Native Plants of Rock Creek Park

Most of the native plants in Rock Creek Park are forest species. Because of its mid-Atlantic location and climate, Rock Creek Park contains a fascinating mix of plant species from both north and south, and from both Piedmont and Coastal Plain.

The Forests of Rock Creek Park

There are about 500 native plant species in Rock Creek Park (and another 200 non-native invasive plants).1 Most of the native plants there are forest species—trees and the plants that grow beneath them.

That’s because the Mid-Atlantic climate generally supports forests, specifically forests composed of a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. (Learn more about the climate of Rock Creek Park under Physical Setting.)

Most of the trees at Rock Creek Park are deciduous, meaning that they shed all their leaves seasonally each year. Some trees and shrubs here are evergreen—green year-round. Old leaves die and new leaves grow, but old leaves are not shed all at once, so the plant is never completely leafless. Evergreen leaves may be needle-like (think pine needles), or broad (such as American holly or mountain laurel).

Winter storms can be tough on evergreen trees. Limbs and treetops can bend or break under the weight of accumulated snow or ice. In areas like Washington, D.C., where freezing precipitation occurs, evergreen trees in natural forests typically have needle-like leaves and/or pliable limbs.

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