When the glaciers melted about 11 000 years ago, meltwaters formed large rivers that flowed from the higher elevations. These rivers deposited sand and gravel primarily on the east side of Algonquin Park. These sandy soils, in combination with the east side's lower elevation and warmer temperatures, resulted in conditions suitable for the growth of vast areas of coniferous forest.
Sugar Maple, the dominant tree species in the western portions of Algonquin Park, is poorly adapted to the quick-drying, sandy soils found on the east side of the Park. The White Pine, a species tolerant of drier soils, characterized by its tall straight trunk, rutted bark, and soft needles that are in bundles of five, and its cousin the Red Pine, with pink flaky bark, are the most dominant tree species on the Park's east side.
If one were to walk through a typical coniferous forests like those on Algonquin's east side or along the Bat Lake Trail along the Highway 60 Corridor, they might encounter a variety of plant species characteristic of the coniferous forest. Plants on the forest floor include Starflower, Fringed Polygala, Bluebead Lily, Pink Ladyslipper, and Bunchberry, a common sight to nearly all who have explored the coniferous forest. In June, this low-lying plant is readily found covering the forest floor. It is easily identified in by its white floral head, and later in the summer by its bunch of red berries, giving it its name.
The coniferous forest is home to many different animals such as the Black Bear, which can be found feeding on raspberries, blueberries and the acorns of the Red Oak. If you were to listen carefully you might also hear the warbling song of the Red Crossbill. The Red Crossbill, has a crossed bill allowing it to pry open and extract seeds from the cones of the White Pine. Another bird species dependent upon the pine forest is the Pine Warbler. This small, greenish-yellow bird does not search for seeds like the Red Crossbill, rather it hunts insect. Its elongated bill and strong feet help it while it pushes aside conifer needles in search of insects.
The coniferous forest is an intriguing place for many visitors to Algonquin Park. If you have never explored the coniferous forest, one of the five major habitats in Algonquin Park, click on the link below.
Take a 360° tour of an Algonquin coniferous forest
Learn more about Algonquin's habitats download readings and worksheets from the Educator Resources section of the web site, or you may also learn more through the following publications:
Educators: Learn more about Algonquin’s habitats, download readings and worksheets from the Educator Resources section of the Web Site, or you may also learn more through the following publications:
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