Old Growth Ecosystem
Sawmill Creek photographed by Alan Yen. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
In the midst of the quiet of an old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest there are cathedral-sized trees, layers of growth from the upper canopy to the forest floor, and reminders of the forest giants of the past – standing dead trees and fallen logs from which new life emerges. Western red cedar and western hemlock dominate in a true old growth forest, although very large Douglas firs may be found to reach maximum size and are present sporadically in the midst of the climax forest. Forests over 1,000 years old are rare but many which have been undisturbed for 400-600 years do occur in western Washington. Dominant shrubs may be our beautiful state flower, the Pacific rhododendron, or salal and in moister old growth stands, sword fern may be abundant. The little twin flower trailing along the forest floor, small violets, and the rattlesnake plantain orchid might even be discovered with a closer look.