As it turns out, conifers are not the only trees to grow in boreal forests, or taiga. At the southernmost ends, the evergreens are mixed with such deciduous trees as:

  • Birch
  • Alder
  • Willow
  • Poplar
  • Maple
  • Elm
  • Lime
  • Rowan

Now in an alternate Earth, the trees listed above either never existed or went extinct in a long-ago extinction even, and conifers grow only on mountainous highlands, which leave the angiosperms to dominate the lowlands (like the bulk of Siberia, for example.) In this scenario, what other kinds of broadleaf trees would thrive in such subarctic conditions as Russia, Alaska and Scandinavia?

  • $\begingroup$ I had to look up "lime". Boreal citrus? But no; "Lime" refers to genus Tilia which includes basswood and linden. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 3 '18 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ It's unclear to me whether you are asking what currently extant species would fill this role or what novel species of your alternate earth would do so. If all of the trees you listed don't exist then your alternate earth will sport novel species that emerge to fill the empty niches. If you are asking about current species the answer is that none of them would thrive, something new that evolved to suit those conditions would. If you are asking what those new trees might be, that seems to me nearly impossible to answer without significantly more detail, and even then is pure speculation. $\endgroup$ – Mike Nichols Jul 4 '18 at 19:46

I do not live in an artic zone, but I live in an area where it reaches 30f degrees in winter. I also keep a garden, so a little research with some second hand knowledge, this is a list of trees I would think could live on the edge of a tundra forest where maple, willows, and other trees like them grow.

  • Malus: This type include the apple tree, which survives some pretty harsh winters, at least where I live. Mine survived going down to 20f during one winter. During the winter they go dormant and then come back to life in a sort of way the following spring. As long as there is a sufficient period for the trees to bloom and apples to grow I would think it could survive.

  • Rhododendrons: These things are impossible to kill sometimes. We had to dig up the one in our backyard fully out of the ground since it grew back from a stump pretty much. They survive our winters and thrive. They would probably move in and fill the niche the other species that died out left open in their environment.

  • Cornus: The Cornus, aka flowering dogwood, would be another good candidate. While there are no growing in the area I live in there are lots on the east coast of the USA where they thrive despite the temperatures it can reach during the winter.

None of these are concrete things. These are just some of the trees and extremely large bushes that I would think would slide into those niches left open by the dead trees.


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mixed aspen conifer forest

In our world, aspen trees compete with conifers in the subartic boreal forest. The photo above is in the Yukon. You can easily distinguish the yellow-leaved stands of aspen in among the pines. With no conifers, aspens would have the north to themselves and they would be fine with that. Aspens grow as immensely long lived, clonal masses and absent competition, huge clones would spread to be the forests of the north.

As per comment - no trees on the list and no trees later decided to be related to trees on the list. Then how about rhododendron?

rhododendron siberia https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-ledum-siberia-pink-spring-flowering-shrub-rhododendron-ledebou-siberian-sunny-day-image53953612 This one is from Siberia. A google search with rhododendron and Siberia or Russia will turn up more substantial looking and very beautiful trees on the image for sale sites like alamy.

None are as awesome as this Canadian rhododendron - a proper tree to be sure.

rhododendron tree https://www.boredpanda.com/rhododendron-tree-ladysmith-british-columbia-canada/

Could you get a forest of rhododendron? Yes! In Ireland it is an invasive species and forms dense forests, outcompeting native plants.

rhododendron forest

rhododendron forest http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs176/1102209996678/archive/1117755271519.html

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  • $\begingroup$ Aspen's in the same family as willow and poplar, so this can't qualify. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jul 4 '18 at 4:03

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