Laurel forest, also called laurisilva or laurissilva, is a type of
subtropical forest found in areas with high humidity and relatively
stable, mild temperatures. The forest is characterized by broadleaf
tree species with evergreen, glossy and elongated leaves, known as
"laurophyll" or "lauroid". Plants from the laurel family (Lauraceae)
may or may not be present, depending on the location.
Laurel forest ecoregions
4.1 East Asia
Laurel forest ecoregions in East Asia
4.2 Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines
Laurel forest ecoregions of Sundaland, Wallacea, and the
Macaronesia and the Mediterranean Basin
4.5 Southern India
4.6 Sri Lanka
4.8 USA Southeast States
4.9 USA Ancient California
4.10 Central America
Laurel forest ecoregions in
Mexico and Central America
4.11 Tropical Andes
4.12 Southeastern South America
4.13 Central Chile
New Caledonia and New Zealand
4.14.1 New Guinea
Laurel forest ecoregions of New Guinea
6 External links
Laurel forest in Madeira
Laurel forests are specific to wet forests from sea level to the
highest mountains, but are poorly represented in areas with a
pronounced dry season. They need an ecosystem of high
humidity, such as cloud forests, with abundant
rainfall throughout the year. Laurel forests typically occur on the
slopes of tropical or subtropical mountains, where the moisture from
the ocean condenses so that it falls as rain or fog and soils have
high moisture levels. Some evergreen tree species will survive
short frosts, but most species will not survive hard freezes and
prolonged cool weather. They need a mild climate with annual
temperature oscillation moderated by the proximity of the ocean. These
conditions of temperature and moisture occur in four different
Along the eastern margin of continents at latitudes of 25° to 35°.
Along the western continental coasts between 35° and 50° latitude.
On islands between 25° and 35° or 40° latitude.
In humid montane regions of the tropics.
Some laurel forests are a type of cloud forest. Cloud forests are
found on mountain slopes where the dense moisture from the sea or
ocean is precipitated as warm moist air masses blowing off the ocean
are forced upwards by the terrain, which cools the air mass to the dew
point. The moisture in the air condenses as rain or fog, creating a
habitat characterized by cool, moist conditions in the air and soil.
The resulting climate is wet and mild, with the annual oscillation of
the temperature moderated by the proximity of the ocean.
Laurel forests are characterized by evergreen and hardwood trees,
reaching up to 40 metres (130 ft) in height. Laurel forest,
laurisilva, and laurissilva all refer to plant communities that
resemble the laurel bay.
Some species belong to the true laurel family or Lauraceae, but many
have similar foliage to the
Lauraceae due to convergent evolution. As
in any other rainforest, plants of the laurel forests must adapt to
high rainfall and humidity. The trees adapted in response to these
ecological drivers by developing analogous structures, leaves that
repel water. Laurophyll or lauroid leaves are characterized by a
generous layer of wax, making them glossy in appearance, and a narrow,
pointed oval shape with an apical mucro or "drip tip", which permits
the leaves to shed water despite the humidity, allowing perspiration
and respiration. The scientific names laurina, laurifolia,
laurophylla, lauriformis, and lauroides are often used to name species
of other plant families that resemble the Lauraceae. The term
Lucidophyll, referring to the shiny surface of the leaves, was
proposed in 1969 by Tatuo Kira. The scientific names Daphnidium,
Daphniphyllum, Daphnopsis, Daphnandra, Daphne from Greek:
Δάφνη, meaning "laurel", laural, Laureliopsis, laureola,
laurelin, Laurelindorinan, laurifolia,
Cistus laurifolius (Laurel
Rockrose), laurifolius, lauriformis, laurina, laurophylla,
Prunus laurocerasus (English laurel), Prunus
Corynocarpus laevigatus (New Zealand
Corynocarpus rupestris designate species of other plant
families that resemble Lauraceae. The term "lauroid" is also
applied to climbing plants such as ivies whose leaves resemble those
of the Lauraceae.
Mature laurel forests typically have a dense tree canopy and low light
levels at the forest floor. Some forests are characterized by an
overstory of emergent trees.
Laurel forests are typically multi-species, and diverse in both the
number of species and the genera and families represented. In the
absence of strong environmental selective pressure, the number of
species sharing the arboreal stratum is high, although not reaching
the value of tropical forests; nearly 100 tree species have been
described in the laurisilva rainforest of
Misiones (Argentina), about
20 in the Canary Islands. This species diversity contrasts with other
temperate forest types, which typically have a canopy dominated by one
or a few species.
Species diversity generally increases towards the
tropics. In this sense, the laurel forest is a transitional type
between temperate forests and tropical rainforests.
Laurel forests are composed of vascular plants that evolved millions
of years ago.
Lauroid floras have included forests of Podocarpaceae
and southern beech.
This type of vegetation characterized parts of the ancient
Gondwana and once covered much of the tropics. Some
lauroid species that are found outside laurel forests are relicts of
vegetation that covered much of the mainland of Australia, Europe,
South America, Antarctica, Africa, and North America when their
climate was warmer and more humid. Cloud forests are believed to have
retreated and advanced during successive geological eras, and their
species adapted to warm and wet conditions were replaced by more
cold-tolerant or drought-tolerant sclerophyll plant communities. Many
of the late Cretaceous – early
Tertiary Gondwanan species of flora
became extinct, but some survived as relict species in the milder,
moister climate of coastal areas and on islands. Thus
New Caledonia share related species extinct on the Australian
mainland, and the same case occurs on the
Macaronesia islands of the
Atlantic and on the Taiwan, Hainan, Jeju, Shikoku, Kyūshū, and
Ryūkyū Islands of the Pacific.
Although some remnants of archaic flora, including species and genera
extinct in the rest of the world, have persisted as endemic in such
coastal mountain and shelter sites, their biodiversity was reduced.
Isolation in these fragmented habitats, particularly on islands, has
led to the development of vicariant species and genera. Thus, fossils
dating from before the
Pleistocene glaciations show that species of
Laurus were formerly distributed more widely around the Mediterranean
and North Africa. Isolation gave rise to
Laurus azorica in the Azores
Laurus nobilis on the mainland, and
Laurus novocanariensis in
the Canary Islands.
Laurel forest ecoregions
Laurel forests occur in small areas where their particular climatic
requirements prevail, in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Inner laurel forest ecoregions, a related and distinct community of
vascular plants, evolved millions of years ago on the supercontinent
of Gondwana, and species of this community are now found in several
separate areas of the Southern Hemisphere, including southern South
America, southernmost Africa, New Zealand,
Australia and New
Laurel forest species are evergreen, and occur in
tropical, subtropical, and mild temperate regions and cloud forests of
the northern and southern hemispheres, in particular the Macaronesian
islands, southern Japan, Madagascar, New Caledonia, Tasmania, and
central Chile, but they are pantropical, and for example in Africa
they are endemic in the Congo region, Cameroon, Sudan, Tanzania, and
Uganda, in lowland forest and
Afromontane areas. Since laurel forests
are archaic populations that diversified as a result of isolation on
islands and tropical mountains, their presence is a key to dating
Laurel forests are common in subtropical eastern Asia, and form the
climax vegetation in far southern Japan, Taiwan, southern China, the
mountains of Indochina, and the eastern Himalayas. In southern China,
laurel forest once extended throughout the Yangtze Valley and Sichuan
Basin from the
East China Sea
East China Sea to the Tibetan Plateau. The northernmost
laurel forests in East
Asia occur at 39° N. on the Pacific coast
of Japan. Altitudinally, the forests range from sea-level up to 1000
metres in warm-temperate Japan, and up to 3000 metres elevation in the
subtropical mountains of Asia. Some forests are dominated by
Lauraceae, while in others evergreen laurophyll trees of the beech
family (Fagaceae) are predominant, including ring-cupped oaks (Quercus
subgenus Cyclobalanopsis), chinquapin (Castanopsis) and tanoak
(Lithocarpus). Other characteristic plants include
Camellia, which are members of the tea family (Theaceae), as well as
magnolias, bamboo, and rhododendrons. These subtropical forests
lie between the temperate deciduous and conifer forests to the north
and the subtropical/tropical monsoon forests of
Associations of Lauraceous species are common in broadleaved forests;
Persea odoratissima, Persea
duthiei, etc., along with such others as Engelhardtia spicata,
Rhododendron arboreum, Lyonia ovalifolia, Pyrus pashia, Rhus spp.,
Myrica esculenta, Michelia kisopa, and Betula alnoides.
Some other common trees and large shrub species of subtropical forests
are Semecarpus anacardium, Cretaeava unilocularis, Trewia nudiflora,
Premna interrupta, Ulmus lancifolia, Ulmus chumlia, Glochidium
velutinum, Callicarpa arborea, Toona ciliata, Ficus spp., Mahosama
similicifolia, Trevesia palmate, Xylosma longifolium, Boehmeria
rugulosa, Scheffera venulosa, Michelia spp., Casearia graveilens, Rhus
wallichii, Actinodaphne reticulata, Sapimum insegne, Alnus nepalensis,
Ilex spp, Macaranga pustulata, Trichilia
cannoroides, Celtis tetranda, Wenlendia puberula, Saurauia nepalensis,
Quercus glauca, Zizyphus incurva,
Hymenodictyon flaccidum, Maytenus thomsonii, Zanthoxylum armatum, Rhus
succednea, Eurya acuminata, Myrsine semiserrata, Slonea tomentosa,
Hydrangea asper, Symplocus spp., Cleyrea spp. and
In the temperate zone, the cloud forest between 2,000 and 3,000 m
altitude supports broadleaved evergreen forest dominated by plants
Quercus lamillosa and Q. semicarpifolia in pure or mixed
Species such as Lindera and Litsea, Tsuga dumosa, and
Rhododendron spp. are also present in the upper levels of this zone.
Other important species are
Magnolia campbellii, Michelia doltsopa,
Pieris ovalifolia, Daphnephyllum himalayanse, Acer campbellii, Acer
pectinatum, and Sorbus cuspidata, but these species do not extend
toward the west beyond central Nepal. Alnus nepalensis, a pioneer tree
species, grows gregariously and forms pure patches of forests on newly
exposed slopes, in gullies, beside rivers, and in other moist places.
The common forest types of this zone include
Rhododendron barbatum, Lyonia spp., Pieris formosa; Tsuga dumosa
forest with such deciduous species as Acer and Magnolia; deciduous
mixed broadleaved forest of Acer campbellii, Acer pectinatum, Sorbus
Magnolia campbellii; mixed broadleaved forest of
Rhododendron arboreum, Acer campbellii, Symplocos ramosissima and
This zone is habitat for many other important tree and large shrub
species such as Abies pindrow, Betula utilis, Buxus rugulosa,
Benthamidia capitata, Corylus ferox, Deutzia staminea, Euonymus
tingens, Abies spectalbilis, Acanthopanax cissifolius, Acer
campbellii, Acer pectinatum, Betula alnoides, Coriaria terminalis,
Fraxinus macrantha, Dodecadenia grandiflora, Eurya cerasifolia,
Ilex dipyrena, Ligustrum spp.,
Juglans regia, Lichelia doltsopa, Myrsine capitallata, Neolitsea
umbrosa, Philadelphus tomentosus, Osmanthus fragrans, Prunus cornuta,
Rhododendron companulatum, Sorbus cuspidate, and Viburnum
In ancient times, laurel forests (shoyojurin) were the predominant
vegetation type in the
Taiheiyo evergreen forests ecoregion of Japan,
which encompasses the mild temperate climate region of southeastern
Japan's Pacific coast. There were three main types of evergreen
broadleaf forests, in which Castanopsis, Machilus, or Quercus
predominated. Most of these forests were logged or cleared for
cultivation and replanted with faster-growing conifers, like pine or
hinoki, and only a few pockets remain.
Laurel forest ecoregions in East Asia
Changjiang Plain evergreen forests (China)
Chin Hills-Arakan Yoma montane rain forests (Myanmar)
Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests
Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests (Bhutan, India, Nepal)
Guizhou Plateau broadleaf and mixed forests
Guizhou Plateau broadleaf and mixed forests (China)
Nihonkai evergreen forests (Japan)
Northern Annamites rain forests (Laos, Vietnam)
Indochina subtropical forests (China, Laos, Myanmar,
Northern Triangle subtropical forests (Myanmar)
Vietnam subtropical evergreen forests (China, Vietnam)
Southern Korea evergreen forests (South Korea)
Taiheiyo evergreen forests (Japan)
Taiwan subtropical evergreen forests (Taiwan)
Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines
Laurel forests occupy the humid tropical highlands of the Malay
Peninsula, Greater Sunda Islands, and
Philippines above 1,000 metres
(3,300 ft) elevation. The flora of these forests is similar to
that of the warm-temperate and subtropical laurel forests of East
Asia, including oaks (Quercus), tanoak (Lithocarpus), chinquapin
(Castanopsis), Lauraceae, Theaceae, and Clethraceae.
Epiphytes, including orchids, ferns, moss, lichen, and liverworts, are
more abundant than in either temperate laurel forests or the adjacent
lowland tropical rain forests.
Myrtaceae are common at lower
elevations, and conifers and rhododendrons at higher elevations. These
forests are distinct in species composition from the lowland tropical
forests, which are dominated by Dipterocarps and other tropical
Laurel forest ecoregions of Sundaland, Wallacea, and the
Borneo montane rain forests
Eastern Java-Bali montane rain forests
Luzon montane rain forests
Mindanao montane rain forests
Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests
Sulawesi montane rain forests
Sumatran montane rain forests
Western Java montane rain forests
Macaronesia and the Mediterranean Basin
‹ The template below (Infobox World Heritage Site) is being
considered for merging. See templates for discussion to help reach a
Old roads and passages between villages and other places in Madeira
Island surrounded by prehistoric forest.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Laurisilva of Madeira
Island of Madeira
32°46′1″N 17°0′0″W / 32.76694°N 17.00000°W /
Natural: ix, x
1999 (23rd Session)
[edit on Wikidata]
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Laurel forests are found in the islands of
Macaronesia in the eastern
Atlantic, in particular the Azores,
Madeira Islands, and Canary
Islands from 400 to 1200 metres elevation. Trees of the genera
Clethra (Clethraceae), Dracaena (Ruscaceae), and
are characteristic. The
Madeira Islands laurel forest was
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site by
UNESCO in 1999. The paleobotanical
Madeira reveals that laurissilva forests has existed in this
island for at least 1.8 million years..
Millions of years ago, laurel forests were widespread around the
Mediterranean Basin. The drying of the region since the
cooling during the
Ice Ages caused these rainforests to retreat. Some
relict Mediterranean laurel forest species, such as sweet bay (Laurus
nobilis) and European holly (
Ilex aquifolium), are fairly widespread
around the Mediterranean basin.
In the Mediterranean there are other areas with species adapted to the
same habitat, but which do not form a laurel forest. The most
important is the ivy, a climber or vine that is well represented in
most of Europe, where it spread again after the glaciations. The
"loro" (Prunus lusitanica) is the only tree that survives as a relict
in some Iberian riversides, especially in the western part of the
peninsula, particularly the Extremadura, and to a small extent in the
Northeast. In other cases, the presence of Mediterranean laurel
Laurus nobilis) provides an indication of the previous existence of
laurel forest. This species survives natively in Morocco, Italy,
Portugal, Greece, the Mediterranean islands, and some areas of Spain,
Parque Natural Los Alcornocales
Parque Natural Los Alcornocales in the province of
Cádiz and in coastal mountains, especially in the Girona Province of
Catalonia, which keeps the best "lauredales", and isolated in the
Cortegada Island in Galicia is famous for its vast
forest of laurels, but this forest is not indigenous to the island,
but originated in plantings after the native vegetation had been
destroyed. The myrtle spread through North Africa.
Tree Heath (Erica
arborea) grows in southern Iberia, but without reaching the dimensions
observed in the temperate evergreen forest or North Africa. The
Rhododendron ponticum baeticum and/or Rhamnus frangula
baetica still persist in humid microclimates, such as stream valleys,
in Spain's Baetic Cordillera, in the Portuguese mountains of
Monchique, and the
Rif Mountains of Morocco.[verification needed]
Although the Atlantic laurisilva is more abundant in the Macaronesian
archipelagos, where the weather has fluctuated little since the
Tertiary, there are small representations and some species
contribution to the oceanic and Mediterranean ecoregions of Europe,
Asia minor and west and north of Africa, where microclimates in the
coastal mountain ranges form inland "islands" favorable to the
persistence of laurel forests. In some cases these were genuine
islands in the Tertiary, and in some cases simply areas that remained
ice-free. When the
Strait of Gibraltar
Strait of Gibraltar reclosed, the species
repopulated toward the Iberian Peninsula to the north and were
distributed along with other African species, but the seasonally drier
and colder climate, prevented them reaching their previous extent. In
Atlantic Europe, subtropical vegetation is interspersed with taxa from
Europe and North African in bioclimatic enclaves such as Monchique,
Sintra, and the coastal mountains from
Cadiz to Algeciras. In the
Mediterranean region, remnant laurel forest is present in some islands
of the Aegean Sea, on the
Black Sea coast of Iran and Turkey,
including the laurifolia castanopsis and true laurus forests,
associated with Prunus laurocerasus, and conifers such as Taxus
baccata, Cedrus atlantica, and Abies pinsapo.
In Europe the laurel forest has been badly damaged by timber
harvesting, by fire (both accidental and deliberate to open fields for
crops), by the introduction of exotic animal and plant species that
have displaced the original cover, and by replacement with arable
fields, exotic timber plantations, cattle pastures, and golf courses
and tourist facilities. Most of the biota is in serious danger of
extinction. The laurel forest flora are usually strong and vigorous,
so the forest regenerates easily; its decline is due to external
In the Himalayas, in Nepal, subtropical forest consists of species
Castanopsis indica, and Castanopsis
tribuloides in relatively humid areas. Some common forest types in
this region include
Castanopsis tribuloides mixed with Schima
Rhododendron spp., Lyonia ovalifolia, Eurya acuminata, and
Quercus glauca; Castanopsis-Laurales forest with Symplocas spp.; Alnus
Castanopsis indica hygrophile
forest; Schima-Pinus forest; Pinus roxburghii forests with Phyllanthus
emblica. Semicarpus anacardium,
Rhododendron arboreum and Lyoma
ovalifolia; Schima-Lagestromea parviflora forest,
Quercus lenata and '
Castanopsis hystrix and Lauraceae.
Main article: South Western Ghats montane rain forests
Laurel forests are also prevalent in the montane rain forests of the
South Western Ghats in southern India.
Laurel forest occurs in the montane rain forest of Sri Lanka.[citation
Main article: Afromontane
Afromontane laurel forests describe the plant and animal species
common to the mountains of
Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula.
The afromontane regions of
Africa are discontinuous, separated from
each other by lowlands, resembling a series of islands in
distribution. Patches of forest with
Afromontane floristic affinities
occur all along the mountain chains.
Afromontane communities occur
above 1,500–2,000 metres (4,900–6,600 ft) elevation near the
equator, and as low as 300 metres (980 ft) elevation in the
Knysna-Amatole montane forests
Knysna-Amatole montane forests of South Africa.
are cool and humid. Rainfall is generally greater than 700 millimetres
per year (28 in/year), and can exceed 2,000 millimetres
(79 in) in some regions, occurring throughout the year or during
winter or summer, depending on the region. Temperatures can be extreme
at some of the higher altitudes, where snowfalls may occasionally
In Subsaharan Africa, laurel forests are found in the Cameroon
Highlands forests along the border of
Nigeria and Cameroon, along the
East African Highlands, a long chain of mountains extending from the
Ethiopian Highlands around the
African Great Lakes
African Great Lakes to South Africa, in
the Highlands of Madagascar, and in the montane zone of the São
Tomé, Príncipe, and Annobón moist lowland forests. These scattered
highland laurophyll forests of
Africa are similar to one another in
species composition (known as the
Afromontane flora), and distinct
from the flora of the surrounding lowlands.
The main species of the
Afromontane forests include the broadleaf
canopy trees in
Beilschmiedia genus, with Apodytes dimidiata, Ilex
mitis, Nuxia congesta, N. floribunda, Kiggelaria africana, Prunus
africana, Rapanea melanophloeos, Halleria lucida,
Ocotea bullata, and
Xymalos monospora, along with the emergent conifers Podocarpus
latifolius and Afrocarpus falcatus.
Species composition of the
Subsaharan laurel forests differs from that of Eurasia. Trees of the
Laurel family are less prominent, limited to
Ocotea or Beilschmiedia
due to exceptional biological and paleoecological interest and the
enormous biodiversity mostly but with many endemic species, and the
members of the beech family (Fagaceae) are absent.
Trees can be up to 30 or 40 metres (98 or 131 ft) tall and
distinct strata of emergent trees, canopy trees, and shrub and herb
layers are present. Tree species include: Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus
latifolius), Outeniqua Yellowwood (
Podocarpus falcatus), White
Witchhazel (Trichocladus ellipticus), Rhus chirendensis, Curtisia
dentata, Calodendrum capense, Apodytes dimidiata, Halleria lucida,
llex mitis, Kiggelaria africana, Nuxia floribunda, Xymalos monospora,
Ocotea bullata. Shrubs and climbers are common and include: Common
Spikethorn (Maytenus heterophylla), Cat-thorn (Scutia myrtina), Numnum
(Carissa bispinosa), Secamone alpinii, Canthium ciliatum, Rhoicissus
tridentata, Zanthoxylum capense, and Burchellia bubalina. In the
undergrowth grasses, herbs and ferns may be locally common:
Basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus), Bushman Grass (Stipa dregeana var.
elongata), Pigs-ears (Centella asiatica), Cyperus albostriatus,
Polypodium polypodioides, Polystichum tuctuosum, Streptocarpus rexii,
and Plectranthus spp. Ferns, shrubs and small trees such as Cape Beech
(Rapanea melanophloeos) are often abundant along the forest edges.
USA Southeast States
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According to the recent study by Box and Fujiwara (Evergreen
Broadleaved Forests of the Southeastern United States: Preliminary
Description), laurel forests occur in patches in the southeastern
United States from southeast
North Carolina southward to Florida, and
west to Texas, mostly along the coast and coastal plain of the Gulf
and south Atlantic coast. In the southeastern United States, evergreen
Hammock (ecology) (i.e. topographically induced forest islands)
contain many laurel forests. These laurel forests occur mostly in
moist depression and floodplains. In many portions of the coastal
plain, a low-lying mosaic topography of white sand, silt, and
limestone (mostly in Florida), separate these laurel forests. Frequent
fire is also thought to be responsible for the disjointed geography of
laurel forests across the coastal plain of the southeastern United
Despite being located in a humid climate zone, much of the broadleaf
Laurel forests in the Southeast USA are semi-sclerophyll in character.
The semi-sclerophyll character is due (in part) to the sandy soils and
often periodic semi-arid nature of the climate. As one moves south
into central Florida, the sclerophyll character slowly declines and
more tree species from the tropics (Caribbean) increase as the
temperate species decline. As such, the southeastern laurel forests
gives way to tropical savanna.
There are several different broadleaved evergreen canopy trees in the
laurel forests of the southeastern United States. In some areas, the
evergreen forests are dominated by species of Live Oak (Quercus
virginiana), Laurel Oak (
Quercus hemisphaerica), Southern Magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora), Red Bay
Persea borbonia, Cabbage Palm (Sabal
palmetto), and Sweetbay
Magnolia virginiana). In several
areas on the barrier islands, a stunted
Quercus geminata or mixed
Quercus geminata and
Quercus virginiana forest dominates, with a dense
evergreen understory of scrub palm
Serenoa repens and a variety of
vines, including Bignonia capreolata, as well as
Smilax and Vitis
species. Gordonia lasianthus,
Ilex opaca and
Osmanthus americanus also
may occur as canopy co-dominant in coastal dune forests, with
Cliftonia monophylla and
Vaccinium arboreum as a dense evergreen
understory (Box and Fujiwara 1988).
The lower shrub layer of the evergreen forests is often mixed with
other evergreen species from the palm family (Rhapidophyllum hystrix),
Bush palmetto(Sabal minor), and Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), and
several species in the
Ilex family, including
Ilex glabra, Dahoon
Holly, and Yaupon Holly. In many areas, Cyrilla racemiflora, Lyonia
Myrica is present as an evergreen understory.
Several species of
Yucca and opuntia are native as well to the drier
sandy coastal scrub environment of the region, including Yucca
Yucca gloriosa, and opuntia stricta.
USA Ancient California
During the Miocene, oak-laurel forests were found in Central and
Southern California. Typical tree species included oaks ancestral to
California oaks, as well as an assemblage of trees from
the Laurel family, including Nectandra, Ocotea, Persea, and
Umbellularia. Only one native species from the Laurel family
Umbellularia californica, remains in
There are however, several areas in Mediterranean California, as well
as isolated areas of southern Oregon that have evergreen forests.
Several species of evergreen
Quercus forests occur, as well as a mix
of evergreen scrub typical of Mediterranean climates.
Notholithocarpus, Arbutus menziesii, and
Umbellularia californica can
be canopy species in several areas.
The laurel forest is the most common Central American temperate
evergreen cloud forest type. They are found in mountainous areas of
Mexico and almost all Central American countries, normally
more than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level. Tree species
include evergreen oaks, members of the Laurel family, and species of
Weinmannia, Drimys, and Magnolia. The cloud forest of Sierra de
las Minas, Guatemala, is the largest in Central America. In some areas
Honduras there are cloud forests, the largest located
near the border with Nicaragua. In
Nicaragua the cloud forests are
found in the border zone with Honduras, and most were cleared to grow
coffee. There are still some temperate evergreen hills in the north.
The only cloud forest in the Pacific coastal zone of Central America
is on the
Mombacho volcano in Nicaragua. In
Costa Rica there are
laurisilvas in the "Cordillera de Tilarán" and Volcán Arenal, called
Monteverde, also in the Cordillera de Talamanca.
Laurel forest ecoregions in
Mexico and Central America
Central American montane forests
Chiapas montane forests
Chimalpas montane forests
Oaxacan montane forests
Talamancan montane forests
Veracruz montane forests
Yungas are typically evergreen forests or jungles, and
multi-species, which often contain many species of the laurel forest.
They occur discontinuously from
Venezuela to northwestern Argentina
including in Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru,
usually in the Sub-Andean Sierras. The forest relief is varied and in
places where the
Andes meet the Amazon, it includes steeply sloped
areas. Characteristic of this region are deep ravines formed by the
rivers, such as that of the Tarma River descending to the San Ramon
Valley, or the
Urubamba River as it passes through Machu Picchu. Many
Yungas are degraded or are forests in recovery that have not
yet reached their climax vegetation.
Southeastern South America
The laurel forests of the region are known as the Laurisilva
Misionera, after Argentina's
Misiones Province. The
forests occupy a portion of the highlands of southern Brazil,
extending into northeastern Argentina. The forest canopy includes
Ocotea pretiosa and O. catharinense), Myrtaceae
(Campomanesia xanthocarpa), and Leguminosae (Parapiptadenia rigida),
with an emergent layer of the conifer Brazilian
angustifolia) reaching up to 45 metres (148 ft) in height.
Serra do Mar coastal forests
Serra do Mar coastal forests along the southern coast
Brazil have a tree canopy of
Lauraceae and Myrtaceae, with emergent
trees of Leguminaceae, and a rich diversity of bromeliads and trees
and shrubs of family Melastomaceae. The inland Alto Paraná
Atlantic forests, which occupy portions of the Brazilian Highlands in
Brazil and adjacent parts of
Argentina and Paraguay, are
Main article: Valdivian temperate rain forests
The Valdivian temperate rain forests, or Laurisilva Valdiviana, occupy
Argentina from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes
between 38° and 45° latitude. Rainfall is abundant, from
1,500 to 5,000 millimetres (59–197 in) according to
locality, distributed throughout the year, but with some subhumid
Mediterranean climate influence for 3–4 months in summer. The
temperatures are sufficiently invariant and mild, with no month
falling below 5 °C (41 °F), and the warmest month below
22 °C (72 °F).
New Caledonia and New Zealand
Biodiversity of New Caledonia
Distribution of Nothofagus, a plant genus that illustrates Gondwanan
distribution, having descended from the supercontinent and persisting
in Australia, New Zealand,
New Caledonia and Chile; fossils have also
recently been found in Antarctica
Laurel forest appears on mountains of the coastal strip of New South
Wales in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tasmania, and New
Zealand. The laurel forests of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand
are home to species related to those in the Valdivian laurel forests,
including Southern Beech (Nothofagus, fossils of which have recently
been found in Antarctica) through the connection of the Antarctic
flora. Other typical flora include Winteraceae, Myrtaceae, Southern
Sassafras (Atherospermataceae), conifers of Araucariaceae,
Podocarpaceae, and Cupressaceae, and tree ferns.
New Caledonia was an ancient fragment of the supercontinent Gondwana.
Unlike many of the Pacific Islands, which are of relatively recent
New Caledonia is part of Zealandia, a fragment of the
Gondwana that separated from
Australia 60–85 million
years ago, and the ridge linking
New Caledonia to
New Zealand has
been deeply submerged for millions of years. This isolated New
Caledonia from the rest of the world's landmasses, preserving a
snapshot of Gondwanan forests.
New Caledonia and
New Zealand are
separated by continental drift of
Australia 85 million years ago. The
islands still shelter an extraordinary diversity of endemic plants and
animals of Gondwanan origin that have later spread to the southern
The laurel forest of Australia,
New Caledonia (Adenodaphne), and New
Zealand have a number of species related to those of the Valdivian
laurel forest, through the connection of the
Antarctic flora of
gymnosperms like the podocarpus and deciduous Nothofagus.
Beilschmiedia tawa is often the dominant canopy species of genus
Beilschmiedia in lowland laurel forests in the
North Island and the
northeast of the South Island, but will also often form the subcanopy
in primary forests throughout the country in these areas, with
podocarps such as Kahikatea, Matai, Miro and Rimu. Genus Beilschmiedia
are trees and shrubs widespread in tropical Asia, Africa, Australia,
New Zealand, Central America, the Caribbean, and
South America as far
south as Chile. In the
Corynocarpus laevigatus is
called laurel of New Zealand, while
Laurelia novae-zelandiae belongs
to the same genus as Laurelia sempervirens. The tree niaouli grows in
Australia, New Caledonia, and Papua.
New Caledonia lies at the northern end of the ancient continent
New Zealand rises at the plate boundary that bisects
it. These land masses are two outposts of the Antarctic flora,
including Araucarias and Podocarps. At Curio Bay, fossilized logs can
be seen of trees closely related to modern
Kauri and Norfolk
grew on Zealandia about 180 million years ago during the Jurassic
period, before it split from Gondwana.
During glacial periods more of Zealandia became a terrestrial rather
than a marine environment. Zealandia was originally thought to have no
native land mammals, but a recent discovery in 2006 of a fossil mammal
jaw from the
Miocene in the
Otago region shows otherwise.
New Guinea and Northern Australian ecoregions are closely related.
Australia drifted north and became drier; the humid
Antarctic flora from
Gondwana retreated to the east coast and
Tasmania, while the rest of
Australia became dominated by sclerophyll
forest and xeric shrubs and grasses. Humans arrived in Australia
50–60,000 years ago, and used fire to reshape the vegetation of the
continent; as a result, the Antarctic flora, also
known as the Rainforest flora in Australia, retreated to a few
isolated areas composing less than 2% of Australia's land area.
The eastern end of Malesia, including
New Guinea and the Aru Islands
of eastern Indonesia, is linked to
Australia by a shallow continental
shelf, and shares many marsupial mammal and bird taxa with Australia.
New Guinea also has many additional elements of the Antarctic flora,
including southern beech (Nothofagus) and Eucalypts.
New Guinea has
the highest mountains in Malesia, and vegetation ranges from tropical
lowland forest to tundra.
The highlands of
New Guinea and
New Britain are home to montane laurel
forests, from about 1,000 to 2,500 metres (3,300–8,200 ft)
elevation. These forests include species typical of both Northern
Hemisphere laurel forests, including Lithocarpus, Ilex, and Lauraceae,
Southern Hemisphere laurel forests, including Southern Beech
Nothofagus, Araucaria, Podocarps, and trees of the Myrtle family
New Guinea and Northern
Australia are closely
related. Around 40 million years ago, the Indo-Australian tectonic
plate began to split apart from the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.
As it collided with the
Pacific Plate on its northward journey, the
high mountain ranges of central
New Guinea emerged around
5 million years ago. In the lee of this collision zone, the
ancient rock formations of what is now
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula remained
Laurel forest ecoregions of New Guinea
The WWF identifies several distinct montane laurel forest ecoregions
on New Guinea, New Britain, and New Ireland.
Central Range montane rain forests
Huon Peninsula montane rain forests
New Britain-New Ireland montane rain forests
New Guinea montane rain forests
Vogelkop montane rain forests
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