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Rhododendron carolinianum - Rhododendron catawbiense - Leiophyllum buxifolium Shrubland
Translated Name: Carolina Azalea - Catawba Rosebay - Sand-myrtle Shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Heath Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL007876
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This high-elevation shrubland occurs in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, on steep ridges, rock outcroppings, and landslides at elevations over 1676 m (5500 feet), in the Spruce-Fir zone. It has 25-100% 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, scattered mats of prostrate vegetation, and isolated clumps of herbaceous species. The most common shrubs are Rhododendron carolinianum, Rhododendron catawbiense, and Leiophyllum buxifolium, locally dominant in patches and forming a mosaic. Shrubs are less than 1 m tall on the steepest, rockiest, most exposed sites, and taller on gentle, more protected sites with greater soil development. Other associated shrubs with minor coverage may include Abies fraseri, Photinia pyrifolia (= Aronia arbutifolia), Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Diervilla sessilifolia, Ilex montana, Menziesia pilosa, Pieris floribunda, Prunus pensylvanica, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, and Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides. Under tall, dense shrubs there is little herb cover, but in more open shrublands, on steep cliffs with seepage, herbaceous species may grow in dense patches on ledges and crevices. Herbaceous species such as Calamagrostis cainii, Carex misera, Geum radiatum, Saxifraga michauxii, Solidago glomerata, and Trichophorum caespitosum (= Scirpus cespitosus) are associated with this community on the summits of Mount LeConte. Thick hummocks of lichens and mosses can occur on flatter sites, and scattered wind-sheared trees of Picea rubens or Abies fraseri are possible in some examples. High solar irradiation and desiccating winds, in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils, are key environmental factors influencing this community. Locally, vegetation is influenced by seepage areas on steep cliffs and ledges. It is known from areas of exposed slate on the steep ridges of Mount LeConte (Ramseur 1958).



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: The taxonomic distinctions between Rhododendron minus and Rhododendron carolinianum are currently uncertain. Some of what is treated here as Rhododendron carolinianum may prove to be Rhododendron minus. This association contains a portion of the former concept of Rhododendron carolinianum Shrubland (CEGL003816), which occurs at lower elevations in areas of quartzite and meta-arkose geology.

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
CEGL003814 Kalmia latifolia - Rhododendron catawbiense - (Gaylussacia baccata, Pieris floribunda, Vaccinium corymbosum) Shrubland
CEGL003816 Rhododendron carolinianum 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 (Slate Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Rhododendron carolinianum - Rhododendron catawbiense - Leiophyllum buxifolium Shrubland
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: 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, BR
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.
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 (16Feb1999)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: This community is limited in extent, occurring as scattered pockets in the southern Appalachian Mountains, possibly limited to the Great Smoky Mountains. This fragile community is threatened by heavy recreational use.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NC, TN
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This high-elevation shrubland occurs in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee.

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 association has 25-100% 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, scattered mats of prostrate vegetation, and isolated clumps of herbaceous species. The most common shrubs are Rhododendron carolinianum, Rhododendron catawbiense, and Leiophyllum buxifolium, locally dominant in patches and forming a mosaic. Shrubs are less than 1 m tall on the steepest, rockiest, most exposed sites, and taller on gentle, more protected sites with greater soil development. Other associated shrubs with minor coverage may include Abies fraseri, Photinia pyrifolia (= Aronia arbutifolia), Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Diervilla sessilifolia, Ilex montana, Menziesia pilosa, Pieris floribunda, Prunus pensylvanica, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium erythrocarpum, and Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides. Under tall, dense shrubs there is little herb cover, but in more open shrublands, on steep cliffs with seepage, herbaceous species may grow in dense patches on ledges and crevices. Herbaceous species such as Calamagrostis cainii, Carex misera, Geum radiatum, Saxifraga michauxii, Solidago glomerata, and Trichophorum caespitosum (= Scirpus cespitosus) are associated with this community on the summits of Mount LeConte. Thick hummocks of lichens and mosses can occur on flatter sites, and scattered wind-sheared trees of Picea rubens or Abies fraseri are possible in some examples.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies fraseri G1 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy      
 
 
Leiophyllum buxifolium G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Rhododendron carolinianum G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Rhododendron catawbiense G1 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Geum radiatum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Hypericum graveolens G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Prenanthes roanensis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Solidago glomerata G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Calamagrostis cainii G1 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex misera G1 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Abies fraseri
  (Fraser Fir)
G2  
Calamagrostis cainii
  (Cain's Reedgrass)
G1  
Carex misera
  (Wretched Sedge)
G3  
Geum radiatum
  (Spreading Avens)
G2 LE: Listed endangered
Hypericum graveolens
  (Mountain St. John's-wort)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  
Solidago glomerata
  (Skunk Goldenrod)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This association occurs on steep ridges, rock outcroppings, and landslides at elevations over 1676 m (5500 feet), in the Spruce-Fir zone.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: High solar irradiation and desiccating winds, in combination with the shallow, nutrient-poor soils, are key environmental factors influencing this community. Locally, vegetation is influenced by seepage areas on steep cliffs and ledges. It is known from areas of exposed slate on the steep ridges of Mount LeConte (Ramseur 1958).


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 15Mar2005
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson and T. Govus
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 16Feb1999
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): K.D. Patterson

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., 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.

  • NatureServe Ecology - Southeastern United States. No date. Unpublished data. NatureServe, Durham, NC.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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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