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Elfin forest is a nickname given to several similar dwarfed plants ecosystems, mainly in coastal Temperate Californian and montane Tropical regions, that are host to communities of dwarfed and tiny plants, insects, and rodents.
Given that chaparral areas can be waterlogged in the winter, and arid and nearly desert-like in the summer, native plants in these dry elfin forest areas have adapted accordingly, and are generally much shorter, smaller, and compact than related plants elsewhere. Diminutive plants commonly found in Californian elfin forests include Portulacaceae such as Mount Hood pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellata) and Alkali heath (Frankenia salina), and species of Aeonium and Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus). Even trees and shrubs, such as Cypress (Cupressus), Oak (Quercus), and Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) rarely grow more than 20 ft (7 m) tall in these plant communities. California Elfin forests fauna includes the California Kangaroo Rat.
- Pygmy forest — overlap in terms.
- Cloud forest
- Krummholz, corresponding term for cool-temperate regions (particularly in the Alpide belt)
- Pedology (soil study)
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