Look closely, and you’ll see that the forest grows in horizontal “layers”, by plant height. Trees make up the highest layer, the forest “canopy”. Plants growing under the trees – grasses, brush, and wildflowers -- make up the forest “understory”. Lorrie Madison, Retired State Park Environmental Scientist.
The bog, near the stone pillar entrance, is I think one of our best examples of a great understory. It’s barely disturbed, it’s virtually all native plants, we have little exotic invasion, and we have lots of perennial grasses.
You’ll also see wax myrtle, monkey flower, and many water-loving plants. All this decaying plant material nourishes the old forest and helps young trees thrive. It also provides for animals.
We have a great pileup of leaf liter and detritus there, which attracts a lot insects and salamanders and small critters, which in turn feeds the birds and larger mammals here.
Ceanothus is one of the most common plants in the forest understory. If it’s spring or mid-summer, you’ll likely see – and smell – its fragrant purple-blue blossoms. The area’s native people crushed the blossom and mixed it with water to make soap.