If you've ever hiked through a forest at dawn, it's likely
you experienced the part of the forest that often goes unnoticed.
When the moss
and leaves are still glistening with moist dew and the silver trails from a slow-moving
slug, the forest displays its complex network of plants, trees, flowers, and fungi
that are easily overlooked when the sun is high in the sky. This rich botany,
or flora, is the basis for the existence of the forest and all of the living things
Walking through Cook Forest, especially in the early hours,
you can find a world of magical and mystical-looking plant life. Here's a sampling
of the thousands of species of flora waiting for you to explore them.
White pine - These towering evergreens are the trademark
of The Cook Forest. Pinus strobus, found primarily in Eastern North America,
has irregular branches, gray bark, and soft wood. It was the white pines that
caused Anthony Cook to settle in the area in the early nineteenth century and
build his sawmill. The trees were used to build homes for the droves of adventurers
moving westward. The work is still the favorite of many woodworkers for interior
trim and cabinetwork today.
Hemlock - These enormous coniferous evergreen trees
are common in The Cook Forest. They belong to the genus Tsuga, of the family
Pinaceae native to North America and Asia. It's also Pennsylvania's state tree. T. canadensis, the variety common to Eastern North America, has small cones,
soft bark, and short, dark leaves. In The Forest Cathedral, one of the oldest
areas of Cook Forest, you'll find some of Pennsylvania's largest hemlock trees.
Though a storm in 1956 and a tornado in 1976 destroyed many of the older trees,
some ancient timbers are 350 years old and stand up to 200 feet high.