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Hydrangea arborescens / Sedum ternatum - Polypodium virginianum Cliff Shrubland
Translated Name: Wild Hydrangea / Woodland Stonecrop - Rock Polypody Cliff Shrubland
Common Name: Piedmont-Central Appalachian Subcalcareous Cliff & Rock Outcrop
Unique Identifier: CEGL006479
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association is currently known only from the Potomac River drainage in the Piedmont Triassic Basin of Virginia and Maryland and the adjacent Blue Ridge of Virginia. It occupies cliff-faces weathered from siltstone, shale, calcareous sandstone, and metabasalt. Sites subtend rivers and large streams, where progressive stream incision through resistant strata has formed escarpments of exposed bedrock. All of the documented cliffs have northerly aspects and are partly to heavily shaded by overhanging trees or trees growing in the cliff-base floodplains. Microhabitat conditions are characterized by vertical to very steep faces, with much exposed bedrock, numerous fissures and shelves, and considerable local deposition of organic-rich, colluvial soil material. Vegetation cover ranges from sparse or somewhat sparse (5 to 20% vascular cover) on the most massive cliffs, to moderately dense (20 to 50% vascular cover) on other examples. Saplings and stunted trees of Fraxinus americana, Ostrya virginiana, Tsuga canadensis, Ulmus rubra, Ulmus americana, Acer saccharum, Acer nigrum, Tilia americana, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, Carpinus caroliniana, Quercus rubra, and Quercus prinus may occur on the cliff-faces. Hydrangea arborescens is a characteristic and sometimes abundant shrub, while Toxicodendron radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia are constant vines. Less constant shrubs include Physocarpus opulifolius, Ptelea trifoliata, Hamamelis virginiana, and Viburnum acerifolium. Characteristic herbaceous species include Polypodium virginianum (locally abundant), Sedum ternatum (locally abundant), Symphyotrichum cordifolium (= Aster cordifolius) (locally abundant), Dryopteris marginalis, Pilea pumila, Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia obtusa ssp. obtusa, Aquilegia canadensis, Saxifraga virginiensis, Eurybia divaricata (= Aster divaricatus), Asplenium rhizophyllum, Ageratina altissima, Carex communis, Carex platyphylla, Heuchera americana, Arabis laevigata var. laevigata, Polymnia canadensis, Polystichum acrostichoides, and Solidago caesia. Exotic weeds, including Stellaria media, Lonicera japonica, Alliaria petiolata, and Microstegium vimineum, are problematic invaders at most sites.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Low
Classification Comments: The classification is supported by quantitative data from three plots.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 6 - Open Rock Vegetation
Subclass 6.B - Temperate & Boreal Open Rock Vegetation
Formation 6.B.1 - Temperate & Boreal Cliff, Scree & Other Rock Vegetation
Division 6.B.1.Na - Eastern North American Temperate & Boreal Cliff, Scree & Rock Vegetation
Macrogroup Eastern North American Cliff & Rock Vegetation
Group Appalachian Cliff & Rock Vegetation
Alliance Southern & Central Appalachian Circumneutral Cliff

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL003982 Piedmont Mafic Cliff Sparse Vegetation
CEGL004395 (Hydrangea arborescens, Toxicodendron radicans) / Heuchera americana - (Dichanthelium depauperatum, Woodsia obtusa) Cliff Shrubland



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Hydrangea arborescens / Arabis laevigata - Sedum ternatum Sparse Vegetation
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Lea, C. 2003. Vegetation types in the National Capital Region Parks. Draft for review by NatureServe, Virginia Natural Heritage, West Virginia Natural Heritage, Maryland Natural Heritage, and National Park Service. March 2003. 140 pp.
Related Concept Name: Hydrangea arborescens / Sedum ternatum - Polypodium virginianum Shrubland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. Taverna. 2006. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, western region. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2006. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Related Concept Name: Acidic Cliff and Bluff
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES202.603 North-Central Appalachian Circumneutral Cliff and Talus


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G3 (14Jul2016)
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: More data on the global distribution is needed to rank this association.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: MD, VA, WVpotentially occurs
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This association is currently known only from the Potomac River drainage in the Piedmont Triassic Basin of Virginia and Maryland and the adjacent Blue Ridge of Virginia. Depending on the extent of bedrock types that might support the type, this range could be potentially much larger. A tentative report (Lea 2003) of comparable vegetation on Devonian shales of the Ridge and Valley province needs additional investigation.

Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Vegetation cover ranges from sparse or somewhat sparse (5 to 20% vascular cover) on massive cliffs at Red Rock Wilderness Regional Park and Chilton Woods (C&O Canal), to moderately dense (20 to 50% vascular cover) on the other examples along the Potomac River and Bull Run. Saplings and stunted trees of Fraxinus americana, Ostrya virginiana, Tsuga canadensis, Ulmus rubra, Ulmus americana, Acer saccharum, Acer nigrum, Tilia americana, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, Carpinus caroliniana, Quercus rubra, and Quercus prinus may occur on the cliff-faces. Hydrangea arborescens is a characteristic and sometimes abundant shrub, while Toxicodendron radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia are constant vines. Less constant shrubs include Physocarpus opulifolius, Ptelea trifoliata, Hamamelis virginiana, and Viburnum acerifolium. Characteristic herbaceous species include Polypodium virginianum (locally abundant), Sedum ternatum (locally abundant), Symphyotrichum cordifolium (= Aster cordifolius) (locally abundant), Dryopteris marginalis, Pilea pumila, Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia obtusa ssp. obtusa, Aquilegia canadensis, Saxifraga virginiensis, Eurybia divaricata (= Aster divaricatus), Asplenium rhizophyllum, Ageratina altissima, Carex communis, Carex platyphylla, Heuchera americana, Arabis laevigata var. laevigata, Polymnia canadensis, Polystichum acrostichoides, and Solidago caesia. Species that may be confined to the large, exposed cliff at Red Rock Wilderness Regional Park include Cerastium arvense, Hylotelephium telephioides (= Sedum telephioides), and Solidago arguta var. harrisii. Exotic weeds, including Stellaria media, Lonicera japonica, Alliaria petiolata, and Microstegium vimineum, are problematic invaders at most sites.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Hydrangea arborescens G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Tall shrub/sapling  
 
 
Alliaria petiolata G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Sedum ternatum G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Stellaria media G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Polypodium virginianum G3 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Microstegium vimineum G3 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Lonicera japonica G3 Liana Herb (field)      
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This association is currently known from cliff-faces weathered from siltstone, shale, calcareous sandstone, and metabasalt. Sites subtend rivers and large streams, where progressive stream incision through resistant strata has formed escarpments of exposed bedrock. All of the documented cliffs have northerly aspects and are partly to heavily shaded by overhanging trees or trees growing in the cliff-base floodplains. Microhabitat conditions are characterized by vertical to very steep faces, with much exposed bedrock, numerous fissures and shelves, and considerable local deposition of organic-rich, colluvial soil material. Examples on siltstone readily erode along horizontal, slab-forming fissures, forming loose, fissile channery. There is some variation in the microtopographic character of these cliffs, with the larger, more exposed examples having a more massive, less weathered character. Soil samples collected from plots had moderate calcium concentrations (900 to 1000 ppm).


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: The known substrates of this type (siltstone, shale, calcareous sandstone, metabasalt) could be characterized as "subcalcareous" or moderately calcareous, at least compared to carbonate parent material. The vegetation composition is thus somewhat intermediate between that of strongly calcareous rock habitats and that of more acidic habitats. With a few rare exceptions, it lacks many of the obligate calciphiles (Thuja occidentalis, Cystopteris bulbifera, Asplenium ruta-muraria, Asplenium resiliens, Pellaea atropurpurea, Carex eburnea, etc.) of limestone and dolomite cliffs, and contains species of more acidic rock outcrops that are generally absent on limestone (e.g., Polypodium virginianum, Polystichum acrostichoides, Dryopteris marginalis, Hamamelis virginiana). Many of the characteristic species (Hydrangea arborescens, Sedum ternatum, Polypodium virginianum, Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia obtusa, etc.) occur on a fairly wide range of substrates but prefer at least subacidic or somewhat calcareous conditions.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): C. Lea and G.P. Fleming
Element Description Edition Date: 29Sep2006
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Fleming and C. Lea

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.

  • 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. Taverna. 2006. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, western region. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2006. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

  • Lea, C. 2003. Vegetation types in the National Capital Region Parks. Draft for review by NatureServe, Virginia Natural Heritage, West Virginia Natural Heritage, Maryland Natural Heritage, and National Park Service. March 2003. 140 pp.


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