The rate of change of leaf mass, N and P levels in understory vegetation at various levels of canopy cover were measured for 2 years following canopy cover manipulations in northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) and red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) stands in northern Lower Michigan, USA. Canopy cover treatments consisted of clearcut, 25% (50% during first sampling year), 75%, and uncut. Leaf mass, and N and P contents were significantly higher in the clearcut treatment than in other canopy cover treatments, except for the 25% treatment in red pine stands. Leaf N concentrations in understory vegetation were also significantly higher in the clearcut (1991, 20.8 mg g−1; 1992, 22.4 mg g−1) than in the uncut treatment (1991, 16.5 mg g−1; 1992, 16.9 mg g−1). Canopy type (northern red oak and red pine) had little influence on understory nutrient status and leaf mass. In addition, fronds of bracken ferns in all canopy cover treatments in both northern red oak and pine stands were a major sink of nutrients in the understory. The results of this study showed that partial canopy removal generally had only a minor impact on understory leaf production and nutrient status compared with clearcuts during the 2-year period following canopy removal.