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Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus Woodland
Translated Name: White Ash - Shagbark Hickory / Carolina Buckthorn / Hairy Sunflower Woodland
Common Name: Dry Calcareous Woodland (White Ash - Shagbark Hickory Type)
Unique Identifier: CEGL008458
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This community type is currently known only from a narrow, midslope band of Greenbrier limestone on Little Stone Mountain in Wise County, Virginia, and a narrow band of limestone along the Virginia side of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The stand in Wise County, VA and associated limestone outcrops extend for more than 2 km and cover at least 100 ha (240 acres). It is an open to very open forest that locally approaches woodland physiognomy. Maximum tree heights are approximately 23 m, but the majority of trees are <20 m in most areas. The mean cover of canopy and subcanopy trees combined is 60-70%. Fraxinus americana, Carya ovata, and Quercus rubra are the most constant and abundant canopy trees. Carya ovalis is a frequent canopy associate, while Acer saccharum var. saccharum and Quercus alba are infrequent but locally important. The former is also present in the 6- to 10-m tall understory stratum, along with Ulmus rubra, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and representatives of the other canopy species. Cercis canadensis var. canadensis generally dominates the shrub layer, with Frangula caroliniana, Cornus florida, and Celtis occidentalis as more-or-less constant and common components. Ostrya virginiana may also be present. Toxicodendron radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia are common woody vines that frequently reach into the shrub stratum. The herbaceous layer is variable. Polymnia canadensis, Helianthus hirsutus, Helianthus microcephalus, and Salvia urticifolia are constant and relatively abundant herbs that assumes great dominance over some areas. Diarrhena americana is inconstant but locally dominates bouldery slopes in massive colonies. Very locally, on the most xeric and rocky microtopographic positions, tree cover is open enough for light-demanding plants more characteristic of "barrens" or "glades" to thrive. Included in this group of localized species are Andropogon gerardii, Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum (= Solidago rigida ssp. rigida), Liatris aspera var. intermedia, Blephilia ciliata, Polygonum scandens var. cristatum, and Solidago speciosa var. speciosa. Sites are similar to those occupied by Acer saccharum - Quercus muehlenbergii / Cercis canadensis Forest (CEGL006017) but have a higher mean elevation (688 m [2257 feet]), a more south-facing (versus southwest-facing) aspect, and soils with much higher mean calcium levels (mean = 3523 ppm). Soil moisture regime is subxeric, and habitats have high surficial cover of bedrock outcrops, boulders, and stones (mean cover of all three classes combined = 39%).



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This type is environmentally similar to Quercus muehlenbergii - Acer (nigrum, saccharum var. saccharum) / Ostrya virginiana / Senecio obovatus Forest (Fleming 1999 type 3.1, = Acer saccharum - Quercus muehlenbergii / Cercis canadensis Forest (CEGL006017)) but has a very different canopy composition, as well as some significant contrasts in lower stratum floristics. Most noteworthy is the complete or almost complete absence of Quercus muehlenbergii (chinquapin oak), normally a dominant tree of dry limestone forests and woodlands, and the relative infrequence of Acer saccharum var. saccharum. Fraxinus americana and Carya spp. are much more abundant in the woody composition of Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus Woodland (CEGL008458) (= sensu Fleming 1999). Other forests and woodlands characterized by a general abundance of Fraxinus and Carya have been documented in Virginia primarily on mafic substrates such as greenstone, amphibolite, and diabase, and rarely on granitic rock high in base status (Fleming 1993, Rawinski et al. 1996, Coulling and Rawinski 1999, VDNH unpubl. data). The dominant herbs Polymnia canadensis and Diarrhena americana are inconstant, low-cover plants in plot-sampled stands of CEGL006017 (Fleming 1999 type 3.1). The constancy and local abundance of Frangula caroliniana, Helianthus hirsutus, Heuchera longiflora, Lysimachia tonsa, and other species with Virginia distributions confined to the extreme southwestern mountains also distinguish CEGL008458 (Fleming 1999 type 3.2) from other vegetation types. No recent anthropogenic disturbances were noted in the three sample plots, which were positioned to capture major compositional/environmental variations observed within the large stand on Little Stone Mountain. It was assumed that this stand was selectively logged in the distant past. The productivity of timber, however, is almost certainly quite low because of the dry, rocky site conditions. Despite these constraints, at least portions of the stand appear to be quite old and mature; at least two Juniperus virginiana individuals with diameters around 60 cm were observed, and one was aged by increment coring at >150 years. Minor wind or ice damage, drought stresses (wilting), and a fire scar were observed in two of the plots. Because this community contains scattered large hardwoods and is adjacent to more productive mesic forests both upslope and downslope, logging remains a threat to the occurrence. Although some potential habitat in southwestern Virginia remains to be explored, Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus Woodland (CEGL008458) (= sensu Fleming 1999 type 3.2) appears to be extremely rare in Virginia. Its global status and the robustness of its classification are much harder to assess given the lack of known replication and the lack of detailed information on similar communities within its likely geographic range. Even though plot locations were selected to capture the maximal observed variation in composition on Little Stone Mountain, the three plots consistently clustered as a discrete unit resolved at an early branching level in dendrograms using nine different combinations of clustering strategies and distance measures. As a result of this and additional statistical analyses, it appears that this type is satisfactorily differentiated from Quercus muehlenbergii - Acer (nigrum, saccharum var. saccharum) / Ostrya virginiana / Senecio obovatus Forest (Fleming 1999 type 3.1, = Acer saccharum - Quercus muehlenbergii / Cercis canadensis Forest (CEGL006017)) in Virginia. It may, however, be more similar to Quercus muehlenbergii - Acer saccharum forests that are mostly distributed west and southwest of Virginia. Even though Carya spp. are not important in plot-sampled Virginia forests characterized by Quercus muehlenbergii, they are important in such communities in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Ozark Mountains, along with some of the previously mentioned herbaceous species that reach a range limit in southwestern Virginia (Campbell and Meijer 1989, Bryant et al. 1993, Bowen et al. 1995). In a study of woody vegetation in the Tennessee Central Basin, Crites and Clebsch (1986) found communities sorted along a topographic-moisture gradient. A "Carya - Juniperus - Quercus Community" that may be similar to Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus Forest (sensu Fleming 1999) was classified from subxeric upland habitats. The dominants of the Tennessee community (based on the importance values of woody species >2.5 cm dbh) were Fraxinus americana, either Carya ovata or Carya glabra (pignut hickory), and Juniperus virginiana. Fraxinus americana was considered a "local successional species."

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 1 - Forest & Woodland
Subclass 1.B - Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland
Formation 1.B.2 - Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
Division 1.B.2.Na - Eastern North American Forest & Woodland
Macrogroup Southern & South-Central Oak - Pine Forest & Woodland
Group Chinquapin Oak - Shumard Oak - Blue Ash Alkaline Forest & Woodland
Alliance Chinquapin Oak - Blue Ash - Eastern Red-cedar Woodland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL005222 Liriodendron tulipifera - Tilia americana var. heterophylla - Aesculus flava - Acer saccharum / (Magnolia tripetala) Forest
CEGL006017 Acer saccharum - Quercus muehlenbergii / Cercis canadensis Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus - Polymnia canadensis 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: Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus - Polymnia canadensis Woodland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
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: Fraxinus americana - Carya ovata / Frangula caroliniana / Helianthus hirsutus Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P. 1999. Plant communities of limestone, dolomite, and other calcareous substrates in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-4. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. Unpublished report submitted to the USDA Forest Service. 218 pp. plus appendices.
Related Concept Name: Montane Dry Calcareous Forest / Woodland
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
CES202.024 Southern Ridge and Valley Calcareous Glade and Woodland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1? (11Sep2000)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Currently, this vegetation type is known only from two narrow, midslope bands of limestone in Virginia: one on the south flank of Little Stone Mountain, just northeast of Big Stone Gap in Wise County, Virginia (in the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest), and one on the Virginia side of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The stands and associated limestone outcrops in Wise County extend for more than 2 km and cover at least 100 ha (240 acres). Productivity of timber is presumably very low in this environment because of dry and rocky conditions. This community is inherently rare because of its unusual geology and topographic position. It appears to be extremely rare in Virginia, but its global status is harder to assess (Fleming 1999).

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: Currently, this vegetation type is known only from two narrow, midslope bands of limestone: one on the south flank of Little Stone Mountain, just northeast of Big Stone Gap in Wise County, Virginia, and one on the Virginia side of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

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: Cumberland Mountains Section
Section Code: M221C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Fraxinus americana, Carya ovata, and Quercus rubra are the most constant and abundant canopy trees. Carya ovalis is a frequent canopy associate, while Acer saccharum var. saccharum and Quercus alba are infrequent but locally important. The former is also present in the 6- to 10-m tall understory stratum, along with Ulmus rubra, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and representatives of the other canopy species. Cercis canadensis var. canadensis generally dominates the shrub layer, with Frangula caroliniana, Cornus florida, and Celtis occidentalis as more-or-less constant and common components. Ostrya virginiana dominates the shrub layer of one plot, but observations indicate that it is absent from large areas of the landscape. Toxicodendron radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia are common woody vines that frequently reach into the shrub stratum. The herbaceous layer (mean stratum cover = 63%) is variable. Polymnia canadensis, Helianthus hirsutus, Helianthus microcephalus, and Salvia urticifolia are constant and relatively abundant herbs that assume great dominance over some areas. Diarrhena americana is inconstant but locally dominates bouldery slopes in massive colonies. Constant (?67% constancy) but relatively low cover, characteristic herbs include Agrimonia rostellata, Doellingeria infirma (= Aster infirmus), Symphyotrichum patens var. patens (= Aster patens var. patens), Symphyotrichum undulatum (= Aster undulatus), Brachyelytrum erectum, Bromus pubescens, Desmodium glutinosum, Dichanthelium boscii, Elymus hystrix, Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus, Heuchera longiflora, Lysimachia tonsa, Muhlenbergia sobolifera, Muhlenbergia tenuiflora, Polygonatum biflorum, Packera obovata (= Senecio obovatus), Solidago caesia, Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia, and Zizia aptera. Very locally, on the most xeric and rocky microtopographic positions, tree cover is open enough for light-demanding plants more characteristic of "barrens" or "glades" to thrive. Included in this group of localized species are Andropogon gerardii, Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum (= Solidago rigida ssp. rigida), Liatris aspera var. intermedia, Blephilia ciliata, Polygonum scandens var. cristatum, and Solidago speciosa var. speciosa.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Carya ovata G1 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Fraxinus americana G1 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
 
 
Frangula caroliniana G1 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Cuscuta coryli G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Desmodium cuspidatum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Erigeron pulchellus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Helianthus hirsutus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Helianthus microcephalus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Heuchera longiflora G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Lysimachia tonsa G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Oligoneuron rigidum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Polymnia canadensis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Solidago ulmifolia G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Symphyotrichum patens G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Symphyotrichum pratense G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Diarrhena americana G1 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community type is currently known only from a narrow, midslope band of Greenbrier limestone on the south flank of Little Stone Mountain, just northeast of Big Stone Gap in Wise County, Virginia. The stand and associated limestone outcrops extend for more than 2 km and cover at least 100 ha (240 acres). Sites are similar to those occupied by the Quercus muehlenbergii - Acer (nigrum, saccharum var. saccharum) / Ostrya virginiana / Senecio obovatus Forest (Fleming 1999 type 3.1 = CEGL006017) but have a higher mean elevation (688 m [2257 feet]), a more south-facing (versus southwest-facing) aspect, and soils with much higher mean calcium levels (mean = 3523 ppm). Soil moisture regime is subxeric, and habitats have high surficial cover of bedrock outcrops, boulders, and stones (mean cover of all three classes combined = 39%). Other forests and woodlands characterized by a general abundance of Fraxinus and Carya have been documented in Virginia primarily on mafic substrates such as greenstone, amphibolite, and diabase, and rarely on granitic rock high in base status (Fleming 1993, Rawinski et al. 1996, Coulling and Rawinski 1999, VDNH unpubl. data).


Dynamic Processes


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): G. Fleming and P. Coulling
Element Description Edition Date: 01Feb2006
Element Description Author(s): G. Fleming, P. Coulling, R. White
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01Feb2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): M. Pyne

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
  • Bowen, B., M. Pyne, and D. Withers. 1995. An ecological survey of selected tracts in the Tennessee River Gorge: A report to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. Tennessee Natural Heritage Program, Department of Environment and Conservation, Nashville. 100 pp.

  • Bryant, W. S., W. C. McComb, and J. S. Fralish. 1993. Oak-hickory forests (western mesophytic/oak-hickory forests). Pages 143-201 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.

  • Campbell, J. J. N., and W. Meijer. 1989. The flora and vegetation of Jessamine Gorge, Jessamine County, Kentucky: A remarkable concentration of rare species in the Bluegrass region. Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science 50:27-45.

  • Coulling, P. P., and T. J. Rawinski. 1999. Classification of vegetation and ecological land units of the Piney River and Mt. Pleasant area, Pedlar Ranger District, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-03, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Crites, G. D., and E. E. C. Clebsch. 1986. Woody vegetation in the inner Nashville Basin: An example from the Cheek Bend area of the central Duck River valley. ASB Bulletin 33:167-177.

  • Fleming, G. P. 1993. Floristics and preliminary classification of greenstone glade vegetation in Virginia. Virginia Journal of Science 44:119 (Abstract).

  • Fleming, G. P. 1999. Plant communities of limestone, dolomite, and other calcareous substrates in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-4. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. Unpublished report submitted to the USDA Forest Service. 218 pp. plus appendices.

  • 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. 2009b. Classification of selected Virginia montane wetland groups. In-house analysis, December 2009. 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 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.

  • Rawinski, T. J., K. N. Hickman, J. Waller-Eling, G. P. Fleming, C. S. Austin, S. D. Helmick, C. Huber, G. Kappesser, F. C. Huber, Jr., T. Bailey, and T. K. Collins. 1996. Plant communities and ecological land units of the Glenwood Ranger District, George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 96-20. Richmond. 65 pp. plus appendices.

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

  • 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.

  • VDNH [Virginia Division of Natural Heritage]. No date. Unpublished data. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • White, R. D., Jr. 2006. Vascular plant inventory and ecological community classification for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. NatureServe, Durham, NC. 246 pp.


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