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Leiophyllum buxifolium Dwarf-shrubland
Translated Name: Sand-myrtle Dwarf-shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Sand-myrtle Heath Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL003951
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This evergreen, sclerophyllous dwarf-shrubland occurs at the highest elevations in the southern Appalachian Mountains on steep, exposed slopes. It is typically found at elevations over 1770 m (5800 feet) in northwestern North Carolina. This dwarf-shrubland may occur as inclusions in other communities or as extensive mats. It is dominated by Leiophyllum buxifolium growing in dense mats with a krummholz structure. Occurrences of this community may have significant areas of bare rock but are at least 25% vegetated with at least 75% of the total shrub cover composed of Leiophyllum buxifolium. Openings in the shrub stratum may contain sparse herbaceous cover including Selaginella tortipila, Zigadenus leimanthoides and Deschampsia flexuosa. Other shrub species that may occur include Rhododendron catawbiense and Vaccinium corymbosum. Mosses and lichens are also typical in more open occurrences. The largest occurrences of this shrubland are 1-2 hectares. An extreme environment with steep topography, high solar irradiation, desiccating winds in combination with shallow, nutrient-poor soils maintains this community as a topo-edaphic climax. This community often occurs adjacent to or grades into high-elevation rock outcrop communities and other montane shrublands.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: The species Leiophyllum buxifolium may be locally dominant in other Southern Appalachian heath shrublands. This association is restricted to areas where Leiophyllum buxifolium dominates areas greater than 0.1 hectare. In the southern part of this community's range, the dominant species, Leiophyllum buxifolium, occurs on as an upright shrub (30-50 cm tall), in narrow vegetated zones on granitic domes. In the northwestern part of North Carolina and in eastern Tennessee, on steep, high-elevation areas, this community occurs as low shrub mats with a krummholz structure. Further study may reveal floristic differences between these two situations that may warrant recognition of two community elements.

Similar shrublands in the southern Appalachian Mountains (Rhododendron carolinianum Shrubland (CEGL003816), Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland (CEGL003818)) may contain Leiophyllum buxifolium, but comprising less than 75% of the total shrub cover. In the Coastal Plain of New Jersey and North Carolina Leiophyllum buxifolium occurs as a dense shrub component in Pinus-dominated woodlands and sparse woodlands. It is not known if this species occurs in the Coastal Plain as a shrubland without a significant tree canopy.


Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.B - Temperate & Boreal Grassland & Shrubland
Formation 2.B.2 - Temperate Grassland & Shrubland
Division 2.B.2.Nc - Eastern North American Grassland & Shrubland
Macrogroup Appalachian Rocky Felsic & Mafic Scrub & Grassland
Group Southern Appalachian Shrub Bald
Alliance Catawba Rosebay - Carolina Azalea - Mountain Laurel Shrub Bald

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



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 Heath Bald (Sand Myrtle Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Picea rubens / Leiophyllum buxifolium outcrop community
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Wiser, S. K. 1993. Vegetation of high-elevation rock outcrops of the Southern Appalachians: Composition, environmental relationships, and biogeography of communities and rare species. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 271 pp.
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: Wiser, S. K., R. K. Peet, and P. S. White. 1996. High-elevation rock outcrop vegetation of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Journal of Vegetation Science 7:703-722.
Related Concept Name: BR Shrub Bald
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.
Related Concept Name: Heath Bald
Relationship: B - Broader
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: Heath Bald (Sand Myrtle Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: IC4a. Heath Bald Shrubland
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.294 Southern Appalachian Grass and Shrub Bald


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1 (15Aug1994)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: One of the most restricted heath bald types, in terms of distribution and acreage, it is known from Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. The total acreage of this community is limited (<100 hectares) since it occurs as scattered islands of shrubland in the highest elevations. Since this community generally occurs in inaccessible, well-protected sites, it is not highly threatened. Occurrences in areas of high recreation use may be threatened by trampling, while natural succession may threaten other sites.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: GApotentially occurs, NC, SCpotentially occurs, TN
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs on rock outcrops in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It is typically found at elevations over 1770 m (5800 feet) in northwestern North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee. It may also occur at lower elevations in western North Carolina, northeastern Georgia, and northwestern South Carolina, in association with granitic domes and gneissic outcrops.

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 community is dominated by a low-growing (<0.5 m), evergreen, ericaceous shrub, Leiophyllum buxifolium, which may occur as scattered patches or as extensive, dense shrub mats. Openings in the shrub stratum may contain sparse herbaceous cover including Selaginella tortipila, Deschampsia flexuosa, Hypericum densiflorum, Carex umbellata, and Danthonia sericea. Other shrub species that may occur include Rhododendron carolinianum and Vaccinium pallidum. Mosses and lichens are also typical in more open occurrences. Species endemic to or with the bulk of their worldwide range in the Southern Blue Ridge include Hudsonia montana, Hypericum buckleii, Liatris helleri, Rhododendron carolinianum, Selaginella tortipila, and Leiophyllum buxifolium. The largest occurrences of this shrubland are 1-2 hectares.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Hypericum buckleii G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Hudsonia montana G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Leiophyllum buxifolium G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Rhododendron carolinianum G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Liatris helleri G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Glyceria nubigena G1 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Glyceria nubigena
  (Smoky Mountains Mannagrass)
G2G3  
Hudsonia montana
  (Mountain Golden-heather)
G1 LT: Listed threatened
Hypericum buckleii
  (Blue Ridge St. John's-wort)
G3  
Liatris helleri
  (Heller's Blazingstar)
G2Q LT: Listed threatened

Vegetation Structure
Stratum Growth Form
Height of Stratum (m)
Cover
Class
%
Min
Cover %
Max
Cover %
Short shrub/sapling Shrub
 
 
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community occurs on exposed slopes and sharp ridges, typically above 1770 m (5800 feet) elevation, although it may occur at lower elevations. Shrubs root in shallow soils associated with rock outcrops or in coarse, sandy soils and organic matter accumulations in crevices. High solar irradiation and desiccating winds in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils are the key environmental factors influencing this community.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Windfall, landslides, and small, localized lightning-cause fires are important in the establishment and maintenance of this community. This community may result from primary succession or from secondary succession when lichens, mosses, and eventually Leiophyllum invade rock exposed by landslides or catastrophic fires. On steep, exposed sites, wind exposure, soil infertility and drought help maintain this community as a topo-edaphic climax. If soil development is sufficient and the environment is not too extreme, this community may succeed to Rhododendron carolinianum- or Rhododendron catawbiense-dominated shrublands.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): A.S. Weakley and K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 23Sep1994
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Aug1994
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
  • 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.

  • Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.

  • Newell, C. L., and R. K. Peet. 1995. Vegetation of Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina. Unpublished report. to USDA Forest Service. University of North Carolina, Department of Biology, Chapel Hill. 211 pp.

  • Peet, R. K., T. R. Wentworth, M. P. Schafale, and A.S. Weakley. No date. Unpublished data of the North Carolina Vegetation Survey. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

  • Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.

  • Risk, P. L. 1993. High elevation heath communities in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

  • Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • 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.

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

  • TDNH [Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage]. No date. Unpublished data. Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage, Nashville, TN.

  • Weakley, A. S., compiler. 1993. Natural Heritage Program list of the rare plant species of North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program. Raleigh. 79 pp.

  • Whittaker, R. H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecological Monographs 26:1-80.

  • Whittaker, R. H. 1979a. Appalachian balds and other North American heathlands. Pages 427-439 in: R. L. Specht, editor. Ecosystems of the world. Series Publication 9A. Heathlands and related shrublands: Descriptive studies. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, New York.

  • Wiser, S. K. 1993. Vegetation of high-elevation rock outcrops of the Southern Appalachians: Composition, environmental relationships, and biogeography of communities and rare species. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 271 pp.

  • Wiser, S. K., R. K. Peet, and P. S. White. 1996. High-elevation rock outcrop vegetation of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Journal of Vegetation Science 7:703-722.


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