Forest Biomes of North America

Forest Zones Predicting Existing Tree and Plant Communities

The broadest regional classification recognized by botanists and forest scientists is a community called the forest biome. A forest biome is a zone where a predictable tree, plant and animal community exists resulting from the effects of climate, soil, the presence or lack of moisture and other physical and topographical variables.

In North America, these plant zones are referred to variously as tundra, boreal, deciduous, desert, prairie, mixed evergreen and deciduous, tropical, montane, temperate and tropical rainforest and Mediterranean scrub. Not all these biome classifications have significant natural and native trees but I include them for perspective and conditions that limit tree growth.

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North American Forest Biomes

North American Forest Biomes. University of Tennessee

In North America, the broadest biomes are tundra, boreal, deciduous, desert, prairie, mixed evergreen and deciduous, tropical, montane, temperate and tropical rainforest and Mediterranean scrub. Use this color-coded map for each region.

Not all of these biomes support native trees. You can expect to provide support and conditions conducive to tree growth in several of these communities.

Arctic Tundra. National Park Service

Alternate names are Alpine Tundra, Wet Tundra, Dry Tundra. Tundra means "rolling treeless plains". Normal weather is frigid winters, cold summers; dry winters, moist summers.

You can expect a native "tree" to be extremely small and in the willow family. The two most common trees are arctic willow and diamond-shaped willow. More »

Boreal Forest. Steve Nix

Alternative names are Subalpine and Taiga. Normal weather is frigid winters, cool summers; moist winters, moist summers. This forest is located in the very northern portion of North America including most of Canada and atop high-altitude mountains in the United States.

You can expect to find fir, spruce, larch, aspen and jack pine. The boreal forest separates the tundra from the temperate forest More »

Rocky Mountain Evergreen Forest. Colorado State University

Alternate names are Rocky Mountain Steppe and Montane Forest. Montane is a term for a forest on mid-level elevations on mountains. Normal weather is cold winters, mild summers; moist winters, moist summers.

You can expect to find Douglas-fir forests with western white pine, western larch, grand fir, and western ponderosa pine. More »

Pacific Coast Evergreen Forest. National Park Service

The alternate name is Temperate Rain Forest. Normal weather is mild winters, mild summers; very moist winters, moist summers.

It is interesting to note that this is one of the largest temperate rain forests. The Pacific temperate rain forests lie west of the Pacific mountain ranges, from southern Alaska to northern California.

Trees include Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, redwood, western redcedar, alder and bigleaf maple. More »

Northern Mixed Forest
Northern Mixed Forest. USFS

Alternate name is Northern Hardwood-hemlock, Transitional Mixed Forest. Normal weather is cold winters, mild summers; moist winters, moist summers.

You can expect to find beech, maple, Eastern hemlock, yellow birch, white Pine, Northern whitecedar. More »

Eastern Deciduous Forest
Eastern Deciduous Forest. Steve Nix

Alternate name is Transitional Mixed Forest. Normal weather is cool/cold winters, warm summers; moist winters, moist summers.

Trees you can expect to find: Beech, maple, yellow poplar, oak - hickory, mixed pine - hardwood. More »

Coastal Plain Mixed Evergreen Forest
Coastal Plain Mixed Evergreen Forest. Steve Nix

Alternate name is Southeastern Mixed Evergreen Forest. Normal weather is cool/mild winters, hot summers; moist winters, moist summers.

Trees you can expect to find; Beech - maple - yellow poplar, oak - hickory, mixed pine - hardwood. More »

Mexican Montane Forest
Mexican Montane Forest. UGA/Soil Science
Alternate name is Tropical Montane Forest, Cloud Forest. Normal weather is mild winters, mild summers; dry winters, moist summers. More »
Central American Rain Forest
Central American Rain Forest. UTK/Botany
Alternate name is Tropical Rain Forest, Selva. Normal weather is warm winters, hot summers; very moist winters, very moist summers. More »
Great Plains Grasslands
Great Plains Grasslands. USGS
Alternate name is Prairie, Steppe. Normal weather is cool/frigid winters, hot summers; dry winters, moist summers. More »
Tropical Savanna
Tropical Savanna. UT
Alternate name is West Indian Savanna, Tropical Thorn Scrub, Tropical Dry Forests, Florida Everglades. Normal weather is warm winters, hot summers; very dry winters, moist summers. More »
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Cool Desert
Cool Desert. Steve Nix
Alternate name is Great Basin Desert and High Plain. Normal weather is cold winters, warm summers; dry winters, very dry summers. More »
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Hot Desert
Hot Desert. Steve Nix
Alternate name is Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahua Deserts. Normal weather is mild winters, hot summers; very dry winters, very dry summers. More »
Mediterranean Shrub
Mediterranean Shrub. UT-Schilling
Alternate name is Californian Chaparral. Normal weather is mild winters, warm summers; moist winters, very dry summers. More »