One of the reasons for greater plant diversity in the deciduous hardwood forests of eastern North America compared to the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest is light penetration to the forest floor. If you’ve hiked some of the old growth or second growth coniferous forests in British Columbia, you’ll know that there can be very few plants growing beneath the trees throughout the year, perhaps only the occasional saprophytic orchid or straggly huckleberry.
This photograph, taken in the deciduous forest of the Old Baldy Conservation Area along the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, illustrates the opposite. In early spring, before the trees have fully leafed out, the first wave of perennials such as these large-flowered trilliums grow and flower. Later in the year, summer sunlight dapples the forest floor, and another wave of flowers bloom. Finally, as the tree leaves colour and begin to fall, asters and goldenrods flower to complete the annual parade of herbaceous colour.