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Quercus (phellos, michauxii) / Ilex opaca var. opaca / Clethra alnifolia / Woodwardia areolata Wet Forest
Translated Name: (Willow Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak) / American Holly / Coastal Sweet-pepperbush / Netted Chainfern Wet Forest
Common Name: Chesapeake Bay Nonriverine Wet Hardwood Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL004644
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association occurs in the central and northern Virginia Coastal Plain on extensive, flat terraces and very wide, ancient floodplains that are no longer subject to alluvial processes. Its hydrology is seasonally to nearly permanently saturated, with occasional ponding or groundwater sheetflows, and is maintained by a high water table rather than riverine or estuarine flooding. The overstory of relatively undisturbed examples contain variable mixtures of hydrophytic oaks, most commonly Quercus phellos, Quercus pagoda, and Quercus michauxii. Associated canopy species varying from site to site can include Quercus alba, Quercus palustris, Quercus lyrata, Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, Pinus taeda, Nyssa sylvatica, and Fraxinus pennsylvanica. The subcanopy layers are usually dominated by Ilex opaca var. opaca and also contain Magnolia virginiana and recruitment of the overstory trees. The shrub layer varies from open to dense. It most characteristically contains Clethra alnifolia, Leucothoe racemosa, Ilex verticillata, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium fuscatum, Vaccinium formosum, Viburnum dentatum, Rhododendron viscosum, and Viburnum nudum var. nudum. The herb layer is also highly variable. Some stands have a rather sparse herbaceous flora, with scattered colonies and individuals of Woodwardia areolata, Osmunda cinnamomea, Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis, Woodwardia virginica, Saururus cernuus, and various sedges. Others have a relatively dense graminoid-dominated herb layer with variable patch-dominance by Chasmanthium laxum, Carex debilis var. debilis, Carex intumescens, Carex seorsa, Carex lonchocarpa, and more rarely, Carex bullata or Carex striata var. brevis. Many stands of this association have been degraded by cutting or ditching, and extensive areas of suitable habitat have been lost to agriculture, hydrologic alterations, and conversion of hardwood forests to silvicultural pine plantations.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Classification of this type is based on intensive field investigation by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program (VDNH) and analysis of a 1250-plot regional dataset assembled for the NCR and Mid-Atlantic national parks vegetation mapping projects. In that analysis, this association was represented by 21 plots from the northern Coastal Plain of Virginia. The original concept of this vegetation was based on field work by Bill Moorhead (VDNH), who investigated several of the large, elliptical depressions that dot the flat landscape in Accomack County. There are three plots that document this vegetation at two sites: "Dahl Swamp" and "The Lake" (G. Fleming pers. comm.). The stands apparently cover many hectares and are associated with slight depressions with drainage impeded by an impermeable clay layer about half a meter below the soil surface. The habitat apparently has a seasonally high water table but ponds water only intermittently or for short periods. Most of the areas seen by Bill Moorhead had been logged some decades ago and had a very open (woodland-like) physiognomy due to poor restocking of canopy trees. However, he also obtained information from local people that one of the areas was known historically as "savanna land," suggesting that fire and hydrology maintained a woodland physiognomy in the depressions (G. Fleming pers. comm.).

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.3 - Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest
Division 1.B.3.Nb - Southeastern North American Flooded & Swamp Forest
Macrogroup Southern Coastal Plain Basin Swamp & Flatwoods
Group Hardwood - Loblolly Pine Nonriverine Wet Flatwoods
Alliance Atlantic Coastal Plain Oak Wet Flatwoods Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004120 Carex striata var. brevis Marsh
CEGL006110 Liquidambar styraciflua - Acer rubrum - Quercus phellos / Leucothoe racemosa Swamp Forest
CEGL007449 Quercus michauxii - Quercus pagoda / Clethra alnifolia - Leucothoe axillaris Wet Flatwoods Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Quercus (michauxii, pagoda, phellos, alba) / Clethra alnifolia / Woodwardia virginica Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: 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.
Related Concept Name: Quercus (phellos, pagoda, michauxii) / Ilex opaca - Clethra alnifolia / Woodwardia areolata Forest
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]
Related Concept Name: Quercus phellos / Magnolia virginiana / Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis - Chasmanthium laxum Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Related Concept Name: Non-Riverine Saturated Forest
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
CES203.520 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Basin Swamp and Wet Hardwood Forest


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2? (15Aug1997)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This association is restricted to special wetland habitats and was probably never common on the landscape. However, extensive areas of suitable habitat have been lost to agriculture, hydrologic alterations, and conversion of hardwood forests to silvicultural pine plantations. The largest known remaining stands are all on private lands and are not protected. Mature, undisturbed examples of this type are rare.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This association is known from about 25 sites in 13 counties of the Virginia central and northern Coastal Plain. It is not currently documented in Maryland, but requisite habitat conditions are present (J. Harrison pers. comm.).

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
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
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Lower Section
Section Code: 232B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Atlantic Coastal Flatwoods Section
Section Code: 232C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: The overstory of relatively undisturbed examples contain variable mixtures of hydrophytic oaks, most commonly Quercus phellos, Quercus pagoda, and Quercus michauxii. Associated canopy species varying from site to site can include Quercus alba, Quercus palustris, Quercus lyrata, Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, Pinus taeda, Nyssa sylvatica, and Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, and Pinus taeda are often abundant in stands disturbed by cutting. The subcanopy layers are usually dominated by Ilex opaca var. opaca and also contain Magnolia virginiana and recruitment of the overstory trees. The shrub layer varies from open to dense, and most characteristically contains Clethra alnifolia, Leucothoe racemosa, Ilex verticillata, Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium fuscatum, Vaccinium formosum, Viburnum dentatum, Rhododendron viscosum, and Viburnum nudum var. nudum. The herb layer is also highly variable. Some stands have a rather sparse herbaceous flora, with scattered colonies and individuals of Woodwardia areolata, Osmunda cinnamomea, Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis, Woodwardia virginica, Saururus cernuus, and various sedges. Others have a relatively dense graminoid-dominated herb layer with variable patch-dominance by Chasmanthium laxum, Carex debilis var. debilis, Carex intumescens, Carex seorsa, Carex lonchocarpa, and more rarely, Carex bullata or Carex striata var. brevis. Many other hydrophytic herbs occur at low constancy and cover. The composition of this community is something of a "hybrid," with an overstory similar to that of oak-dominated floodplain forests and lower strata resembling those of an acidic seepage swamp.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Quercus michauxii G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Quercus pagoda G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Quercus phellos G2 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Ilex opaca var. opaca G2 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Magnolia virginiana G2 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree subcanopy    
 
 
Clethra alnifolia G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Ilex verticillata G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Leucothoe racemosa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Rhododendron viscosum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Vaccinium corymbosum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Viburnum dentatum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Viburnum nudum var. nudum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling    
 
 
Saururus cernuus G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Osmunda cinnamomea G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Woodwardia areolata G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Woodwardia virginica G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex debilis var. debilis G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex intumescens G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex lonchocarpa G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex seorsa G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Chasmanthium laxum G2 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: This association occurs on extensive, flat Coastal Plain terraces and very wide, ancient floodplains that are no longer subject to alluvial processes. Its hydrology is seasonally to nearly permanently saturated, with occasional ponding or groundwater sheetflows, and is maintained by a high water table rather than riverine or estuarine flooding. Shallow channels and streams are sometimes evident, and hummock and hollow microtopography may be present. On the Eastern Shore of Virginia (Accomack County), it is found in isolated and extensive but shallow upland depressions. The stands here cover many hectares and occur in slight depressions with drainage impeded by an impermeable clay layer about half a meter below the soil surface. The habitat apparently has a seasonally high water table but ponds water only intermittently or for short periods (G. Fleming pers. comm.). Surficial soils occupied by this forest are extremely acidic and infertile silt or silty-clay loams.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Many stands of this association have been degraded by cutting or hydrologic alterations such as ditching. Clear-cutting or selective removal of the more valuable oaks results in stands dominated by weedy trees such as Liquidambar and Acer rubrum. On the Virginia Eastern Shore, the stands apparently cover many hectares and are associated with slight depressions with drainage impeded by an impermeable clay layer about half a meter below the soil surface. The habitat apparently has a seasonally high water table but ponds water only intermittently or for short periods. Most of the areas seen by Bill Moorhead had been logged some decades ago and had a very open (woodland-like) physiognomy due to poor restocking of canopy trees. However, he also obtained information from local people that one of the areas was known historically as "savanna land," suggesting that fire and hydrology maintained a woodland physiognomy in the depressions (G. Fleming pers. comm.).


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): G.P. Fleming, mod. M. Pyne and G.P. Fleming
Element Description Edition Date: 07Aug2007
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Fleming and M. Pyne
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 16Feb2007
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
  • Fleming, G. P. 2002b. Preliminary classification of Piedmont & Inner Coastal Plain vegetation types in Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-14. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 29 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • 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. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. 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 K. D. Patterson. 2011b. Analysis of Coastal Plain / Outer Piedmont bottomlands and non-alluvial wetlands in Virginia, 400 plots. In-house analysis, January 2011. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

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

  • Harrison, Jason W. Personal communication. State Community Ecologist, Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Division, Department of Natural Resources, Tawes State Office Building, E-1, Annapolis, MD 21401.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008c. Vegetation classification and mapping at Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/129. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 369 pp.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008d. Vegetation classification and mapping at George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/099. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 231 pp.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008e. Vegetation classification and mapping at Petersburg National Battlefield, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/127. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 235 pp.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008f. Vegetation classification and mapping at Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/128. National Park Service. Philadelphia, PA. 244 pp.

  • Southeastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Durham, NC.

  • Taverna, K. and K. D. Patterson. 2008. Vegetation classification and mapping at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR-2008/126. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 277 pp.

  • 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.


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