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Sorghastrum nutans - Schizachyrium scoparium Serpentine Grassland
Translated Name: Indiangrass - Little Bluestem Serpentine Grassland
Common Name: Indiangrass - Little Bluestem Serpentine Grassland
Unique Identifier: CEGL006441
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This serpentine grassland community of Pennsylvania and Staten Island, New York, is associated with soils derived from weathered serpentine bedrock. It occurs over shallow (15-25 cm deep) silt loam to clay loam soils on low to mid slopes with a northerly aspect. The dominant species in this community are Sorghastrum nutans and Schizachyrium scoparium. Other characteristic herbaceous species may include Symphyotrichum depauperatum, Vernonia noveboracensis, Achillea millefolium, Deschampsia cespitosa, Packera anonyma, Oenothera fruticosa ssp. tetragona, Setaria parviflora, Panicum virgatum, Danthonia spicata, Symphyotrichum ericoides, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, Ageratina aromatica, Potentilla simplex, and Asclepias viridiflora. In Pennsylvania, the only important woody species is Juniperus virginiana which may have up to 40% cover in some grasslands. In New York, trees may cover 20-40% and typically include Betula populifolia, Quercus velutina, Sassafras albidum, and Populus tremuloides.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This and a number of other serpentine vegetation community types were described by Podniesinski et al. (unpubl. data 1999); subsequently, former Pinus rigida / Schizachyrium scoparium - Scleria pauciflora Wooded Herbaceous Vegetation (CEGL006159) was archived as the type was too broad given the more recent data describing more specific community types occurring within the eastern serpentine barrens.

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 Appalachian Mafic Glade
Alliance Little Bluestem - Indiangrass Serpentine Grassland

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006266 Pinus virginiana / Quercus marilandica Serpentine Ruderal Forest
CEGL006290 Pinus rigida - Quercus (velutina, montana) Forest
CEGL006316 Deschampsia cespitosa - Vernonia noveboracensis Serpentine Seep
CEGL006438 Acer rubrum - Quercus spp. / Smilax spp. Serpentine Forest
CEGL006439 Acer rubrum - Pinus virginiana - Pinus rigida / Smilax spp. Serpentine Forest
CEGL006440 Juniperus virginiana - Pinus virginiana / Smilax rotundifolia Serpentine Forest
CEGL006442 Schizachyrium scoparium - Sporobolus heterolepis Serpentine Grassland
CEGL006496 Pinus rigida / Sporobolus heterolepis - Schizachyrium scoparium Serpentine Woodland



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
New York Serpentine Barrens Broader   Edinger et al. 2002
Pennsylvania Serpentine Virginia pine - oak forest Broader   Fike 1999


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Indiangrass - Little Bluestem Grassland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Podniesinski, G., A. Leimanis, and J. Ebert. 1999. Serpentine plant community classification. Unpublished data. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh, PA. 14 pp.
Related Concept Name: Smith's Eastern Serpentine Barren
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Podniesinski, G., A. Leimanis, and J. Ebert. 1999. Serpentine plant community classification. Unpublished data. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh, PA. 14 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.347 Eastern Serpentine Woodland


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G1G2 (21Sep2005)
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: New ranking will need to be developed for each serpentine association.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: NY, PA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community occurs in serpentine barrens located within Chester County in Pennsylvania and on Staten Island, New York.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Hot Continental Division
Province Name: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic) Province
Province Code: 221 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Northern Appalachian Piedmont Section
Section Code: 221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain Section
Section Code: 232A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: The dominant species in this community are Sorghastrum nutans and Schizachyrium scoparium. Other characteristic herbaceous species may include Symphyotrichum depauperatum (= Aster depauperatus), Vernonia noveboracensis, Achillea millefolium, Deschampsia cespitosa, Packera anonyma (= Senecio anonymus), Oenothera fruticosa ssp. tetragona (= Oenothera tetragona), Setaria parviflora (= Setaria geniculata), Panicum virgatum, Danthonia spicata, Symphyotrichum ericoides (= Aster ericoides), Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (= Aster lateriflorus), Ageratina aromatica (= Eupatorium aromaticum), Potentilla simplex, and Asclepias viridiflora. In Pennsylvania, the only important woody species is Juniperus virginiana which may have up to 40% cover in some grasslands. In New York, trees may cover 20-40% and typically include Betula populifolia, Quercus velutina, Sassafras albidum, and Populus tremuloides.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Juniperus virginiana G1 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
 
 
Symphyotrichum depauperatum G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Schizachyrium scoparium G1 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Sorghastrum nutans G1 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


At-Risk Species Reported for this Association
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Atrytone arogos
  (Arogos Skipper)
G3  
Symphyotrichum depauperatum
  (Serpentine Aster)
G2  


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This serpentine grassland community is associated with soils derived from weathered serpentine bedrock. It occurs over shallow (15-25 cm deep) silt loam to clay loam soils on low to mid slopes with a northerly aspect.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: This grassland community is adapted to the weathering of serpentine bedrock. It was once thought that the lack of canopy cover was maintained by the unique edaphic features of the chrome series soils, but in the last 20 years many sites have been invaded by dense Pinus virginiana (Tyndall 1992a). In this community, eastern red-cedar can reach up to 40% in canopy cover. Further establishment and expansion of eastern red-cedar in this grassland community type may alter the light regime and promote substantial soil development (up to 10 cm in 20 years). Under these conditions, an entirely different community develops as the influence of the bedrock is buffered by the soil/litter accumulation. As the canopy closes, the grassland community can succeed into a serpentine woodland or forest, and a dense understory of Smilax rotundifolia may become established. Some of the characteristic herbaceous serpentine species apparently may persist in the ground layer as scattered non-flowering individuals; other populations appear to die out but may persist in the seed bank. Selective cutting has been effective in restoring degraded sites to their previous composition and structure, but most researchers believe that without regular burning to prevent soil development the herbaceous serpentine plant communities may not persist. There is substantial evidence that most of the existing areas were regularly burned by Native Americans (Marye 1920, 1955a, 1955b, 1955c) and perhaps maintained by grazing after European settlement.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): G. Podniesinski, A. Leimanis, and J. Ebert (1999)
Element Description Edition Date: 21Sep2005
Element Description Author(s): G. Podniesinski, A. Leimanis, J. Ebert, M. Anderson
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 21Sep2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): L.A. Sneddon and E.F. Largay

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


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

  • Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero, editors. 2014a. Ecological communities of New York state. Second edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's ecological communities of New York state. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

  • Fike, J. 1999. Terrestrial and palustrine plant communities of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Recreation, Bureau of Forestry, Harrisburg, PA. 86 pp.

  • Marye, W. B. 1920. The old Indian road. Maryland Historical Magazine 15:107-124, 208-229, 345-395.

  • Marye, W. B. 1955a. The great Maryland barrens I. Maryland Historical Magazine 50:11-23.

  • Marye, W. B. 1955b. The great Maryland barrens II. Maryland Historical Magazine 50:124-142.

  • Marye, W. B. 1955c. The great Maryland barrens III. Maryland Historical Magazine 50:234-253.

  • Podniesinski, G., A. Leimanis, and J. Ebert. 1999. Serpentine plant community classification. Unpublished data. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh, PA. 14 pp.

  • Smith, T. L. No date (a). Natural ecological communities of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory, East, Harrisburg, PA. 97 pp.

  • Tyndall, R. W. 1992a. Historical considerations of conifer expansion in Maryland serpentine "barrens." Castanea 57:123-131.


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