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Kalmia latifolia - Gaylussacia baccata - Vaccinium (angustifolium, pallidum) - Menziesia pilosa Shrubland
Translated Name: Mountain Laurel - Black Huckleberry - (Lowbush Blueberry, Blue Ridge Blueberry) - Minniebush Shrubland
Common Name: Central Appalachian Heath Barrens
Unique Identifier: CEGL003939
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This shrubland community is restricted to high-elevation, acidic bedrock exposures in the Central Appalachians of eastern West Virginia and northwestern Virginia. It occurs on upper-slope and ridgetop outcrops, pavements, and clifftops of acidic bedrock (quartzite and granitic) at elevations from about 950 to 1460 m (3100-4800 feet). Surface cover of bedrock and loose boulders averages about 80% in plot samples, and soil development is minimal. These habitats have distinctly xeric moisture regimes and are subject to year-round microclimatic extremes, including high solar exposure and temperatures in summer, high winds, periodic ice, and low winter temperatures. Kalmia latifolia, Gaylussacia baccata, and Vaccinium spp. are codominant shrubs in variable proportions, with Vaccinium angustifolium the principal species of high-elevation sites (all >1200 m [4000 feet]) in West Virginia and Vaccinium pallidum the characteristic species of somewhat lower-elevation (950-1200 [3100-4000 feet]) sites in Virginia. Other woody plants occurring frequently in the type include Menziesia pilosa, Sorbus americana, Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Gaultheria procumbens, Hamamelis virginiana, Prunus pensylvanica, Ilex montana, Nemopanthus mucronatus (West Virginia only), and extremely stunted (<3 m tall) Betula alleghaniensis. Herbaceous plants are typically very sparse, but occasional dense colonies of Deschampsia flexuosa occur on open ledges with thin mats of moss and organic matter. The vegetation is floristically quite depauperate and plot-sampled stands have a mean species richness of only 15 vascular taxa.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Classification of this type is based on analysis of 13 plot samples from Virginia and West Virginia. This community has some affinities to various Southern Appalachian heath bald communities in floristics, structure, and general edaphic conditions, but lacks many of the characteristic Southern Appalachian species such as Rhododendron carolinianum, Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron calendulaceum, Leucothoe recurva, Pieris floribunda, and Leiophyllum buxifolium. Species of northern affinity not found in Southern Appalachian heath balds (Nemopanthus mucronatus, Vaccinium angustifolium, Lycopodium annotinum, Aralia hispida, Carex polymorpha, Oryzopsis asperifolia) further differentiate this community, both from Southern Appalachian heath bald communities and from Kentucky examples of Kalmia latifolia - Gaylussacia baccata-dominated vegetation.

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 North-Central Appalachian Acidic Scrub & Grassland
Alliance Lowbush Blueberry - Blue Ridge Blueberry Rocky Heath

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL008470 Kalmia latifolia - Gaylussacia (baccata, brachycera) Cumberland Shrubland



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Kalmia latifolia - Vaccinium pallidum Shrubland [Provisional]
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, K. D. Patterson, and K. M. McCoy. 2004. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 04-01. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dnh/ncintro.htm]
Related Concept Name: Central Appalachian Heath Bald
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Fleming, G. P. 1985. A study of the dwarf pine forest and Carex polymorpha Muhl. on Panther Knob, West Virginia. Final report prepared for The Nature Conservancy, West Virginia Field Office. 149 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: Mountain laurel-black huckleberry summit
Relationship: ? - Undetermined
Reference: CAP [Central Appalachian Forest Working Group]. 1998. Central Appalachian Working group discussions. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.600 Central Appalachian Pine-Oak Rocky Woodland
CES202.601 North-Central Appalachian Acidic Cliff and Talus


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (18Oct2006)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This small-patch community is restricted to high-elevation, acidic bedrock exposures in the Central Appalachians of eastern West Virginia and northwestern Virginia. There are fewer than 10 known occurrences, and the potential range and habitat of this community are both extremely limited. In addition, at least three of the occurrences are on national park land and are located at popular destinations for hikers, which has lead to significant trampling impacts and soil mat removal.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA, WV
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: The type is known from scattered sites in the Northern Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia and northwestern Virginia and Allegheny Plateau physiographic province in Maryland.

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: 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: Total vegetation cover varies from <25% to >75% and consists of dense shrub thickets and small herbaceous mats among the exposed rocks. Kalmia latifolia, Gaylussacia baccata, and Vaccinium spp. are codominant shrubs in variable proportions, with Vaccinium angustifolium the principal species of high-elevation sites (all >1200 m [4000 feet]) in West Virginia and Vaccinium pallidum the characteristic species of somewhat lower-elevation (950-1200 m [3100-4000 feet]) sites in Virginia. Patch-dominance of these ericads may occur in pronounced zonation or in extremely dense, stratified mixtures. Other woody plants occurring frequently in the type include Menziesia pilosa, Sorbus americana, Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Photinia pyrifolia (West Virginia only), Gaultheria procumbens, Hamamelis virginiana, Prunus pensylvanica, Rubus hispidus (West Virginia only), Ilex montana, Nemopanthus mucronatus (West Virginia only), and extremely stunted (<3 m tall) Betula alleghaniensis. Additional stunted trees occasionally found in this type at low cover include Acer rubrum, Amelanchier laevis, Amelanchier sanguinea, Betula lenta, Picea rubens (West Virginia only), Pinus rigida, Pinus pungens, Rhododendron prinophyllum, Quercus rubra, and Tsuga canadensis. Herbaceous plants are typically very sparse, but occasional dense colonies of Deschampsia flexuosa occur on open ledges with thin mats of moss and organic matter. Other herbs that are sometimes important in this type are Aralia nudicaulis, Lysimachia quadrifolia, Maianthemum canadense, Polypodium appalachianum, Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum, Carex pensylvanica, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, Melampyrum lineare, Lycopodium annotinum, Lycopodium dendroideum (West Virginia only), Polygonum cilinode, Oryzopsis asperifolia, Carex polymorpha, Aralia hispida, and Paronychia argyrocoma. Species richness of 13 Virginia and West Virginia plot samples ranges from 5 to 22 taxa per 100 square meters (mean = 15).

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Kalmia latifolia G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Gaylussacia baccata G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Vaccinium angustifolium G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Vaccinium pallidum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling  
 
 
Aralia hispida G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Minuartia groenlandica G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Carex polymorpha G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Oryzopsis asperifolia G2 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Carex polymorpha
  (Variable Sedge)
G3  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: Stands occur on nearly level to steeply sloping (>30) outcrops, pavements, and clifftops of acidic bedrock, including Tuscarora quartzite, charnockite, leucocharnockite, Old Rag granite, and sandstones of the Allegheny Formation and Pottsville group. Habitats are situated on upper slopes and summits with south to northwest aspects, at elevations ranging from about 950 to 1460 m (3100-4800 feet) in the Central Appalachians. Surface cover of bedrock and loose boulders averages about 80% in plot samples, and lichen cover on exposed rock surfaces is generally >75%. Soil development is minimal, consisting of localized crevices and mats of disintegrated rock and organic matter. These habitats have distinctly xeric moisture regimes and are subject to year-round microclimatic extremes, including high solar exposure and temperatures in summer, high winds, periodic ice, and low winter temperatures.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: There are few threats to this vegetation at remote sites. However, several Virginia occurrences on public lands (e.g., Old Rag Mountain and Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park) have been significantly impacted by heavy trampling at high-elevation overlooks near trails. In addition, susceptible lichen species may have been eliminated from these sites due to air pollution, but no baseline data are available to document this.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): A.S. Weakley, mod. G.P. Fleming and J. Vanderhorst
Element Description Edition Date: 26Oct2011
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 18Oct2006
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
  • CAP [Central Appalachian Forest Working Group]. 1998. Central Appalachian Working group discussions. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.

  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • Fleming, G. P. 1985. A study of the dwarf pine forest and Carex polymorpha Muhl. on Panther Knob, West Virginia. Final report prepared for The Nature Conservancy, West Virginia Field Office. 149 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., A. Belden, Jr., K. E. Heffernan, A. C. Chazal, N. E. Van Alstine, and E. M. Butler. 2007a. A natural heritage inventory of the rock outcrops of Shenandoah National Park. Unpublished report submitted to the National Park Service. Natural Heritage Technical Report 07-01. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 433 pp. plus appendixes.

  • 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. M. McCoy. 2004. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. Second approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 04-01. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dnh/ncintro.htm]

  • 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. 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.

  • Young, J., G. Fleming, P. Townsend, and J. Foster. 2006. Vegetation of Shenandoah National Park in relation to environmental gradients. Final Report (v.1.1). Research technical report prepared for USDI, National Park Service. USGS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program. 92 pp. plus appendices.

  • Young, J., G. Fleming, W. Cass, and C. Lea. 2009. Vegetation of Shenandoah National Park in relation to environmental gradients, Version 2.0. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2009/142. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 389 pp.


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