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Rhododendron carolinianum Shrubland
Translated Name: Carolina Azalea Shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Carolina Azalea Heath Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL003816
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This mainly evergreen shrubland occurs on steep ridges and rock outcroppings, typically at 1040-1280 m (3400-4200 feet) elevation, in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is known from areas of quartzite and meta-arkose geology in Linville Gorge Wilderness. This community has at least 25% shrub cover and may occur as a dense shrubland, 2-4 m tall, or as a shorter, more open shrubland with areas of exposed rock with fruticose and crustose lichens, scattered mats of prostrate vegetation, and isolated clumps of herbaceous species. At least 50% of the total shrub cover is made up of Rhododendron carolinianum. Associated shrub species vary among occurrences, but can include Kalmia latifolia, Lyonia ligustrina var. ligustrina, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium pallidum, Fothergilla major, Acer rubrum, Ilex montana, and low-growing Gaylussacia baccata and Leiophyllum buxifolium. Some occurrences may have occasional stunted trees of Pinus pungens or Pinus rigida. More open occurrences have significant cover by mats of Selaginella tortipila and scattered herbaceous species such as Galax urceolata, Hypericum densiflorum, Carex umbellata, Danthonia sericea, Coreopsis major, Liatris pilosa (= Liatris graminifolia), Xerophyllum asphodeloides, and Schizachyrium scoparium. High solar irradiation and desiccating winds, in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils, are key environmental factors influencing this community. This community often occurs adjacent to or grades into xeric forests and woodlands dominated by Pinus pungens, Tsuga caroliniana, or Quercus prinus.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low - Poorly Documented
Classification Comments: Associated shrub species vary among occurrences. This shrubland may have significant areas of bare rock and non-woody vegetation but generally has at least 25% shrub cover. Similar shrublands in the southern Appalachian Mountains may contain Rhododendron carolinianum but comprising less than 50% of the total shrub cover. This community is known from areas of quartzite and meta-arkose geology in Linville Gorge Wilderness (Newell and Peet 1995).

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.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL007876 Rhododendron carolinianum - Rhododendron catawbiense - Leiophyllum buxifolium Shrubland



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 (Carolina Rhododendron Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Rhododendron minus/Selaginella tortipila Outcrops
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: 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.
Related Concept Name: Heath Bald
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 (Carolina Rhododendron 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: G2 (31Dec1997)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This community is limited in extent, occurring as scattered pockets in the southern Appalachian Mountains. This fragile community is threatened by heavy recreational use. In particular, occurrences on rock faces and bluff ledges are threatened by the activities of rock climbers.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This shrubland occurs in the mountains of western North Carolina.

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 may occur as a dense shrubland, 2-4 m tall, or as a shorter, more open shrubland with areas of exposed rock with fruticose and crustose lichens, scattered mats of prostrate vegetation, and isolated clumps of herbaceous species. The dominant shrub species is Rhododendron carolinianum. Associated shrubs may include Kalmia latifolia, Lyonia ligustrina, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium pallidum, Fothergilla major, Acer rubrum, Ilex montana, and low-growing Gaylussacia baccata and Leiophyllum buxifolium. Some occurrences may have occasional stunted trees of Pinus pungens or Pinus rigida. More open occurrences have significant cover by mats of Selaginella tortipila and scattered herbaceous species such as Galax urceolata, Hypericum densiflorum, Carex umbellata, Danthonia sericea, Coreopsis major, Liatris pilosa (= Liatris graminifolia), Xerophyllum asphodeloides, and Schizachyrium scoparium. This community contains species occurring disjunct from their typical northern and arctic ranges, including Trichophorum caespitosum, Sibbaldiopsis tridentata, and Vaccinium corymbosum. Species in this community that are endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains include Rhododendron carolinianum, Galax urceolata, Asplenium montanum, Hudsonia montana, Liatris helleri, Fothergilla major, and Selaginella tortipila.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Pinus pungens G2 Needle-leaved tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Fothergilla major G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Vaccinium corymbosum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Kalmia latifolia G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Rhododendron carolinianum G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Hypericum buckleii G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Hudsonia montana G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Leiophyllum buxifolium G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Galax urceolata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Liatris helleri G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Xerophyllum asphodeloides G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Zigadenus leimanthoides G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Selaginella tortipila G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)      
 
 
Trichophorum caespitosum G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Fothergilla major
  (Mountain Witch-alder)
G3  
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
Selaginella tortipila
  (Twisted-hair Spikemoss)
G3  

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


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community occurs on steep ridges and rock outcroppings typically at 1040-1280 m (3400-4200 feet) elevation but may occur as low as 610 m (2000 feet) (Newell and Peet 1995) or as high as 1980 m (6500 feet) (Whittaker 1979a). Aspects range from southeast to northwest, and topographic positions vary from flat bluff ledges to moderate slopes and steep bluff faces. This community is known from areas of exposed slate on the steep ridges of Mount Le Conte (Ramseur 1958) and areas of quartzite and meta-arkose geology in Linville Gorge Wilderness (Newell and Peet 1995). High solar irradiation and desiccating winds, in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils, are key environmental factors influencing this community.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Fire may be important in the maintenance of this community but the fire regime is not known. This community can result from the successional development of Leiophyllum buxifolium Dwarf-shrubland (CEGL003951). It is often maintained in an early successional stage by limited soil development and limited moisture availability. Where this community occurs on less exposed sites with greater soil development it may succeed to xeric Pinus-dominated woodlands or forests.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 05Oct1994
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 31Dec1997
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.

  • Cain, S. A. 1930b. An ecological study of the heath balds of the Great Smoky Mountains. Butler University Botanical Studies 1:177-208.

  • 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.

  • Ramseur, G. S. 1958. The vascular flora of high mountain communities of the Southern Appalachians. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 106 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.

  • 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.


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