15. Striped Maple

Near the entrance to the Lost Pond trail is a Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum), a smaller, shade-adapted tree. As new woodlands age, their understory first diminishes as growing trees limit sunlight to lower levels. But once a forest is sufficiently established, natural tree deaths open up pockets of light that allow for a reinvigoration of the forest floor and shrub layer. The relatively small stature of Striped Maples provides height variation in these mature forests. Having a heterogeneous habitat—a location with high species and height diversity— allows a greater number of organisms to live in a given space. Different animals prefer different food sources and nesting sites, so habitat heterogeneity ensures that there’s a bit of something for everyone! For instance, the Black-Throated Blue Warbler is an exclusive understory inhabitant that only nests and forages on short trees and shrubs. Striped Maples host 17 caterpillar species, a buffet for understory birds! Its seeds feed red squirrels and chipmunks, spring shoots are browsed by rabbits and porcupines, and winter buds are occasionally nibbled by grouse.