Stratification (vegetation)

The vertical stratification of a community is determined largely by the life forms of plants their size, branching and leaves which is influenced by the vertical gradient of light. Vertical classification of vegetation in a forest showing the tree, shrub and herb layers and the forest floor. This can be seen from the different heights different plants grow to reach and the stratazones they form in their respective niches.
Forest with canopy, shrub and herb layers of vegetation
View of the canopy and understory beneath
Moss layer on the forest floor

Stratification in the field of ecology refers to the vertical layering of a habitat; the arrangement of vegetation in layers.

- Stratification (vegetation)

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Plant community

Collection or association of plant species within a designated geographical unit, which forms a relatively uniform patch, distinguishable from neighboring patches of different vegetation types.

Alpine Heathland plant community at High Shelf Camp near Mount Anne, Tasmania, Australia

For example, a forest (a community of trees) includes the overstory, or upper tree layer of the canopy, as well as the understory, a layer consisting of trees and shrubs located beneath the canopy but above the forest floor.


Any plant that grows over an area of ground.

Groundcover of Vinca major
Groundcover in a forest in Dülmen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Microstegium vimineum, an invasive groundcover
Senecio tropaeolifolius
Mesembryanthemum cordifolium

In an ecosystem, the ground cover forms the layer of vegetation below the shrub layer known as the herbaceous layer.


Area of land dominated by trees.

A conifer forest in the Swiss Alps (National Park)
The Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York form the southernmost part of the Eastern forest-boreal transition ecoregion.
Forest on Mount Dajt, Albania
Share of land that is covered by forest
Forest in the Scottish Highlands
Forest in Kuopio, Finland
Since the 13th century, the Niepołomice Forest in Poland has had special use and protection. In this view from space, different coloration can indicate different functions.
A forest near Vinitsa, North Macedonia
Tywi Forest, Wales
Temperate rainforest in Tasmania's Hellyer Gorge
Even, dense old-growth stand of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) prepared to be regenerated by their saplings in the understory, in the Brussels part of the Sonian Forest.
Biogradska forest in Montenegro
Spiny forest at Ifaty, Madagascar, featuring various Adansonia (baobab) species, Alluaudia procera (Madagascar ocotillo) and other vegetation
A dry sclerophyll forest in Sydney, which is dominated by eucalyptus trees.
Proportion and distribution of global forest area by climatic domain, 2020
Broadleaf forest in Bhutan
Taiga forest near Saranpaul in the northeast Ural Mountains, Khanty–Mansia, Russia. Trees include Picea obovata (dominant on right bank), Larix sibirica, Pinus sibirica, and Betula pendula.
Redwood tree in northern California redwood forest, where many redwood trees are managed for preservation and longevity, rather than being harvested for wood production
Burned forest on Thasos
Priest River winding through Whitetail Butte with lots of forestry to the east—these lot patterns have existed since the mid-19th century. The white patches reflect areas with younger, smaller trees, where winter snow cover shows up brightly to the astronauts. Dark green-brown squares are parcels
Proportion of forest in protected areas, by region, 2020
Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia
Latvian Pine Forest in Ķegums Municipality

However, in botany and in many countries (Germany, Poland, etc.), a different classification of forest vegetation is often used: tree, shrub, herb, and moss layers (see stratification (vegetation)).


Rainforests are characterized by a closed and continuous tree canopy, moisture-dependent vegetation, the presence of epiphytes and lianas and the absence of wildfire.

Location of tropical (dark green) and temperate/subtropical (light green) rainforests in the world.
Worldwide tropical rainforest climate zones.
General distribution of temperate rainforests
Temperate rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Canada
The canopy at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia showing crown shyness
Rainforest in the Blue Mountains, Australia
Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, taken from a plane.
Satellite photograph of the haze above Borneo and Sumatra, 24 September 2015
View of the temperate rain forest in Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia, Canada
A Kermode bear from the Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
A Bengal tiger in Mudumalai National Park, India
A jaguar in the Amazon Rainforest, South America
Western lowland gorilla in the African rainforest
Yellow anacondas reside in the Amazon basin
Lion-tailed macaque in Silent Valley National Park, India
A Macaw in the Amazon rainforest

This layer can be called a shrub layer, although the shrub layer may also be considered a separate layer.

1 Utama

Shopping mall in Bandar Utama, Selangor, Malaysia, with an area of 5,590,000 sqft and containing 713 stores.

First phase or Old Wing section of the mall
A covered bridge linking the Old Wing and New Wing was opened during the soft opening on December 13, 2003
Rainforest in 1 Utama
Bandar Utama bus hub

It was done by extracting a Tabebuia rosea tree from a nearby forest carried into the mall to create the forest canopy, whereas an additional 200 samplings of other species such as Alocasia, wild banana, Johanesteijsmannia, Aglaonema and Phyllagathis will be used as shrub layer.


Approach to land management and settlement design that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems.

Bill Mollison, who has been described as the "father of permaculture," cites Indigenous belief systems as an inspiration of the practice.
The viewpoint of a chicken through the eyes of permaculture design
Suburban permaculture garden in Sheffield, UK, with different layers of vegetation
Mycorrhizal fungi usually function in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with plants.
Ladybugs are seen as beneficial insects in permaculture because of their help with aphid control.
Permaculture zones 0-5
Photos of the Village Building Convergence event (2020)
Permaculture Action Day in Denver (2016)
Agroforestry in Burkina Faso, with maize under trees
South Central Farm was one of the largest urban gardens in the United States before its demolition in 2006.
Sketch of a Hügelkultur bed
Healthy population of red wigglers in a vermicomposting bin
Small cob building with a living roof
Rainwater collection is a common practice of permaculture.
A backyard chicken coop
Chicken roaming in an herb garden
Conservation grazing Longhorn Cattle manage the national nature reserve at Ruislip Lido.
Harvesting of seaweed in Jambiani, Tanzania

Soil surface/groundcover: Overlaps with the herbaceous layer and the groundcover layer; however plants in this layer grow much closer to the ground, densely fill bare patches, and typically can tolerate some foot traffic. Cover crops retain soil and lessen erosion, along with green manures that add nutrients and organic matter, especially nitrogen.

Magellanic subpolar forests

The Magellanic subpolar forests (Bosque Subpolar Magallánico) are a terrestrial ecoregion of southernmost South America, covering parts of southern Chile and Argentina, and are part of the Neotropical realm.

Harberton, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Windswept tree, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile – "The wind only blows from the west".

In the better established forest stands, a species-rich shrub layer may develop.

Acacia aneura

Shrub or small tree native to arid outback areas of Australia.

Mulga acacia (Fabaceae) Flowers and leaves at Kaumalapau Hwy, Lanai, Hawaii.
Mulga woodland in Southwestern Queensland. The tallest trees in this photograph are close to 7 m.
Acacia aneura branch with seed pods
Acacia aneura bark
Mulga grows as a widely spaced shrub in Southwestern Queensland. The tallest plants are about 2.5m high.

In more open stands, the herbaceous layer consists of wire grasses (Aristida spp.)mulga is long-lived, mulga oats (Monocather sp.), mulga mitchell (Thyridolepis sp.), wanderrie (Eriachne spp.), finger grasses (Digitaria spp.) and love grasses (Eragrostis spp.).

Forest gardening

Low-maintenance, sustainable, plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.

Robert Hart's forest garden in Shropshire
Robert Hart, forest gardening pioneer
The seven layers of the forest garden

3) ‘Shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.


Highland area in northern Germany.

Map of the Harz mountains
Sender Brocken at the summit in winter
Reservoir behind the Wendefurth Dam
Bode Gorge
Gabbro Quarry near Bad Harzburg
Bode Gorge
Spruce woods in the Harz
Torfhaus Moor
The Eurasian lynx – once again found living wild in the Harz
Harz 1852
Prospecte des Hartzwalds (View of the Harz Forest)
Mining archive in Clausthal-Zellerfeld
View of the Upper Harz
The Oker with white water. A footpath is on the right bank.
Former climbing areas on the Roßtrappe
Rammelsberg Mining Museum
Old town of Wernigerode
Castle and abbey of Quedlinburg
Carlshaus Tower on the Carlshaushöhe
Narrow gauge railway
The B 4/B 242 Harz high road near Braunlage
Brocken (windward)
Braunlage (windward)
Mansfeld (leeward)

The herbaceous layer is similar to that of the better-nourished beech woods.