension of the Appalachians.  Therefore, the plants of the Ouachita National Forest are similar to the eastern forest both geographically and climatically. The area may be considered a meeting ground of several biomes or plant formations.  These include plants that can be found in the northwest and southwest United States, the Gulf Coastal Plains, the Gulf Coastal Highland and the prairie states.

The Ouachita Mountains are different from most mountain ranges.  The ridgelines run predominantly east to west rather than north to south. The east to west directional trend gives rise to distinct North Slope and south slope plant and animal communities.  Mixed hardwood forests (predominantly oak) occupy the south slopes.

OAKS

Oaks

Of all the broad-leaved trees in Arkansas, oaks are the most valuable and important.  There are nearly sixty different species and varieties of oaks.  Oaks are deciduous trees that lose their leaves when the weather becomes stressful.

Oaks are classified into two groups; red oaks and white oaks.  Red oaks bear tiny bristles at the tip of the leaf, at the ends of the lobes or both.  The bitter fruit, (acorns), requires two years to mature.  The acorn’s wooly hairs line the cup during the winter months.  The leaves of the white oak have rounded lobes with no bristles.  Their acorns mature in six months.  They are gone by winter and the inner wall of the cup is smooth.  Oaks are identified by the shape and color of leaves, fruits, or acorns.

Deciduous trees typically lose their leaves in the fall in anticipation of winter’s cold temperatures.  Some trees will lose their leaves in summer, during years of drought.
 
POST OAK
 
Post oak (Quercus Stellata Wang) is common on the steep rocky slopes and ridges of the Ouachita Mountains.  It has rough, irregular, crooked branches near the ground forming a dense broadly rounded crown.  The gray bark is usually ridged and crosswise.  The leathery leaves are dark green, shiny above, cross-shaped, five lobed with gray to yellow hair underside.  Leaves often hang on tree all winter.  They are nearly as broad as long with no bristles on tips.  The fruit, a rather small acorn ½ to ¾ inches long, matures in one year.  About one-third of the acorn is enclosed in a hemispherical cup whose scales are diamond-shaped.  Wood is 47 pounds per cubic foot.  It is light or dark brown, close-grained, and durable.  Uses of the wood of the Post Oak include crossties, fence posts, furniture, and other purposes.
 
BLACKJACK OAK
 
Blackjack Oak (Quercus Marilandica Muenchh) is a tree, usually 20 to 30 feet tall with a diameter rarely more than 18 inches.  The common name (Blackjack) may refer to the leaf’s shape similar to a blackjack (a leather covered bludgeon).  These trees are often short contorted trees growing in poor soils.  Even in more favorable, wetter sites, this tree may only reach a height of 50 feet with a diameter of 18 inches.  The bark, 1 to 1 ½ inches thick, is brown or black with rough, deep fissures separating into squarish plates.  Leaves are three to seven inches long, leathery, wedge-shaped, three-lobed, with brownish to rusty hairs on the underside.  The cup covers half the acorn, and the fruit, an oblong nut, matures the second year.  The wood is used for firewood, charcoal, and railroad crossties.  The acorns are food for turkey and deer.
 
WHITE OAK
 
White Oak (Quercus Allah) has leaves that are bright green above and pale below.  The clefts between the lobes may be deep or shallow.  Flowers are of two kinds on the same tree.  The male in pendulous catkins and in conspicuous female flowers singly or in pairs.  White Oak fruit (acorn) is egg shaped (3/4 inches long) and matures in one year.  It is sweet and edible.  White Oak can reach up to 100 feet tall with leaves 5 to 9 inches.  Leaves have smooth margins that change in the fall to wine-color and then fade to various shades of brown.  White Oaks grow best on deep, well-drained soils, but do fairly well on all soils except the driest, shallow soils.  The wood of the White Oak is a high-grade wood used for furniture, flooring and barrels.  Squirrels and birds find the White Oak acorns a choice food.  The wood is called “Stave oak” because it is outstanding in making tight barrels. It was also useful in colonial times in making ships.

These trees near the Rich mountain crests are dwarfed and gnarled due to the constant pressure from prevailing south winds and the effect of winter icing from frequent freezing fog, mist and rain.

Conclusion

On the north slope, the soil is extremely rich, dark and moist.  Rich Mountain derived its name from the unusually rich soil.  One story says that the mountain was at one time the roosting place of vast numbers of passenger pigeons. The passenger pigeon’s droppings contributed to the fertility of the soil.

The law requires that these lands be managed for a variety of benefits including outdoor recreation, timber, water forage, wildlife habitat wilderness and minerals.  Further evidence that Arkansas cherish these rich natural resources and intend to preserve them for future generations.

Come and discover the mountaintop of dwarf trees and the peace and quiet mountain air.

For Your Information 

 Dwarf Forest
Dwarf Forest
Dwarf Forest

  • “Ouachita” is derived from an Indian name meaning “good hunting”…the essence of Arkansas.
  • “Deciduous” means, “falling off”  or out at a certain season.
  • The Ouachita Mountains were at one time a westward extension of the Appalachians.
  • The wood of the white oak is called "Stave oak" because of the use in making tight barrels.
  • The trees are dwarfed and gnarled due to the constant pressure of the prevailing south winds and the winter icing.
  • Botanists divide oaks into two groups white oak and red oaks.
  • The male flowers which form in dangling clusters called "catkins" produce large amounts of pollen.
  • Acorn is the fruit of the oak.
  • The common name "blackjack" may refer to the leaf's shape similar to the blackjack.
  • Fire is one of the common element that destroys oak trees.
  • Forest which are primarily composed of deciduous trees are called "deciduous forests".

 

Presented by:  
Jimmie Roark
Hampton Elementary School
Hampton, AR 71744


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