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Sylviculture Elm Augusta Forestry Center Kelly ReedElm (hybrid testing) Ulmus at Augusta Forestry Center | Photo by Kelly Reed

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SYLVICULTURE /ˈsɪlvɪˌkʌltʃər/


Sylviculture, also spelled Silviculture, is the science of the development, cultivation, and propagation of trees.  As a branch of forestry, it is concerned with growth rather than management.  Silvi- comes from the Latin root silva, meaning trees or forest.  This root is also seen in Pennsylvania and Transylvania.

Silviculture is important to the health of forests, and concerns such processes as biological succession, the replacement of damaged forests (from fire or harvesting), and the creation of new forest growth.

Virginia’s forests are, for the most part, relatively new.  Many fields were given over to the cultivation of tobacco, a crop which depletes the soil relatively quickly.  After roughly three cultivation cycles, a field would have to be abandoned to less demanding crops or to forest growth. The forest succession happens as follows: first, grasses and shrubs colonize the site.  Then, intolerant species (species that cannot grow in partial shade), often softwoods, move in.  Tolerant species, often hardwoods, grow in the shadow of the intolerant species and grow tall enough to block their sunlight.  Finally, the tolerant species becomes the climax species, meaning that it can successfully reproduce in the conditions its mature specimens create.

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