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Provincial Park

Forest Ecology

The forested slopes of the Cypress Hills rise above the surrounding prairies. This increased elevation provides for cooler temperatures and increased precipitation thereby facilitating the growth of trees. The forest supports a wide array of plant species, including 17 different types of orchids, and provides habitat for animals that are not found on the grasslands.

What types of trees are found in the Cypress Hills?
There are four species of trees in the Cypress Hills, two of which are coniferous. The lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), usually found in the Rocky Mountains, is unique to the prairies. This tree can be up to 30 meters or more in height and its needle-like leaves are found in budles of two. The cones are highly seronitnous, busting open to release seeds in the presence of fire. The lodgepole pine was utilized by the Western Plains Indians as poles for their buffalo skin lodges. The lodgepole pine is Alberta's provincial tree.
(More Information on Lodgepole Pine)
The second coniferous species is white spruce (Picea glauca). This tree species can reach 45 meters in height and has scalely, brownish-grey bark. The needle-like leaves are 4-sided, stiff, sharp, and bright green. In Alberta, this tree species is found mostly in the northern part of the province and is used for lumber, plywood, and pulp.
There are also two main deciduous tree species in the Cypress Hills, aspen poplar and balsam poplar. Aspen poplar (Populus tremuloides) has a smooth, greenish-white bark which becomes darker and rougher with age. Also known as trembling poplar, flattened petioles on the leaves cause them to flutter in the wind.
Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) has dark grey bark that is deeply furrowed and leaves nearly twice the size of aspen poplar leaves. This tree is common in forestland, abandoned farmland, burned-over areas, and river banks throughout Alberta.
(Hildebrandt and Hubner, 1994) (Forestry, Lands, and Wildlife)

Who lives in the forest?
(Cypress Hills Provincial Park, pamphlets)
The forest is home to a number of bats (Little Brown Bat, Big Brown Bat, etc.), weasels (Ermine, Striped Stunk, etc.), mice (Muskrat, White-footed Mouse, Deer Mouse, etc.), and squirrels (American Red Squirrel). As well, you may find a Racoon or American Porcupine among the trees. There are also a number of species from the deer family (Cerivdae) that call the forest home such as the Mule Deer, White-Tailed Deer, and Wapiti or Elk.


Postcard. Photograph by O. Tarnasky.

The forest is also home to many bird species such as Tree Swallows, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Yellow Warbler, and Chipping Sparrow. As well, you will probably see American Goldfinches and the introduced Wild Turkey.



Downy Woodpecker - Canadian Wildlife Service
Evening Grosbeak - Canadian Wildlife Service
Great Horned Owl - Canadian Wildlife Service
Porcupine - Canadian Wildlife Service
Raccoon - Canadian Wildlife Service
Striped Skunk - Canadian Wildlife Service
American Robin - Canadian Wildlife Service
American Goldfinch - Canadian Wildlife Service

More Information on Lodgepole Pine
Lodgepole Pine - Tree Book, B.C.
Lodgepole Pine - Colorado State University
Lodgepole Pine - B.C. Adventure Network
High Elevation Forests (research studies)
Lodepole Pine - Species Summary
Lodgepole Pine (including fire ecology)

Natural Controls of Mountain Pine Beetle

The Impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle Dendroctionus ponderosae on Lodgepole Pine Stands in British Columbia, Canada

To walk through the forest, go to Day 2.

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