The Permaculture Student

A resilient, abundant future starts with permaculture education.

Layers of a Forest

"By including all the layers of the forest in our designs, we occupy any niches a weed or unwanted element might try to occupy. You can plant all at once, but when planting, keep succession in mind. The space will start out dominated by support species like annual legumes, green manures, mulch plants, and some fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing trees with small bare-root trees and perennial seedlings hidden among the explosion of growth. Use flags and colored sticks to keep track of your valuable tree and perennial plantings—they’ll need intervention routinely as they develop to prevent them from getting shaded out or choked by vines. Once the valuable perennials and trees are established, the space will be largely occupied by valuable species with coppiced nitrogen-fixing trees and mulch plants found intermittently throughout the system.

•Canopy, the tallest layer


•Palms (some climates have both understory- and canopy-level palms, while some have none—such as in cold temperate)

•Shrubs (some climates have two layers)

•Herbaceous layers (in cold temperate climates there are two layers) 

•Vines or climbing plants

•Ground cover plants or creepers

•Rhizosphere or root layer

•Fungal layer (both above and below ground)

•Clumpers or plants that spread by division"

(The Permaculture Student 2, p. 177-179).

Recommended Reading

The Permaculture Student 1 p. 29-30, 61-63

The Permaculture Student 2 p. 36-43, 175-196

The Permaculture Student Workbook  p. 21-23, 37-43