Pioneer Plants Are Out There – Be Aware!

pioneer plants

Pilgrims were pioneers. Photo via Flickr.

Pioneer plants quickly move into an area that has been disturbed and grow.  Do you have any idea exactly what these plants are and if that is a good or bad thing?

Whenever I go for a hike I see lot of beautiful flowers and trees dotting the mountains.  However, sometimes when I look up at a slope I see an area that is bare of plants and looks like a landslide occurred.  In other areas I see a thick grouping of Aspen trees.  Aspen trees are one of the pioneer plants that grow in the Rocky Mountains.

What Is A Pioneer Plant?

Pioneer plants and other species are the first plants that grow in an area after there has been a disturbance.  The disturbance may have been a fire, avalanche or something else that killed off the vegetation.

pioneer plants

These low growing pioneer plants are thriving after a forest fire. Photo via Flickr.

In the mountains avalanches may occur on the steeper slopes during winter or landslides in summer.  Then you can see a slope that is barren before the pioneer plants move in and start growing.

Pioneer plants are usually a fast growing, hardy plant that can grow well in harsh conditions and reproduce quickly.

Why Are Pioneer Plants Important?

Those pioneer plants are incredibly important because they are the first plants that move into an area and begin growing again.  They are able to help stabilize steep slopes so that the soil does not continue to slide off and erode down the mountain.

They also begin a process of ecological succession.  This means they are the first plants that begin a chain reaction of different plants, flowers, and trees growing in the area.  After they grow in an area others will replace them and then others after those.  This increases biodiversity of an area.

Examples Of Pioneer Plants In Rocky Mountains

pioneer plants

A grove of quaking aspen on a slope in the fall. Photo via Flickr.

Quaking Aspen – these are the first trees that grow in an area after a disturbance.  A disturbance is something that killed off the vegetation or trees in an area, such as a fire or avalanche.

However, Aspens are not the first type of vegetation in an area after a disturbance.   That tends to be smaller plants.  A group of Aspen on a hillside may indicate a past disturbance there.

pioneer plants

Moss campion, a plant not a moss, is a pioneer plant. Photo via Flickr.

Grasses, Mosses, and Low Growing Plants – These are some of the first kinds of vegetation to grow in an area whose soil is completely bare.  These are the true pioneers as they are preparing the soil for other plants to be able to grow there.