More than 110 species of tree occur in the eastern deciduous forest, of which about 75 percent are deciduous (4). In each region of the forest, different trees dominate (2).
The northern hardwood forest, around the Canadian border, is dominated by yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) (6). Two conifers, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and white pine (Pinus strobus) grow abundantly among the broad-leaved species (6). In autumn, this region can be the most beautiful, as it turns into a patchwork of reds and oranges (6).
In the north-central forest region, often known as the beech-maple forest, American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) continue to dominate (2), and can comprise up to 90 percent of the trees (6).
The oak-hickory forests are the most common type within the eastern deciduous forest, which is dominated by hickory (Carya species) and a number of oaks including the northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and white oak (Quercus alba) (8), the latter of which enjoys one of the widest ranges of any tree species in eastern North America (6).
In addition to this, hundreds of wildflowers and other herbaceous and woody species blanket the forest floor (4).
Around 43 species of mammal occupy the eastern deciduous forest (4), the majority of which occur in the northern two-thirds of the region. Most of these are rodents (mice, voles, squirrels), such as the American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus,) and insectivores (shrews and moles) which generally forage on the rich forest floor, and bats, such as the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) which forage in and above the forest canopy (4).
However, larger mammals can also be found in eastern deciduous forest, such as the American black bear (Ursus americanus) striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), northern raccoon (Procyon lotor), and the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (4).
About 154 bird species are found in the eastern deciduous forest (4). Birds of prey, such as the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soar over the forest searching for food (4), while nuthatches and woodpeckers, such as the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), forage along tree trunks and large branches, chipping away at the bark in search of food (4). The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) may be seen foraging on the ground for acorns, seeds, grains, berries and insects (9), while the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), eastern America’s sole breeding hummingbird, flits through the forest feeding on nectar (10).
Reptiles and amphibians
Of the 23 species of reptiles that occur in the eastern deciduous forest, most can be found in the southern two-thirds (4). The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) are characteristic reptiles of this region (7).
Around 17 species of amphibians occur in the eastern deciduous forest (4), many of which occur in the southern Appalachian Mountains, which contain an impressive diversity of woodland salamander species found nowhere else in the world (4). This includes the red-cheeked salamander (Plethodon jordani) which occurs amongst leaf litter on the forested slopes in part of the Appalachian Mountains (11).
The eastern deciduous forest provides habitat for a wealth of invertebrates (5) from the towering heights of the canopy to the leaf litter-covered forest floor (1). Butterflies, moths and their caterpillars, such as the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) (12) and striped hawkmoth (Hyles livornica), provide food for many birds, while the forest’s salamanders prey on beetles, other insects and their larvae (1).