Loblolly Pines and hardwoods, such as the American oaks are considered the climax species of the Chesapeake area forests. Climax species are species which are self-seeding, meaning that they produce new individuals in the same area to replace older and dead trees. Mature forests, such as these, are identified by well spaced trees of large diameter. The soil in these forests is rich in nitrogen from large amounts of litter ( leaves, bark, and dead plant matter) break down. The understory tends to be cooler and retain more moisture than younger forests, which can prevent shade intolerant plants from taking hold.
These mature forests may be well over 200 years old and individual trees may have seen a boyish George Washington on a stroll. Trees of this age are becoming more rare, due to deforestation, erosion and introduced diseases, such as Oak Wilt.
Mature Forests are essential habitat for many endangered and threatened species. Birds, such as Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles nest in mature trees. Fox squirrels and opossums also make these forests their home. A number os shade tolerant plants, such as ferns and mosses require these shady, cool,moist areas to thrive.