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Herbaceous Vegetation: Short Life Cycle
Introduction (what it is)
The term herbaceous vegetation defines what is popularly known as herbs. It does not designate a taxonomic group defined by scientists because it brings together many species not necessarily related to each other. The stems of these plants are flexible, that is, they are not woody like the stems of shrubs and trees.
The herbaceous vegetation is characterized by:
- Height equal to or less than two meters.
- Short life cycle (one year or a few years) compared to decades of shrub and tree cycle.
- Propagation (expansion of the area of occurrence) through rhizomes (underground stems that emit small branches with young leaves).
What is the ecological importance of herbaceous vegetation?
Herbaceous vegetation participates in the regeneration of a forest. Let's imagine that a pasture has given way to a forest. All shrubs, trees and vines were removed from the area. A single non-native grass species was planted. The grass grows fast because this ability has been selected by agronomists. After all, the purpose of the grass there is only to feed the cattle. Years later, the pasture is abandoned.
The role of native herbaceous vegetation in this abandoned pasture is somewhat ambiguous and dependent on the degree of soil cover. If herbaceous plants that have resisted in the form of seed banks in the soil invest heavily in their own biomass, they will take up most of the space. When seeds of shrubs and trees get there carried by the wind or birds, few of them will be able to settle down. So the forest can regenerate, but very slowly.
But if the herbaceous vegetation sparsely covers the ground, the seeds of shrubs and trees will benefit from the partial shading it offers. Therefore, many seeds will germinate and form young plants. This changes near-ground conditions and favors the occupation of more plants and small animals.
While some species of herbaceous vegetation in the world are called weeds for invading space “without authorization”, others make up our salad.