The dark evergreen trees in this stand are Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). In the mainly deciduous Carolinian forests, hemlocks are almost always found in sites with slightly cooler-than-normal microclimates such as on north facing slopes that receive less sun, in deep shaded ravines and near cool wetlands and streams. This slope is facing north. Hemlock seeds germinate best in decayed organic matter and can tolerate deep shade. The “perched” tree here originally grew on a rotting stump. You can still see traces of the stump but most of it has rotted away, leaving the hemlock roots exposed like stilts. Rotting stumps and logs that host young trees are known as “nurse logs”. In death these logs nurture and support new life.
Look behind you to see another strange growth form in the American Beech tree. Where the trunk has divided, two branches from one trunk have grown into the other trunk creating two crossbeams. This event presumably happened naturally over time when the young branches grew across and encountered the other stem. Both stem and branch were damaged and the scar tissue allowed the two limbs to fuse. This phenomenon is used in the horticultural practice of grafting, where branches from one tree can be fused with the stem of a different tree.