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Fagus grandifolia - Quercus alba / Kalmia latifolia - (Rhododendron catawbiense) / Galax urceolata Forest
Translated Name: American Beech - White Oak / Mountain Laurel - (Catawba Rosebay) / Beetleweed Forest
Common Name: Piedmont Beech / Heath Bluff
Unique Identifier: CEGL004539
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association includes heath bluffs on steep north-facing slopes in the lower Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain of North Carolina, Virginia, and other southeastern states. Disjunct examples of this type are found in northern Alabama and may occur in Georgia and/or South Carolina. Generally, these communities occur in areas of thin and rocky soils but may also occur in areas of soft material exposed by undercutting by a stream. These sites experience a combination of dry conditions caused by shallow, well-drained soils and cool, moist microclimates caused by northern aspects. Sites may be heterogeneous with dry microsites intermixed with wet seepage areas. These communities are dominated by a dense shrub layer of Kalmia latifolia (most common), Rhododendron catawbiense or Rhododendron maximum. Other shrubs may include Hamamelis virginiana, Symplocos tinctoria, and Vaccinium spp. The tree canopy is open to very sparse, with trees such as Fagus grandifolia, Quercus alba, Quercus prinus, Pinus virginiana, Pinus taeda, Oxydendrum arboreum, Acer rubrum, and Amelanchier arborea characteristic. A variety of trees from surrounding areas may also be present. Herbs are generally sparse under the shrubs, with acid-loving species, such as Galax urceolata, Epigaea repens, Gaultheria procumbens, Chimaphila maculata, Hexastylis minor, and Mitchella repens, typical. These communities generally border a floodplain forest or a stream channel and may grade to such communities through a talus slope at the base. These communities are distinguished by having an open tree canopy and closed, often dense, shrub layer. There is little open substrate for rock outcrop or weedy species.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low
Classification Comments: There are a few indications that this type may be too broadly defined. First, Alabama examples currently included in this concept may represent a drier variant which supports a greater natural pine density, which is apparently absent from northern examples. Secondly, North Carolina Piedmont examples with Rhododendron catawbiense may represent a distinctive variant which may deserve recognition. Occurrences of this species in the Piedmont of North Carolina have been taxonomically recognized as forma insularis (Coker 1919, Weakley 2005; cited incorrectly as "insulare" in Small 1933). More information is needed to evaluate the significance of these variations. This association was formerly attributed to Alabama based on a comment by A. Schotz (pers. comm.), who stated: "This association is represented by two examples in Alabama which occur on steep rocky slopes along Hatchet Creek in Coosa County (Piedmont Ecoregion)."This example is more properly affiliated with CEGL004415 (q.v.). Virginia Natural Heritage has classified nine plots as this association (K. Patterson pers. comm. 2012).

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 Appalachian-Interior-Northeastern Mesic Forest
Group Appalachian-Central Interior Mesic Forest
Alliance Piedmont-Ridge and Valley Beech - Red Oak Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004304 Pinus taeda - Quercus alba - Chamaecyparis thyoides / Kalmia latifolia - Lyonia lucida Forest
CEGL004415 Quercus prinus - Quercus alba / Oxydendrum arboreum / Kalmia latifolia Forest
CEGL006919 Fagus grandifolia - Quercus (alba, velutina, prinus) / Kalmia latifolia Forest
CEGL007863 Fagus grandifolia - Quercus alba - Quercus laurifolia / Galax urceolata Forest
CEGL008524 Quercus prinus / Rhododendron catawbiense - Kalmia latifolia 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 Piedmont/Coastal Plain Heath Bluff Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Fagus grandifolia - Quercus (alba, falcata, nigra) / Symplocos tinctoria / Kalmia latifolia Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Related Concept Name: Fagus grandifolia - Quercus alba / Oxydendrum arboreum - Symplocos tinctoria / Kalmia latifolia / (Galax urceolata) 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]
Related Concept Name: Piedmont / Coastal Plain Oak - Beech / Heath 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.
Related Concept Name: Piedmont/Coastal Plain Heath Bluff
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.342 Southern Piedmont Mesic Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2G3 (22Feb2007)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This heath bluff association is restricted to steep north-facing slopes in the lower Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain of North Carolina and other southeastern states, north to extreme southeastern Virginia. Generally, these communities occur in areas of hard rock but may occur in areas of soft material exposed by undercutting by a stream. These sites experience a combination of dry conditions caused by shallow, well-drained soils and cool, moist microclimates caused by northern aspects. This unusual and specific combination of conditions means that the available habitat for this type is rare. Stands of this association may be affected by removal of more valuable timber species (e.g., Quercus alba).

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: AL, GApotentially occurs, NC, SCpotentially occurs, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs in the lower Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain of North Carolina and other southeastern states.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 231 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Southern Appalachian Piedmont Section
Section Code: 231A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Southern Cumberland Plateau Section
Section Code: 231C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Lower Section
Section Code: 232B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Atlantic Coastal Flatwoods Section
Section Code: 232C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This community is distinguished by having an open tree canopy and closed, often dense, shrub layer. Stands are dominated by a dense shrub layer of Kalmia latifolia (most common), Rhododendron catawbiense or Rhododendron maximum. Other shrubs may include Hamamelis virginiana, Symplocos tinctoria, and Vaccinium spp. The tree canopy is open to very sparse, with trees such as Fagus grandifolia, Quercus alba, Quercus prinus, Pinus virginiana, Pinus taeda, Oxydendrum arboreum, Acer rubrum, and Amelanchier arborea characteristic. A variety of trees from surrounding areas may be present. Herbs are generally sparse under the shrubs, with acid-loving species, such as Galax urceolata, Epigaea repens, Gaultheria procumbens, Chimaphila maculata, Hexastylis minor, and Mitchella repens, typical. Alabama examples (Al Schotz pers. comm. 2001) occur on steep rocky slopes along Hatchet Creek in Coosa County (Piedmont Ecoregion). The canopy is relatively open (ranging from 30-60% closure) with Quercus prinus serving as the principal species. Other characteristic canopy species include Quercus falcata, Pinus echinata, Pinus palustris, and occasionally Carya alba, Quercus stellata, and Oxydendrum arboreum. The shrub layer is represented by a very dense ericaceous component dominated by Kalmia latifolia, Rhododendron minus, and to a lesser degree, Symplocos tinctoria and Vaccinium spp. Herbs are generally very sparse with Galax urceolata, Tiarella cordifolia, Hexastylis arifolia, and Polystichum acrostichoides appearing most prominent. Some examples exhibit greater canopy closure (50-80%). In southeastern Virginia, the most characteristic species are Fagus grandifolia, Quercus alba, Quercus falcata, Quercus nigra, Oxydendrum arboreum, Symplocos tinctoria, Kalmia latifolia, and Vitis rotundifolia. Although Galax urceolata occurs in a minority of stands, it often forms large colonies where found.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Fagus grandifolia G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Quercus alba G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Nestronia umbellula G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Kalmia latifolia G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Rhododendron catawbiense G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Rhododendron maximum G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Galax urceolata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Hexastylis naniflora G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Monotropsis odorata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Rudbeckia heliopsidis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Calypogeia peruviana G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Hexastylis naniflora
  (Dwarf-flower Heartleaf)
G3 LT: Listed threatened
Monotropsis odorata
  (Sweet Pinesap)
G3  
Rudbeckia heliopsidis
  (Sun-facing Coneflower)
G2  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: Heath bluffs typically occur on steep north-facing slopes in the lower Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain. Generally, these communities occur in areas of hard rock but may occur in areas of soft material exposed by undercutting by a stream. Soils are thin and rocky and include Goldston (Ruptic-Ultic Dystrochrept), Tatum (Typic Hapludult), Wedowee (Typic Hapludult), and Wilkee (Typic Hapludult). These sites experience a combination of dry conditions caused by shallow, well-drained soils and cool, moist microclimates caused by northern aspects. Sites may be heterogeneous with dry microsites intermixed with wet seepage areas. These communities generally border a floodplain forest or a stream channel and may grade to such communities through a talus slope at the base. There is little open substrate for rock outcrop or weedy species.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): M.P. Schafale and A.S. Weakley
Element Description Edition Date: 22Feb2007
Element Description Author(s): M.P. Schafale, A.S. Weakley, M. Pyne and G.P. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Oct2003
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): M. Pyne

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


References
  • Coker, J. C. 1919. The distribution of Rhododendron catawbiense, with remarks on a new form. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 35:76-82.

  • Fleming, G. P. 2002b. Preliminary classification of Piedmont & Inner Coastal Plain vegetation types in Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-14. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 29 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • 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]

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2011a. Natural communities of Virginia: Ecological groups and community types. Natural Heritage Technical Report 11-07. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 34 pp.

  • Patterson, Karen D. Personal communication. Ecologist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA.

  • Schafale, M. P. 2012. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina, 4th Approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • 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.

  • Schotz, A., H. Summer, and R. White, Jr. 2008. Vascular plant inventory and ecological community classification for Little River Canyon National Preserve. NatureServe, Durham, NC. 244 pp.

  • Small, J. K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. Parts I-II. Hafner Publishing Company, New York.

  • Southeastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Durham, NC.


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