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Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Pellaea atropurpurea Cliff Woodland
Translated Name: Northern White-cedar / Bristleleaf Sedge - Purple Cliffbrake Cliff Woodland
Common Name: Appalachian Northern White-cedar Cliff Woodland
Unique Identifier: CEGL002596
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This white-cedar cliff woodland type is found in the Appalachian and Allegheny Plateau region of the United States. The type extends to near the southern limit of Thuja occidentalis, in the southeastern Highland Rim of Kentucky and Tennessee, where it tends to increase its distinctiveness from more northern communities. Stands occur on north-facing bluffs or cliffs of dolomite or limestone, where dip slopes provide slight seepage and maintain humidity higher than the regional average, or provide a cooler-than-normal microclimate. In Ohio it occurs as pure isolated patches on steep calcareous cliffs. It is also found as mixed stands on the uplands above the cliffs. Stands are dominated by coniferous trees but can have a significant amount of deciduous species. The structure of this association can vary from a stunted, very open canopy of Thuja to a mixed conifer-deciduous woodland approaching a forest structure. Canopy species other than Thuja occidentalis vary with geography. The most abundant tree species are Thuja occidentalis, Acer saccharum, Tsuga canadensis, Juniperus virginiana, Quercus alba, Quercus muehlenbergii, and Quercus rubra. Other associates include Celtis occidentalis and Ulmus rubra in more northern stands. Shrub and small tree species include Cercis canadensis, Cornus florida, Hydrangea arborescens, Ostrya virginiana, and Rhus aromatica. Closed-canopy stands have very few vascular species in the lower strata, while stands with broken canopies contain scattered shrubs and a substantial number of herbaceous species. Composition of the herbaceous and shrub strata can also vary due to seepage influence. Composition is quite variable, but some of the most constant herbaceous plants include Asarum canadense, Carex eburnea, Cystopteris bulbifera, and Hepatica nobilis var. acuta (= Hepatica acutiloba). In Kentucky, sites are small (0.1-1 acre), with scattered Thuja occidentalis codominating with Acer saccharum, Fraxinus americana, Ostrya virginiana, and Philadelphus hirsutus. Other associated species include Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, Cercis canadensis var. canadensis, Pachysandra procumbens, Hamamelis virginiana, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Solidago flexicaulis, Solidago sphacelata, Symphyotrichum cordifolium (= Aster cordifolius), and Dioscorea quaternata. Examples occurring along the C&O Canal in the Maryland Ridge and Valley have rather sparse vegetation, with plants growing from crevices or on shallow soil on ledges. Woody vegetation is composed of stunted trees, with Thuja occidentalis, Ostrya virginiana, Ulmus rubra, and Acer saccharum most frequent. Hydrangea arborescens is a characteristic and frequent shrub, with Ribes cynosbati less constant. Scrambling vines of Toxicodendron radicans and/or Parthenocissus quinquefolia are often present. The most frequent herbaceous species are Cystopteris bulbifera, Sedum ternatum, Aquilegia canadensis, Asplenium trichomanes, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Eurybia divaricata (= Aster divaricatus), Heuchera americana, Arabis laevigata, Arabis hirsuta, Pilea pumila, Polymnia canadensis, Solidago caesia, and various herbaceous species of shaded, rocky limestone forests. Pellaea atropurpurea is occasionally present but is absent from many examples and is more characteristic of xeric calcareous cliffs in Maryland.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This type is simply defined by the presence of white-cedar or mixed white-cedar - hardwoods, and either forest or woodland canopy; hence all four physiognomic categories fall under this one type. Small-scale occurrences are worth documenting. The relationship between this type and Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea Forest (CEGL006021) should be examined and clarified. Stands on lower slopes often grade into swamps, especially those dominated by Thuja occidentalis. There are also many similarities between this vegetation and that in the Thuja occidentalis Acidic Forest Alliance (A3252). In the Ridge and Valley of Virginia, Thuja occidentalis communities occur in two situations: on rocky bluffs with admixtures of hardwood species and on mesic slopes with Tsuga canadensis and Pinus strobus (G. Fleming pers. comm. 1999). Southern Thuja stands are more genetically diverse than northern populations (Walker 1987). One Tennessee site is a proposed State Natural Area, Window Cliffs. This association is peripheral in the Southern Blue Ridge of Tennessee.

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-Northeastern Oak - Hardwood - Pine Forest & Woodland
Group Northeastern Chinquapin Oak - Red-cedar Alkaline Forest & Woodland
Alliance Appalachian White-cedar Limestone Cliff Woodland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006021 Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea Forest
CEGL006206 Tsuga canadensis - Betula alleghaniensis - Prunus serotina / Rhododendron maximum Forest
CEGL008426 Thuja occidentalis - Pinus strobus - Tsuga canadensis / Carex eburnea Cliff Woodland



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
Maryland Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Pellaea atropurpurea Woodland Equivalent Certain Harrison 2011
Ohio Arbor Vitae-Mixedwood Forest Equivalent   ONHD unpubl. data
Tennessee Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Pellaea atropurpurea Woodland Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Pellaea atropurpurea Woodland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.
Related Concept Name: Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Sedum glaucophyllum Shrubland
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Fleming, G. P. 1999. Plant communities of limestone, dolomite, and other calcareous substrates in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-4. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. Unpublished report submitted to the USDA Forest Service. 218 pp. plus appendices.
Related Concept Name: Thuja occidentalis / Carex eburnea - Sedum glaucophyllum Woodland
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: F - Finer
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: Arbor vitae forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Braun, E. L. 1928. The vegetation of the Mineral Springs region of Adams County, Ohio. The Ohio State University Bulletin, Volume 32, No. 30. Ohio Biological Survey, Bulletin 15. 3(5):383-517.
Related Concept Name: Basic Cliff
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.
Related Concept Name: Mountain / Piedmont Calcareous Cliff
Relationship: B - Broader
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]

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.356 Southern Interior Calcareous Cliff
CES202.603 North-Central Appalachian Circumneutral Cliff and Talus
CES202.690 Central Interior Calcareous Cliff and Talus


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2G3 (04Aug1998)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: There are probably fewer than 50 occurrences of this community rangewide. It is restricted to north-facing calcareous bedrock cliffs and summits in the Ridge and Valley section of the central Appalachians. About 15 occurrences are known in Virginia and West Virginia, with a total acreage of about 120 acres. It is also known from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Maryland. Due to their location on small ledges of steep cliffs, these communities are difficult to survey, and few field surveys have been conducted. This community has probably always been rare, and there are no imminent threats. In Ohio, the type has apparently always been restricted to a few stands.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: KY, MD, OH, TN, VA, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This white-cedar cliff woodland type is found in the Appalachian and Allegheny Plateau regions of the United States.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Division
Province Name: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province
Province Code: 222 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Interior Low Plateau, Highland Rim Section
Section Code: 222E Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Interior Low Plateau, Bluegrass Section
Section Code: 222F Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Central Till Plains, Beech-Maple Section
Section Code: 222H Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
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
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: Northern Ridge and Valley Section
Section Code: M221A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Allegheny Mountains Section
Section Code: M221B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Stands are dominated by coniferous trees, but with a significant amount of deciduous species. The most abundant tree species are Thuja occidentalis, Acer saccharum, Tsuga canadensis, Juniperus virginiana, Quercus alba, Quercus muehlenbergii, and Quercus rubra. Other associates include Quercus coccinea and Liriodendron tulipifera in more southern stands, and Celtis occidentalis and Ulmus rubra in more northern stands. Where soils are deeper, hardwoods generally do better. Shrub and small tree species include Cercis canadensis, Cornus florida, Hydrangea arborescens, Ostrya virginiana, and Rhus aromatica. Closed-canopy stands have very few vascular species in the lower strata, while stands with broken canopies contain scattered shrubs and a substantial number of herbaceous species. Composition is quite variable, but some of the most constant herbaceous plants include Asarum canadense, Carex eburnea, Cystopteris bulbifera, and Hepatica nobilis var. acuta (= Hepatica acutiloba) (Anderson 1996). In Kentucky, Thuja occidentalis occurs within the Cumberland River drainage in the southeastern Highland Rim region. These woodlands are associated with steep, rocky, limestone, mostly north- and east-facing slopes along permanent streams. Some stands are associated with cold-air drainages. These sites are small (0.1-1 acre), with scattered Thuja occidentalis codominating with Acer saccharum, Fraxinus americana, Ostrya virginiana, and Philadelphus hirsutus. Other associated species include Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, Cercis canadensis var. canadensis, Pachysandra procumbens, Hamamelis virginiana, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Solidago flexicaulis, Solidago sphacelata, Symphyotrichum cordifolium (= Aster cordifolius), and Dioscorea quaternata.

This vegetation type is represented in Virginia by open woodlands and sparse scrub occurring on nearly vertical limestone cliffs and their adjacent uplands above. Because these habitats cannot be fully accessed or plot-sampled, composition is described from qualitative examination of two stands. The dominant woody species is Thuja occidentalis. In the observed stands, specimens of this tree are shrubby and mostly <6 m tall. Associated woody species include Hydrangea arborescens and stunted individuals of Celtis tenuifolia, Cercis canadensis, Physocarpus opulifolius, Tilia americana (including both var. americana and var. heterophylla), and Ulmus rubra. Vines of Parthenocissus quinquefolia and Toxicodendron radicans are abundant climbers on rock faces at both sites. Carex eburnea is the most conspicuous, if not the most abundant, herbaceous species, forming dense turfs on ledges. Constant herbs in the two stands are Aquilegia canadensis, Asplenium resiliens, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Carex eburnea, Cystopteris bulbifera, Draba ramosissima, Eurybia divaricata (= Aster divaricatus), Pellaea atropurpurea, and Sedum glaucophyllum. Of these, Eurybia divaricata, Cystopteris bulbifera, and Sedum glaucophyllum are relatively abundant locally.


Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Thuja occidentalis G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Hydrangea arborescens G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Paxistima canbyi G2 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Asplenium rhizophyllum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Cystopteris bulbifera G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Sedum glaucophyllum G2 Succulent forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex eburnea G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Paxistima canbyi
  (Canby's Mountain-lover)
G2  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community is found primarily on steep calcareous cliffs, as well as on the uplands above the cliffs. The bedrock is typically limestone or dolomite (Braun 1928, Anderson 1996). Soils are shallow, dry, and calcareous, and plants often root in crevices or on narrow ledges, or adjacent clifftops and talus. In Ohio this woodland community occurs as pure, isolated patches on steep calcareous cliffs. It is also found as mixed stands on the uplands above the cliffs. The site of a glacial relict stand in Ohio is maintained by seepage springs from underground limestone formations (Kangas 1989). In Kentucky Thuja occidentalis occurs within the Cumberland River drainage in the southeastern Highland Rim region. These woodlands are associated with steep, rocky, limestone, mostly north- and east-facing slopes along permanent streams. Some stands are associated with cold-air drainages.

In Virginia the type is evidently confined to north-facing cliffs and escarpments produced by incision of high-order streams and rivers into carbonate bedrock of the Ridge and Valley province. Often situated on steep cut-slopes on the outside bends of stream meanders, habitats are more-or-less open but have limited solar exposure because of their north aspects. Microtopography is rugged and complex, encompassing sheer faces, ledges, and crevices of variable configuration. Slopes range from 40-90 and exposed bedrock constitutes >90% of the surface substrate. Substrate moisture regime is generally subxeric but is ameliorated to some degree by frequent zones of ephemeral seepage and by sheltered north aspects that slow evaporation.


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): J. Drake, mod. M. Pyne, mod. G. Fleming and P. Coulling
Element Description Edition Date: 30May2007
Element Description Author(s): J. Drake, M. Pyne, G. Fleming, P. Coulling, C. Lea
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02Oct2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): Midwestern 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
  • Anderson, D. M. 1996. The vegetation of Ohio: Two centuries of change. Draft. Ohio Biological Survey.

  • Braun, E. L. 1928. The vegetation of the Mineral Springs region of Adams County, Ohio. The Ohio State University Bulletin, Volume 32, No. 30. Ohio Biological Survey, Bulletin 15. 3(5):383-517.

  • Fleming, G. P. 1999. Plant communities of limestone, dolomite, and other calcareous substrates in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-4. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. Unpublished report submitted to the USDA Forest Service. 218 pp. plus appendices.

  • 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. 2009b. Classification of selected Virginia montane wetland groups. In-house analysis, December 2009. 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.

  • 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.

  • Fleming, Gary P. Personal communication. Ecologist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA.

  • Harrison, J. W. 2011. The natural communities of Maryland: 2011 working list of ecological community groups and community types. Unpublished report. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis. 33 pp.

  • Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

  • Kangas, P. 1989. Comparison of two northern white cedar (Thuja) forests. The Michigan Botanist 28:59-68.

  • Midwestern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Minneapolis, MN.

  • ONHD [Ohio Natural Heritage Database]. No date. Vegetation classification of Ohio and unpublished data. Ohio Natural Heritage Database, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Columbus.

  • Palmer-Ball, B., Jr., J. J. N. Campbell, M. E. Medley, D. T. Towles, J. R. MacGregor, and R. R. Cicerello. 1988. Cooperative inventory of endangered, threatened, sensitive and rare species, Daniel Boone National Forest, Somerset Ranger District. USDA Forest Service, Daniel Boone National Forest, Berea, KY. 244 pp.

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

  • VDNH [Virginia Division of Natural Heritage]. 2003. The natural communities of Virginia: Hierarchical classification of community types. Unpublished document, working list of November 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Ecology Group, Richmond.

  • Walker, G. L. 1987. Ecology and population biology of Thuja occidentalis L. in its southern disjunct range. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 160 pp.


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