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Vittaria appalachiana - Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora - Houstonia serpyllifolia / Plagiochila spp. Cliff Vegetation
Translated Name: Appalachian Shoestring Fern - Little-flower Alumroot - Appalachian Bluet / Liverwort species Cliff Vegetation
Common Name: Southern Blue Ridge Spray Cliff
Unique Identifier: CEGL004302
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community includes herbaceous vegetation on rock substrates associated with the spray of cascades and waterfalls in the Southern Blue Ridge and adjacent portions of the Piedmont. It is found in southwestern North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, and northeastern Georgia, in the escarpment gorges of the Southern Blue Ridge and west of the escarpment in eastern Tennessee. It occurs on saturated rock outcrops, on nearly vertical rock surfaces and ledges, slopes, and crevices with shallow soils which are constantly saturated. Vegetative coverage is sparse to moderate with 50-75% unvegetated surface (bedrock) possible. Vegetation grows in cracks and on organic accumulations on ledges. It is characterized by a variable but unique assemblage of vascular herbs, algae, and bryophytes, many of which are endemic to this community. Composition of this community varies from location to location, in part due to its insular nature. Characteristic species include liverworts (Bazzania denudata, Conocephalum salebrosum (= Conocephalum conicum), Oxalis montana, Pellia epiphylla, Pellia neesiana, Plagiochila austini, Plagiochila caduciloba, Plagiochila sharpii ssp. sharpii, Plagiochila spp., Plagiochila sullivantii, Riccardia multifida); mosses (Bryocrumia vivicolor, Dichodontium pellucidum, Fissidens osmundioides, Hyophila involuta, Mnium marginatum, Oncophorus raui, Plagiomnium affine, Plagiomnium carolinianum, Pseudotaxiphyllum distichaceum, Sphagnum girgensohnii, Sphagnum quinquefarium, Thalictrum spp., Thamnobryum alleghaniense); ferns (Adiantum pedatum, Asplenium monanthes, Asplenium montanum, Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes, Cystopteris protrusa, Grammitis nimbata (= Micropolypodium nimbatum), Hymenophyllum tayloriae, Polypodium virginianum, Trichomanes boschianum, Trichomanes intricatum, Vittaria appalachiana); and other vascular species (Galax urceolata, Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Huperzia porophila, Hydrocotyle americana, Impatiens capensis, Phegopteris connectilis, Saxifraga careyana, Saxifraga caroliniana, Carex biltmoreana). This community varies in composition with no consistent dominant species. Nominal species are either constant or regional endemics. South and west of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, this association is less diverse than those occurrences in the central portion of the range.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Zartman and Pittillo (1998) found Thuidium delicatulum, Atrichum oerstedianum, Houstonia serpyllifolia, and Plagiomnium ciliare to be the most constant species in spray cliff communities sampled from the Chattooga River Watershed, in northern Georgia, western North Carolina, and northwestern South Carolina.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 6 - Open Rock Vegetation
Subclass 6.B - Temperate & Boreal Open Rock Vegetation
Formation 6.B.1 - Temperate & Boreal Cliff, Scree & Other Rock Vegetation
Division 6.B.1.Na - Eastern North American Temperate & Boreal Cliff, Scree & Rock Vegetation
Macrogroup Eastern North American Cliff & Rock Vegetation
Group Appalachian Cliff & Rock Vegetation
Alliance Appalachian Wet Cliff

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004301 Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora - Trichomanes boschianum - Thalictrum mirabile - (Ageratina luciae-brauniae, Solidago albopilosa) Cliff Vegetation



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 Spray Cliff Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
South Carolina Spray Cliff Undetermined   Nelson 1986
Tennessee Vittaria appalachiana - Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora - Houstonia serpyllifolia / Plagiochila spp. Herbaceous Vegetation Equivalent Certain TDNH unpubl. data


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: IID5a. Wet Acidic Cliff
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.
Related Concept Name: Spray Cliff
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.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.288 Southern Appalachian Spray Cliff


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (30Apr1998)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This community is very limited, known only from a few dozen occurrences, most of which are less than one acre in size; the largest are only about two acres in size. Most examples are in rugged montane areas and have escaped direct disturbance, though many may have been affected by logging or development on surrounding lands. Water-quality declines may have detrimental impacts on this very delicate and easily impacted community. Even limited human visitation has degraded some occurrences.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: GA, NC, SC, TN
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: It is found in southwestern North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, and northeastern Georgia, in the escarpment gorges of the Southern Blue Ridge and west of the escarpment in 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 consists of a variable collection of mosses, liverworts, algae, vascular herbs, and occasional shrubs (generally less than 10%), most of them requiring constantly moist substrate and very high relative humidity. Many of the typical species of this community are bryophytes and ferns disjunct from tropical regions, endemic bryophytes, and ferns disjunct from boreal regions. Shrubs include Rhododendron maximum and Kalmia latifolia. Herb species include Huperzia porophila, Asplenium montanum, Asplenium trichomanes, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Asplenium monanthes, Cystopteris protrusa, Polypodium appalachianum, Trichomanes boschianum, Grammitis nimbata, Vittaria appalachiana, Hymenophyllum tayloriae, Trichomanes intricatum, Phegopteris connectilis, Adiantum pedatum, Saxifraga careyana, Saxifraga caroliniana, Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora, Circaea alpina ssp. alpina, Impatiens capensis, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Hydrocotyle americana, Thalictrum spp., Oxalis montana, Carex biltmoreana, and Galax urceolata. Bryophyte species, many of them nearly or entirely limited to this community, include Sphagnum quinquefarium, Sphagnum girgensohnii, Plagiomnium carolinianum, Plagiomnium affine (= Mnium affine), Mnium marginatum, Pseudotaxiphyllum distichaceum (= Isopterygium distichaceum), Bryocrumia vivicolor, Flakea papillata (dominant and diagnostic), Hookeria acutifolia, Thamnobryum alleghaniense, Oncophorus raui, Hyophila involuta, Dichodontium pellucidum, Radula spp., Plagiochila sharpii, Plagiochila caduciloba, Plagiochila sullivantii, Plagiochila austini, Fissidens osmundioides, Bazzania denudata, Conocephalum salebrosum (= Conocephalum conicum), Pellia epiphylla, Pellia neesiana, and Riccardia multifida.

Examples vary considerably, depending on amount and dependability of spray, elevation, rock type, orientation of rocks, degree of shading, and past and present climate. Some examples have well-developed herb or bryophyte mats, while others are nearly barren. The most diverse occurrences are found in the Blue Ridge Escarpment gorges of Transylvania, Jackson, and Macon counties, North Carolina, and Oconee and Pickens counties, South Carolina.


Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Circaea alpina ssp. alpina G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Galax urceolata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Heuchera parviflora var. parviflora G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Heuchera parviflora var. puberula G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Houstonia serpyllifolia G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Hydrocotyle americana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Impatiens capensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Krigia montana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Micranthes careyana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Micranthes caroliniana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Oxalis montana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Thalictrum clavatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Adiantum pedatum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Asplenium monanthes G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Asplenium montanum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Asplenium rhizophyllum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Cystopteris protrusa G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Grammitis nimbata G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Huperzia porophila G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Hymenophyllum tayloriae G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Phegopteris connectilis G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Polypodium virginianum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Trichomanes boschianum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Trichomanes intricatum G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Vittaria appalachiana G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Carex biltmoreana G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Acrobolbus ciliatus G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Aneura sharpii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Bazzania denudata G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Conocephalum salebrosum G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Pellia epiphylla G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Pellia neesiana G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Plagiochila austinii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Plagiochila caduciloba G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Plagiochila sharpii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Plagiochila sharpii ssp. sharpii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular      
 
 
Plagiochila sullivantii G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Riccardia multifida G2 Liverwort/hornwort Nonvascular    
 
 
Bryocrumia vivicolor G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Dichodontium pellucidum G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Fissidens osmundioides G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Hookeria acutifolia G2 Moss Nonvascular  
 
 
Hyophila involuta G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Mnium marginatum G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Oncophorus raui G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Plagiomnium carolinianum G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Sphagnum girgensohnii G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Sphagnum quinquefarium G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Thamnobryum alleghaniense G2 Moss Nonvascular    
 
 
Flakea papillata G2 Lichen Nonvascular  
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Acrobolbus ciliatus
  (a liverwort)
G3?  
Aneura sharpii
  (a liverwort)
G1G2  
Bryocrumia vivicolor
  (Bryocrumia Moss)
G1G2  
Carex biltmoreana
  (Biltmore's Sedge)
G3  
Heuchera parviflora var. puberula
  (Little-flower Alumroot)
G4T3T4  
Hymenophyllum tayloriae
  (Taylor's Filmy Fern)
G2  
Krigia montana
  (False Dandelion)
G3  
Micranthes careyana
  (Carey's Saxifrage)
G3  
Micranthes caroliniana
  (Carolina Saxifrage)
G3  
Oncophorus raui
  (Oncophorus Moss)
G3  
Plagiochila austinii
  (a liverwort)
G3  
Plagiochila caduciloba
  (Gorge Leafy Liverwort)
G3  
Plagiochila sharpii
  (Sharp's Leafy Liverwort)
G2G4  
Plagiochila sharpii ssp. sharpii
  (Sharp's Leafy Liverwort)
G2G4T2T4  
Plagiochila sullivantii
  (Sullivant's Leafy Liverwort)
G2  
Plagiomnium carolinianum
  (Mountain Wavy-leaf Moss)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: The hydrology of this community is supplied by constant spray from waterfalls. The community consists of nearly vertical rock surfaces and ledges, slopes, and crevices with shallow soils which are constantly saturated by spray from adjacent waterfalls. Freezing occurs very rarely, and flooding damage very seldom or never. Small pockets or mats of mineral or organic matter are interspersed with bare rock, and may or may not have seepage as well.

These communities occur in unusually stable and equitable environments. The humidity is high, and moisture supply is essentially constant. Temperatures are moderated by water, rock, and sheltering from sun and wind, resulting in only rare freezes or high temperatures. Potential disturbances include extreme droughts or freezes that may result in some die-off of sensitive species. Floods or rock falls may damage some parts, but in general spray cliffs are well sheltered from physical disturbance. This community type is considered distinct from other cliff communities (even those wetted by seepage), because of the very distinctive flora, featuring many endemic or tropically disjunct pteridophytes and bryophytes. Spray cliffs differ from cliffs with seepage in having a more constant water supply, higher humidity in the air, and a more strongly moderated climate.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: These communities occur in unusually stable and equitable environments. The humidity is high and moisture supply is essentially constant. Temperatures are moderated by water, rock, and sheltering from sun and wind, resulting in only rare freezes or high temperatures. Potential disturbances include extreme droughts or freezes that may result in some die-off of sensitive species. Floods or rock falls may damage some parts, but in general this community is well sheltered from physical disturbance.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 01Jan1994
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Apr1998
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.

  • Anderson, L. E., H. A. Crum, and W. R. Buck. 1990. List of mosses of North America north of Mexico. The Bryologist 93:448-499.

  • Dellinger, B. 1992. Natural areas survey, Nantahala National Forest, Highlands Ranger District: Site survey reports. Unpublished data. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Farrar, D. R. 1998. The tropical flora of rockhouse cliff formations in the eastern United States. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 125(2):91-108.

  • Nelson, J. B. 1986. The natural communities of South Carolina: Initial classification and description. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Columbia, SC. 55 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.

  • 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.

  • Stotler, R., and B. Crandall-Stotler. 1977. A checklist of liverworts and hornworts of North America. The Bryologist 80:405-428.

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

  • Weakley, A. S., and M. P. Schafale. 1994. Non-alluvial wetlands of the Southern Blue Ridge: Diversity in a threatened ecosystem. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 77:359-383.

  • 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.

  • Wharton, C. H. 1978. The natural environments of Georgia. Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta. 227 pp.

  • Zartman, C. E., and J. D. Pittillo. 1998. Spray cliff communities of the Chattooga Basin. Castanea 63(3):217-240.


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