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Abies fraseri / Viburnum lantanoides / Dryopteris campyloptera - Oxalis montana / Hylocomium splendens Forest
Translated Name: Fraser Fir / Hobblebush / Mountain Woodfern - Mountain Woodsorrel / Splendid Feathermoss Forest
Common Name: Fraser Fir Forest (Deciduous Shrub Type)
Unique Identifier: CEGL006049
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community occurs as island-like stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It occurs on steep ridges and mesic, north-facing slopes above 1830 m (6000 feet) elevation, although it may extend lower on some sites. Occurrences of this community have shallow, rocky soils and are often steep and bouldery with seepage areas. This forest has at least 75% of the canopy coverage composed of Abies fraseri, occurring over a sparse to moderate shrub stratum dominated by deciduous species, a diverse herb stratum, and, typically, a well-developed bryophyte layer. The tree canopy has standing dead stems of Abies fraseri and extensive patches of Abies fraseri saplings in canopy gaps. Oxalis montana, Dryopteris campyloptera, and Athyrium filix-femina are often dominant in the herbaceous stratum. Other characteristic species include Vaccinium erythrocarpum, Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (= Sambucus racemosa var. pubens), Rubus allegheniensis, Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus, Oclemena acuminata (= Aster acuminatus), Eurybia chlorolepis (= Aster chlorolepis), Clintonia borealis, Solidago glomerata, Rugelia nudicaulis, Ageratina altissima var. roanensis, Chelone lyonii, Circaea alpina ssp. alpina, Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus (= Streptopus roseus), Viola macloskeyi ssp. pallens, Geum radiatum, Huperzia lucidula, Ptilium crista-castrensis, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, and Hylocomium splendens. This is a relatively broadly defined community element with much structural and compositional variation.



Classification

Classification Confidence: High

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.2 - Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
Division 1.B.2.Na - Eastern North American Forest & Woodland
Macrogroup Laurentian-Acadian Mesic Hardwood - Conifer Forest
Group Central & Southern Appalachian Red Spruce - Fir - Hardwood Forest
Alliance Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest

This is the revised vegetation hierarchy. For more information see Classification Sources and usnvc.org.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006308 Abies fraseri / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron carolinianum) Forest
CEGL007130 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron maximum) Forest
CEGL007131 Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / Vaccinium erythrocarpum / Dryopteris campyloptera / Hylocomium splendens Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Related Subnational Community Units
These data are subject to substantial ongoing revision and may be out of date for some states.
In the U.S., contact the state Heritage Program for the most complete and up-to-date information at: http://www.natureserve.org/natureserve-network.
Information from programs in other jurisdictions will be posted when they are made available.
Subnation Concept Name Relationship to Standard Confidence Reference
North Carolina Fraser Fir Forest (Herb Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Abies fraseri / Dryopteris campyloptera - Oxalis montana Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2006. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Version 2.2. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/ncTIV.shtml]
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2009a. A vegetation classification for the Appalachian Trail: Virginia south to Georgia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. In-house analysis, March 2009.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and P. P. Coulling. 2001. Ecological communities of the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Preliminary classification and description of vegetation types. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 317 pp.
Related Concept Name: Fraser Fir (6)
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: USFS [U.S. Forest Service]. 1988. Silvicultural examination and prescription field book. USDA Forest Service, Southern Region. Atlanta, GA. 35 pp.
Related Concept Name: Fraser Fir Forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Schafale, M. P., and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina. Third approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh. 325 pp.
Related Concept Name: Fraser Fir Forest (Herb Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: IA4b. Fraser Fir Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Allard, D. J. 1990. Southeastern United States ecological community classification. Interim report, Version 1.2. The Nature Conservancy, Southeast Regional Office, Chapel Hill, NC. 96 pp.
Related Concept Name: Oligotrophic Forest
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Rawinski, T. J. 1992. A classification of Virginia's indigenous biotic communities: Vegetated terrestrial, palustrine, and estuarine community classes. Unpublished document. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report No. 92-21. Richmond, VA. 25 pp.
Related Concept Name: Red Spruce - Fraser Fir: 34
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spruce / Fir Forest
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.028 Central and Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1 (15Jul1994)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: This community occurs as island-like stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It has a naturally restricted distribution and exists in only a small portion of its original range due to the impact of early 20th century, post-logging fires and the ongoing outbreak of balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae). Well-developed, undisturbed examples of this community are extremely rare.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs as island-like stands on the highest areas (>1830 m [6000 feet]) in the southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia. It is extremely limited in distribution and is restricted to the following mountain areas: Great Smoky Mountains, Black Mountains, Balsam Mountain, Plott Balsam Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, and Mount Rogers (Ramseur 1960).

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Regime Mountains
Province Name: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest - Coniferous Forest - Meadow Province
Province Code: M221 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This needle-leaved evergreen forest has greater than 75% canopy coverage by Abies fraseri, typically with many standing dead stems. Canopy trees are of small diameter (less than 20 cm) and short stature (less than 10 m tall), giving these forests a stunted appearance. Other species that may occur in the canopy or subcanopy with low coverage are Picea rubens, Sorbus americana, Betula alleghaniensis, Prunus pensylvanica, and Acer spicatum. There may be considerable variation in the density of shrub cover, but it is typically low (<20%) and dominated by deciduous species. Typical shrub species include Viburnum lantanoides, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa (= Sambucus racemosa var. pubens), Menziesia pilosa, Rubus allegheniensis, and Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus. Where shrubs are sparse, herb cover is usually dense, with Oxalis montana, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, and Dryopteris campyloptera often dominant. Other common herbs include Oclemena acuminata (= Aster acuminatus), Eurybia chlorolepis (= Aster chlorolepis), Clintonia borealis, Solidago glomerata, Rugelia nudicaulis, Ageratina altissima var. roanensis, Chelone lyonii, Circaea alpina ssp. alpina, Streptopus lanceolatus (= Streptopus roseus), Viola macloskeyi ssp. pallens, Geum radiatum, and Huperzia lucidula. Mosses, liverworts, and lichens grow densely on fallen logs, tree trunks, and the forest floor, giving the community a distinctive carpeted appearance. Characteristic bryophyte species include Hylocomium splendens, Ptilium crista-castrensis, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, and Hylocomiastrum umbratum.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia G1 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy      
 
 
Abies fraseri G1 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Rhododendron vaseyi G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Ribes rotundifolium G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa G1 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rubus allegheniensis G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Vaccinium erythrocarpum G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Viburnum lantanoides G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Ageratina altissima var. roanensis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Angelica triquinata G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Cardamine clematitis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Eurybia chlorolepis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Geum radiatum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Houstonia serpyllifolia G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Oxalis montana G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Rugelia nudicaulis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Solidago glomerata G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Stachys clingmanii G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Streptopus amplexifolius G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides G1 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Dryopteris campyloptera G1 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Huperzia lucidula G1 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Phegopteris connectilis G1 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 
Glyceria nubigena G1 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Poa palustris G1 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Bazzania nudicaulis G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Metzgeria temperata G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Nardia scalaris G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Plagiochila corniculata G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii G1 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Brachydontium trichodes G1 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 
Hylocomium splendens G1 Moss Nonvascular  
 
 
Leptodontium excelsum G1 Moss Nonvascular      
 
 
Ptilium crista-castrensis G1 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Abies fraseri
  (Fraser Fir)
G2  
Ageratina altissima var. roanensis
  (Appalachian White Snakeroot)
G5T3T4  
Bazzania nudicaulis
  (a liverwort)
G2G3  
Brachydontium trichodes
  (Peak Moss)
G2G4  
Cardamine clematitis
  (Small Mountain Bittercress)
G3  
Desmognathus wrighti
  (Southern Pygmy Salamander)
G3  
Geum radiatum
  (Spreading Avens)
G2 LE: Listed endangered
Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus
  (Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered
Glyceria nubigena
  (Smoky Mountains Mannagrass)
G2G3  
Leptodontium excelsum
  (Grandfather Mountain Leptodontium)
G2  
Microhexura montivaga
  (Spruce-fir Moss Spider)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Plethodon welleri
  (Weller's Salamander)
G3  
Rhododendron vaseyi
  (Pink-shell Azalea)
G3  
Rugelia nudicaulis
  (Rugel's Ragwort)
G3  
Solidago glomerata
  (Skunk Goldenrod)
G3  
Sphenolobopsis pearsonii
  (Horsehair Threadwort)
G2?  
Stachys clingmanii
  (Clingman's Hedge-nettle)
G2  

Vegetation Structure
Stratum Growth Form
Height of Stratum (m)
Cover
Class
%
Min
Cover %
Max
Cover %
Tree canopy Other/unknown
 
 
 
 
Tall shrub/sapling Shrub
 
 
 
 
Herb (field) Flowering forb
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community typically occurs on steep ridges and north-facing slopes above 1830 m (6000 feet) elevation, although it may extend lower on some sites. These forests occur on all topographic positions except the steepest rocky cliffs of the highest summits. Soils that support this community are classified as Inceptisols and are shallow, rocky, and often have a thick organic layer. Moisture regimes are mesic to wet, due to high rainfall, abundant cloud cover, fog deposition, and low temperatures.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This community is affected by debris avalanches, wind disturbance and lightning fire. Because of the shallow soils and extreme wind exposure, this forest is susceptible to large blowdowns. Logging and damage by the balsam woolly adelgid has greatly increased the effect of natural windfall. This community is a late-successional type, but it is subject to repeated disturbance. Prunus pensylvanica is a dominant species immediately following disturbance. In later successional stages, Betula alleghaniensis increases in dominance. An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), invaded the Southern Appalachians in the late 1950s and has drastically altered the last undisturbed remnants of this community. This exotic pest kills mature Abies fraseri within seven years of infestation. Abies fraseri is the only rare plant species associated with this vegetation in Virginia. In areas where mature Abies fraseri has been lost to woolly adelgid infestation, thickets of Rubus spp., Abies fraseri seedlings and saplings, Betula alleghaniensis, and Sorbus americana are dominant. Over time, Picea rubens, Betula alleghaniensis, Abies fraseri, Acer spicatum, and Sorbus americana increase in the tree layer, while Abies fraseri, Menziesia pilosa, Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus, and Sambucus racemosa increase in the shrub layer (White et al. 1993). Succession is especially slow after severe disturbance such as logging and slash fires. The most severely disturbed sites are predominately Prunus pensylvanica and Rubus spp. and may remain in a non-forested stage of succession for 60 years or more.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 04Nov1994
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Jul1994
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): Southeastern Ecology Group

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
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  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2006. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Version 2.2. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/ncTIV.shtml]

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  • Rawinski, T. J. 1992. A classification of Virginia's indigenous biotic communities: Vegetated terrestrial, palustrine, and estuarine community classes. Unpublished document. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report No. 92-21. Richmond, VA. 25 pp.

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