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The Montane Vegetation

Montane LandscapeThe Montane landscape is characterized by a pattern of open forests and grasslands. Characteristics tree species include Douglas fir, limber pine and white spruce. Douglas fir forests occur on moderate to steep slopes on colluvial and morainal materials with Brunisolic and Regosolic soils.

On exposed ridges in the eastern part of the Montane, Douglas fir occurs mainly on north and east aspects. Further north in the mountain valleys, it occurs mostly on southerly and westerly aspects. Ridgetop, open forests dominated by Douglas fir and limber pine are among the driest forest communities and are species-rich due to the great habitat diversity.

Closed Douglas fir forests typically have understories containing pine grass, hairy wild rye, northwestern sedge, bearberry, junipers, and snowberry. Understory species of importance in the Waterton Lakes National Park area include Oregon grape, ninebark, Rocky Mountain maple, purple clematis, and bluebunch wheat grass.

Limber Limber pine forests are generally open and occur on the most exposed rock outcrops and eroding morainal or colluvial slopes. Common understory species include bearberry, juniper, bluebunch wheat grass, Idaho fescue, northern bedstraw, mouse-ear chickweed, crested beard-tongue and scorpion-weed.

Lodgepole pineBluebunch wheatgrass, fescue grasses and oatgrasses typically dominate the grasslands, which also possess a large diversity of forbs. Lodgepole pine forests occur on upland sites and are similar to dry forests of the adjacent Subalpine Subregion.  Buffalo berry, pine grass, and hairy wild rye are important understory species.

White spruce forests occur on more mesic sites especially along streams on fluvial terraces. Aspen forests occur characteristically on fluvial fans and terraces often with Regosolic and Brunisolic soils. The forests of the Cypress Hills lack Douglas fir and limber pine. However, the occurrence of lodgepole pine, white spruce, aspen and balsam poplar, as well as many understory species with southern and southwestern affinities, indicate the relationship with the Montane Subregion along the Rocky Mountains.

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