Nature’s Champion Olympic National Park, National Geographic: Trail in Queets Rainforest

Thick growth on forest floor with tree branches covered with lichen.

A path winds through a primeval world where lichens, mosses and other epiphytes coat the branches of vine maples that arch over carpets of wood sorrel. The forest envelopes Sam’s River Loop Trail, a route traveled more by elk than by humans in Olympic National Park. Because of this dense ground cover, it is hard for seedlings to get a start. Many germinate on fallen, decaying trees called nurse logs. As the seedlings grow, they send their roots down the log to the ground. Eventually the log rots completely away and a row of young trees is left, up on stilt-like roots, all in a row. The thick and protective vegetation also provides excellent habitats for the animals of the rain forest.

Temperate rainforests in the valleys of the Quinault, Queets and Hoh Rivers receive twelve feet of rain each year, which supports Sitka spruce, western hemlock, vine-maples, ferns, and the thick mosses covering the forest floor.

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