Forestry in Plain English

Jack Savage | September 3, 2011

Like many professions, forestry has developed over time its own specific vocabulary. Even forest management has a fancy name—silviculture—that doesn’t have anything to do with mining for precious metals. For the uninitiated, listening to a forester talk about what’s going on in the woods can be bewildering. But in New Hampshire, where we take pride in being the second-most forested state in the country, we ought to all have a solid understanding of basic forestry lingo. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge of forestry terms. The correct answers are below.

Basal Area

a)      The section of your garden devoted to herbs;

b)      A chronic sinus condition;

c)      How foresters estimate the overall quantity of trees/wood in a given place. It’s the square-footage of a cross-section (at chest-height) of all trees on an acre. Easy, right?


a)      The noise a chain saw makes;

b)      The noise the neighbors make when the chainsaw starts;

c)      Any event that changes the forest, planned or unplanned, such as fire, high winds or timber harvesting.

Duff or Duff layer

a)      The layer of beer cans surrounding Homer Simpson’s bar stool;

b)      An overly large divot taken by a particularly incompetent golfer;

c)      Decomposing organic matter on the forest floor.

Fuel load

a)      How much diesel is left in the skidder;

b)      Twice as much as a half-load;

c)      The amount of burnable wood in an area that may be at risk of fire in a forest.


a)      What happens at Halloween;

b)      The result of skinning your knee when you fall off your bicycle;

c)      Loosening or breaking up the topsoil to promote regeneration in the forest.


a)      Superman’s parachute, used in case he runs into kryptonite while flying;

b)      An especially delicious appetizer;

c)      Super dominant trees whose crowns (tops) protrude above the main forest canopy.


a)      How you keep your beer cold in the woods;

b)      How you keep the lights on during a hurricane;

c)      New growth of trees.


a)      What legislators do to government budgets;

b)      A rock star;

c)      Branches, dead trees and other woody debris left on the ground to recharge the soil and provide habitat after a logging operation.


a) When a forester grabs the last piece of pie at Thanksgiving;

b) What happens when you tear your new pants while bushwacking through the woods;

c) A dead tree left standing for wildlife.

Answers: the correct answer to each is (c).

Jack Savage is the editor of Forest Notes, the quarterly magazine of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. He can be reached at