thicket

Thicket

A "thicket" is an in-between stage, after a meadow and before a forest. To understand how a thicket is created, you first need to understand a natural process called "succession." Succession works like this:

First, an area is cleared of all, or most, trees. This may happen after a forest fire or flood, or when people bulldoze. Seeds of plants travel by wind or water and land on the bare ground. The first seeds to grow into plants are grasses, weeds, and wildflowers. A meadow has been formed.

As the meadow grows, seeds of new plants begin to grow under the grasses. These plants have the ability to grow taller than the grasses and weeds. When these first young shrubs or trees begin to grow, they are protected by the grasses already in the meadow. As the shrubs and trees grow bigger, they begin to block the light so it can't reach the smaller grasses. The smaller plants die out and leave only the shrubs and trees.

Usually, lots of shrubs and trees grow at the same time. In a thicket, many young trees grow close together. As years go by, the trees grow taller than the shrubs and the shrubs die out too. As more years pass, the stronger trees crowd out the weak ones. The trees that are left are much taller now, and what was once a meadow, then a thicket, has now become a forest.

That is succession -- the process of a meadow growing, over time, into a forest. Thickets, as the middle stage, are important to wildlife as safe places to hide and raise young.

Thickets can be found near other habitats. They may be in the middle of a forest, in a meadow, on the side of a road, or on a sandbar in the middle of a river.

When you see a thicket, you will recognize the following things:

Shrubs and Trees:

Thickets are made of shrubs and young trees. There are always lots of the same species in a thicket. They are crowded and close together.

Vines:

Thickets usually have tangles of vines. Vines can cover trees and shrubs, often completely. Some trees may even become strangled by vines.

Thickets can look very different based on their locations and ages. Certain plants grow in certain areas, and as they get older, get replaced by other plants. What grows in one spot may be entirely different than what grows in another spot, just as a forest in one area has different trees than another. Below are some pictures of several thickets. Can you guess the age of each thicket?

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