Competing and invasive forest vegetation impact regeneration success, proper timber stand development, and native plant and wildlife species diversity. Competing and invasive plants are referred to as "interfering" plants. Interfering plants limit future forest species diversity and thus future timber value (Stout & Finley, 2001). Interfering plants do this primarily by casting dense shade on the forest floor as well as competing for sunlight, water, nutrients, and space that would be available for more desirable species.
Many factors contribute to the development of interfering vegetation in our forests. These factors include: shady understory conditions, preferential browsing by white-tailed deer, poorly planned and executed timber harvesting practices, and increasing invasive plant species abundance. Most species of interfering plants can thrive in shady understory conditions beneath mature forest canopies. Deer, by selectively browsing preferred species, have the ability to shift forest understories to less preferred plant species. This includes many of our interfering plant species; hayscented fern, striped maple, beech, ironwood, mountain laurel, blueberry, spicebush and some invasive exotic plants. Poorly planned and executed timber harvests, known as "high grading," leave behind trees with low commercial value. This practice has resulted in a shift towards less desirable and poorer quality tree species in our woodlots. Lastly, the increasing abundance of invasive plants is directly influencing the ability of forests to retain native plant and wildlife diversity.