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Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland
Translated Name: Catawba Rosebay Shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Catawba Rosebay Heath Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL003818
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This evergreen shrubland occurs at the highest elevations, typically 1500-1980 m (5000-6500 feet), in the southern Appalachian Mountains on steep, exposed slopes, ridges, and rock outcrops. It occurs primarily in the northern portion of the Southern Appalachians, north of the Asheville Basin, in mountain ranges lacking Pieris floribunda and Rhododendron carolinianum. Greater than 75% of the shrub cover is composed of evergreen species, and the predominant shrub is Rhododendron catawbiense. Scattered trees contribute less than 1% cover, typically Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Abies fraseri, and Picea rubens. Small openings in the shrub canopy are dominated by rock or herbs. Herb cover beneath the shrub canopy is absent or very sparse (<5%) and may include Gaultheria procumbens, Galax urceolata, Epigaea repens, Medeola virginiana, Trillium undulatum, Melampyrum lineare, Dryopteris campyloptera, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Viola spp., and Carex debilis var. rudgei. Mosses may be locally dominant at the base of Rhododendron clumps, often Polytrichum commune or bryophytes from adjacent Picea - Abies communities. This community can result from secondary succession after fire or logging or can occur as a topo-edaphic climax on steep, exposed sites. Occurrences may range in size from 0.5-200 hectares. This community can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, montane grass-dominated communities, or forests dominated by Picea rubens, Abies fraseri, and northern hardwood species such as Fagus grandifolia, Acer saccharum, and Betula alleghaniensis.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This community can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, montane grass-dominated communities, or forests dominated by Picea rubens, Abies fraseri, and northern hardwood species such as Fagus grandifolia, Acer saccharum, and Betula alleghaniensis. A more open, low-growing, evergreen shrubland, Leiophyllum buxifolium Dwarf-shrubland (CEGL003951), is restricted to areas where Leiophyllum buxifolium dominates areas greater than 0.1 hectare. However, the species may be locally dominant as inclusions in this shrubland. Similar, but floristically different, ericaceous shrublands occur in the Mahoosuc Mountains of Maine (Fahey 1976). Exemplary occurrences are known from the Roan Mountain Massif, North Carolina and Tennessee, and Mount Rogers, Virginia.

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
CEGL003891 Alnus viridis ssp. crispa / Carex pensylvanica 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 (Catawba Rhododendron Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Rhododendron catawbiense - Menziesia pilosa Subtype
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: Sorbus americana / Menziesia pilosa - Vaccinium erythrocarpum - Rubus canadensis Subtype
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: BR Shrub Bald
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.
Related Concept Name: Heath Bald
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Pyne, M. 1994. Tennessee natural communities. Unpublished document. Tennessee Department of Conservation, Ecology Service Division, Nashville. 7 pp.
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 (Catawba Rhododendron Subtype)
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. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
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.
Related Concept Name: Southern Appalachian Shrub / Grass Bald
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.

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: G2 (31Dec1997)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This community occurs at the highest elevations (1500-1980 m [5000-6500 feet]) of the southern Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Although there are hundreds of occurrences, the total acreage of this community is limited since it occurs as scattered islands of shrubland at the highest elevations. Since this community generally occurs in inaccessible, well-protected sites, it is not highly threatened. Occurrences in areas of high recreation use may be threatened by trampling, while natural succession may threaten other sites.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: GApotentially occurs, NC, TN, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs primarily in the northern portion of the Southern Appalachians, north of the Asheville Basin, in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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: Greater than 75% of the shrub cover is composed of evergreen species, and the predominant shrub is Rhododendron catawbiense, which forms a continuous, dense shrub canopy from 1-4 m tall. On the most rugged, windswept sites, shrubs are stunted and gnarled. The occurrence and relative abundance of associated shrub species vary with elevation and adjacent vegetation. Scattered trees contribute less than 1% cover, typically Photinia melanocarpa (= Aronia melanocarpa), Abies fraseri, and Picea rubens. Small openings in the shrub canopy are dominated by rock or herbs. Herb cover beneath the shrub canopy is absent or very sparse (<5%) and may include Gaultheria procumbens, Galax urceolata, Epigaea repens, Medeola virginiana, Trillium undulatum, Melampyrum lineare, Dryopteris campyloptera, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Viola spp., and Carex debilis var. rudgei. Mosses may be locally dominant at the base of Rhododendron clumps, often Polytrichum commune or bryophytes from adjacent Picea - Abies communities. This community contains species endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains, including Abies fraseri, Fothergilla major, Galax urceolata, Geum radiatum, Houstonia purpurea var. montana, Houstonia serpyllifolia, Hudsonia montana, Hypericum buckleii, Liatris helleri, Lilium grayi, Menziesia pilosa, Pieris floribunda, Prenanthes roanensis, Rhododendron vaseyi, Rhododendron carolinianum, Photinia melanocarpa, and Vaccinium erythrocarpum. Species occurring disjunct from their typical northern distributions include Alnus viridis ssp. crispa, Dryopteris campyloptera, Picea rubens, and Vaccinium corymbosum.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Abies fraseri G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy      
 
 
Picea rubens G2 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy      
 
 
Sorbus americana G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Alnus viridis ssp. crispa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Aronia melanocarpa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Fothergilla major G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Menziesia pilosa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Rhododendron vaseyi G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Vaccinium corymbosum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Vaccinium erythrocarpum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Vaccinium simulatum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Pieris floribunda G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Rhododendron carolinianum G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)      
 
 
Rhododendron catawbiense G2 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Hypericum buckleii G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Hudsonia montana G2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Galax urceolata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Geum radiatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Houstonia purpurea var. montana G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Houstonia serpyllifolia G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Liatris helleri G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lilium grayi G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Prenanthes roanensis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Xerophyllum asphodeloides G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Dryopteris campyloptera G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) 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  
Fothergilla major
  (Mountain Witch-alder)
G3  
Geum radiatum
  (Spreading Avens)
G2 LE: Listed endangered
Houstonia purpurea var. montana
  (Mountain Bluet)
G5T2 LE: Listed endangered
Hudsonia montana
  (Mountain Golden-heather)
G1 LT: Listed threatened
Hypericum buckleii
  (Blue Ridge St. John's-wort)
G3  
Liatris helleri
  (Heller's Blazingstar)
G2Q LT: Listed threatened
Lilium grayi
  (Gray's Lily)
G3  
Prenanthes roanensis
  (Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root)
G3  
Rhododendron vaseyi
  (Pink-shell Azalea)
G3  

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


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This evergreen shrubland occurs at the highest elevations, typically 1500-1980 m (5000-6500 feet), in the southern Appalachian Mountains on steep, exposed slopes, ridges, and rock outcrops. It occurs primarily in the northern portion of the Southern Appalachians, north of the Asheville Basin, in mountain ranges lacking Pieris floribunda and Rhododendron carolinianum. This community can result from secondary succession after fire or logging or can occur as a topo-edaphic climax on steep, exposed sites. Occurrences may range in size from 0.5-200 hectares. This community can grade into or occur adjacent to high-elevation rock outcrop communities, montane grass-dominated communities, or forests dominated by Picea rubens, Abies fraseri, and northern hardwood species such as Fagus grandifolia, Acer saccharum, and Betula alleghaniensis.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Windfall, landslides, and small, localized and lightning-caused fires are important in the establishment and maintenance of this community. This community can result from secondary succession after fire or logging, in which case it is unstable and will eventually succeed to a forest community with a Rhododendron understory (e.g., Picea rubens - (Abies fraseri) / (Rhododendron catawbiense, Rhododendron maximum) Forest (CEGL007130)). When this community occurs on steep, exposed sites, where wind exposure, soil infertility, and drought maintain a scrubby shrub community, it is a topo-edaphic climax. According to Gant (1978) Rhododendron catawbiense heath balds represent stable communities that employ allelopathic interference to arrest succession and maintain themselves.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): K.D. Patterson
Element Description Edition Date: 09Sep1994
Element Description Author(s): K.D. Patterson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 31Dec1997
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): Southeastern 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
  • 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.

  • Ambrose, J. 1990a. Georgia's natural communities--A preliminary list. Unpublished document. Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory. 5 pp.

  • Brown, D. M. 1941. Vegetation of Roan Mountain: A phytosociological and successional study. Ecological Monographs 11:61-97.

  • Fahey, T. J. 1976. The vegetation of a heath bald in Maine. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 103:23-29.

  • 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.

  • Gant, R. E. 1978. The role of allelopathic interference in the maintenance of Southern Appalachian heath balds. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 123 pp.

  • 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.

  • Rawinski, T. J. 1992. A classification of Virginia's indigenous biotic communities: Vegetated terrestrial, palustrine, and estuarine community classes. Unpublished document. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report No. 92-21. Richmond, VA. 25 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. 1998b. Fourth approximation guide. High mountain communities. March 1998 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. 2002. Fourth approximation guide. Mountain communities. November 2002 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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