Understory plantings are very popular in many parts of the world. They provide a variety of benefits such as shade, water retention, wildlife habitat and aesthetic appeal. These plants can be planted along the edges or even inside your garden beds. There are several varieties available to choose from, but most come in two basic forms – evergreen and deciduous (or everbloom). Evergreens are perennial plants which produce new leaves year after year; deciduous plants grow one season only, then die back to the ground.
The purpose of planting understory trees is to create a diversity of different species within your landscape. A diverse mix will result in a healthier ecosystem and better soil quality.
Some examples include Douglas firs, American elms, California redwoods and oaks. All of these trees have their own unique characteristics.
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, understory plants are beneficial for the environment because they remove excess nutrients from the soil. By removing dead organic matter, you reduce runoff into streams and rivers and thus improve water quality.
In fact, many studies show that understory plants can actually increase stream flow!
Understory tree planting is becoming more popular among homeowners as well as land managers. If you are interested in planting some understory trees, consider your local climate as well as the size of your trees when choosing species.
Sources & references used in this article:
Extended leaf phenology and the autumn niche in deciduous forest invasions by JD Fridley – Nature, 2012 – nature.com
High species diversity in fleshy-fruited tropical understory plants by JF Smith – The American Naturalist, 2001 – journals.uchicago.edu
Overstory–understory biomass changes over a 35-year period in southcentral Oregon by JM Peek, JJ Korol, D Gay, T Hershey – Forest Ecology and Management, 2001 – Elsevier
Forest canopy and the performance of larval amphibians by DK Skelly, LK Freidenburg, JM Kiesecker – Ecology, 2002 – Wiley Online Library
Invasion by the leguminous tree Acacia dealbata (Mimosaceae) reduces the native understorey plant species in different communities by P Lorenzo, E Pazos-Malvido, M Rubido-Bará… – Australian Journal of …, 2012 – CSIRO
Chronic over browsing and biodiversity collapse in a forest understory in Pennsylvania: results from a 60 year-old deer exclusion plot by C Goetsch, J Wigg, AA Royo, T Ristau… – The Journal of the Torrey …, 2011 – BioOne
Seasonal diets of insectivorous birds using canopy gaps in a bottomland forest by CE Moorman, LT Bowen, JC Kilgo… – Journal of Field …, 2007 – Wiley Online Library
Response of herb layer cover to experimental canopy gaps by BS Collins, STA Pickett – American Midland Naturalist, 1988 – JSTOR