To your right along this trail is a mature forest of hardwoods.
The Hardwood Community
In the mixed forest, as the pines and cedars mature and are shaded out by the emerging hardwoods, they will die and fall, opening up the canopy to more light. The hardwoods will thrive and become the dominant component of the plant community. As the hardwoods mature and die, they are generally replaced by species of the same plant association, one that perpetuates itself. This has traditionally been called a "climax community."
However, nature rarely stays the same. Even relatively permanent communities change. Forests will be impacted by unpredictable weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe conditions. Climate change, insect infestations, and other environmental impacts can have dramatic impacts on an otherwise "stable" forest. Land use, even of adjacent sites, may impact the course of change. In addition, our national policy of suppression of forest fires has altered the course of succession at the "climax" stage.
As you walk through the mature forests at the Ivy Creek Natural Area, note what species of trees are the dominant component in each area.