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(Kalmia latifolia, Physocarpus opulifolius) / Schizachyrium scoparium - Thalictrum revolutum - Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Shrub Grassland
Translated Name: (Mountain Laurel, Common Ninebark) / Little Bluestem - Waxyleaf Meadowrue - Shrubby Fivefingers Shrub Grassland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian High-Elevation Mafic Glade (Flatrock Type)
Unique Identifier: CEGL004238
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: These are sloping, grass-dominated, herbaceous openings which range from a grassland to shrubland physiognomy. This community occurs at high elevations (around 1200 m [3970 feet]) in the Blue Ridge uplands where the soils are thin and poorly developed over amphibole or hornblende bedrock. Examples occur on upper south-facing slopes. The soils (Lithic Haplorthents) are droughty and thin and do not buffer the flora from the mafic character of the bedrock. They may, however, be seasonally wet, and the diagnostic flora may reflect the unique soil and moisture conditions. The occurrence of continuous, generally flat mafic rock as opposed to the irregular fragmented rock of most rocky summits is characteristic of this community. This feature may restrict the flora to those species which can survive in shallow crevices or on thin veneers over smooth rock. There are typically some extremely stunted trees and scattered shrubs, the most common being Quercus rubra, Kalmia latifolia, Salix humilis, Physocarpus opulifolius, Vaccinium stamineum, and Vaccinium pallidum. Woody plants are generally restricted to microsites with slightly deeper soils. The most characteristic herbaceous species include Schizachyrium scoparium (generally most abundant), Danthonia spicata, Coreopsis major, Thalictrum revolutum, Sibbaldiopsis tridentata, Heuchera villosa, Helianthemum bicknellii, Ionactis linariifolius, and Liatris spp. Many of the characteristic herbaceous species occur in crevices among exposed rock, but some larger, continuous patches of the dominant grasses may occur where thin veneers of soil have accumulated over the rock surfaces. Annuals such as Hypericum gentianoides and Polygala curtissii may be seasonally abundant. Many additional herbaceous species occur at low cover and constancy. Much of the remaining area is dominated by Cladonia and Cladina lichens which grow directly on the exposed bedrock.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: In an 1134-plot regional analysis (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) for the Southern Appalachian portion of the Appalachian Trail, seven plots were classified as this association (Fleming and Patterson 2009a). Plots are from Bluff Mountain (NC), Buffalo Mountain (VA), and Mount Jefferson (NC). This group was intensively compared to the group representing Schizachyrium scoparium - Saxifraga michauxii - Coreopsis major Grassland (CEGL004074), a related, high-elevation outcrop type. Both types feature constant Schizachyrium scoparium and Coreopsis major, but the two are otherwise found to be distinct in both physiognomy and floristic composition. While some examples of CEGL004074 might well be considered sparse vegetation, both mean total vegetative cover and mean species richness are almost twice as high in the CEGL004238 group. In this comparative analysis, the most diagnostic species of CEGL004238 are Carya ovata, Clematis viorna, Festuca rubra, Fraxinus americana, Liatris pilosa, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, Quercus alba, Rhynchospora globularis, Salix humilis, Sericocarpus linifolius, Thalictrum revolutum, and Vaccinium stamineum. Species richness averages 44 taxa / sample.

Classification of this type remains unresolved. Currently this type is defined only for Bluff Mountain, North Carolina, but similar vegetation is known from Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County, Virginia, associated with Minuartia groenlandica - Paronychia argyrocoma - Saxifraga michauxii Grassland (CEGL008509). Schafale and Weakley (1990) refer to Vaccinium corymbosum - Kalmia latifolia / Schizachyrium scoparium / Gaultheria procumbens - Cladonia spp. for this community.


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 Appalachian Mafic Glade
Alliance Southern Appalachian Mafic Shrubland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004074 Schizachyrium scoparium - Saxifraga michauxii - Coreopsis major Grassland



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 High Elevation Mafic Glade Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
Tennessee (Kalmia latifolia, Physocarpus opulifolius) / Schizachyrium scoparium - Thalictrum revolutum - Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Shrub Herbaceous Vegetation Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: (Kalmia latifolia, Physocarpus opulifolius) / Schizachyrium scoparium - Thalictrum revolutum - Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Shrub Herbaceous Vegetation
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.
Related Concept Name: Salix occidentalis - Helianthemum bicknellii - Aletris farinosa Association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Rawinski, T. J., and T. F. Wieboldt. 1993. Classification and ecological interpretation of mafic glade vegetation on Buffalo Mountain, Floyd County, Virginia. Banisteria 2:3-10.
Related Concept Name: High Elevation Mafic Glade
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. 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: High-Elevation Outcrop Barren
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: IE9a. Southern Appalachian High Elevation Mafic Glade
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
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
CES202.348 Southern and Central Appalachian Mafic Glade and Barrens


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1 (19Feb2010)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: This community type has a very restricted range and occurrences are small. It is currently defined from three sites in the Southern Blue Ridge of northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. This community has a distinctive floristic composition and is unlikely to be found at more than a few other locations.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TNpotentially occurs, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This mafic glade vegetation has been described only from Bluff Mountain and Mount Jefferson in North Carolina, and Buffalo Mountain in Virginia. This type may occur elsewhere in the high Southern Blue Ridge where similar environmental conditions exist.

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: These are sloping, grass-dominated, herbaceous openings which range from grassland to shrubland physiognomy. There are typically some extremely stunted trees and scattered shrubs, the most common being Quercus rubra, Kalmia latifolia, Salix humilis, Physocarpus opulifolius, Rhododendron catawbiense, Vaccinium stamineum, and Vaccinium pallidum. Woody plants are generally restricted to microsites with slightly deeper soils. The presence of acid-loving ericads on a mafic substrate is unusual, and may result from leaching of bases from the thin, organic-rich soils. The most characteristic herbaceous species include Schizachyrium scoparium (generally most abundant), Danthonia spicata, Coreopsis major, Thalictrum revolutum, Sibbaldiopsis tridentata, Heuchera villosa, Helianthemum bicknellii, Ionactis linariifolius, and Liatris spp. Many of the characteristic herbaceous species occur in crevices among exposed rock, but some larger, continuous patches of the dominant grasses may occur where thin veneers of soil have accumulated over the rock surfaces. Annuals such as Hypericum gentianoides and Polygala curtissii may be seasonally abundant. Many additional herbaceous species occur at low cover and constancy. Much of the remaining area is dominated by Cladonia and Cladina lichens which grow directly on the exposed bedrock. On Buffalo Mountain, Virginia, additional important species include Andropogon gerardii, Rhynchospora globularis, and Symphyotrichum dumosum. At Mount Jefferson, Physocarpus opulifolius is the most dominant shrub, Andropogon gerardii is also an important grass, and the northern disjunct grass Muhlenbergia glomerata occurs in a small seep on the glade (Poindexter and Murrell 2008). Several regionally rare species occur in this community type, including Gentianopsis crinita, Helianthemum bicknellii, Helianthemum propinquum, Liatris aspera, Phlox subulata, Polygonum tenue, and Pyrola americana.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Salix humilis var. tristis G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Vaccinium stamineum G1 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Kalmia latifolia G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Aletris farinosa G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Coreopsis major G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Gentianopsis crinita G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Helianthemum bicknellii G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Helianthemum propinquum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Ionactis linariifolius G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Liatris aspera G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Liatris pilosa G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Phlox subulata G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Polygonum tenue G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Pyrola americana G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Andropogon gerardii G1 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Danthonia spicata G1 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schizachyrium scoparium G1 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


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


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community occurs at high elevations (1190-1220 m [3900-4000 feet]) in the Blue Ridge uplands where the soils are thin and poorly developed over amphibole or hornblende bedrock. Examples occur on upper, south-facing slopes. The soils (Lithic Haplorthents in North Carolina) are droughty and thin and do not buffer the flora from the mafic character of the bedrock. They may, however, be seasonally wet, and the diagnostic flora may reflect the unique soil and moisture conditions. In North Carolina, the occurrence of continuous, generally flat mafic rock, as opposed to the irregular fragmented rock of most rocky summits, is characteristic of this community. This feature may restrict the flora to those species which can survive in shallow crevices or on thin veneers over smooth rock.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): M. Anderson
Element Description Edition Date: 19Feb2010
Element Description Author(s): M. Anderson and G.P. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 19Feb2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): G.P. Fleming

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.

  • 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., 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Poindexter, D. B., and Z. E. Murrell. 2008. Vascular flora of Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and environs, Ashe County, North Carolina. Castanea 73:283-327.

  • Rawinski, T. J., and T. F. Wieboldt. 1993. Classification and ecological interpretation of mafic glade vegetation on Buffalo Mountain, Floyd County, Virginia. Banisteria 2:3-10.

  • Schafale, M. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 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.


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