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Quercus rubra - Quercus shumardii / Cercis canadensis Floodplain Forest
Translated Name: Northern Red Oak - Shumard Oak / Eastern Redbud Floodplain Forest
Common Name: Potomac Gorge Bedrock Oak Floodplain Forest
Unique Identifier: CEGL006495
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This vegetation type is confined to floodplains near the knickpoint at the head of the Potomac River fall-line at Great Falls, where the floodplain is being rapidly incised by anastomosing channels and is transitional to a strath terrace. Soils are sandy loams and are somewhat shallow with bedrock exposures. Average flood-return interval is about 1 to 2 years on the Maryland side; at least some of the Virginia habitat has a longer return interval. The vegetation is an open forest to woodland with the tree canopy dominated by Quercus rubra, Quercus shumardii, Fraxinus americana, and Ulmus americana. Carya cordiformis, Juglans nigra, and Celtis occidentalis also occur. The subcanopy and shrub layers range from very open to dense, with Cercis canadensis characteristic. Quercus macrocarpa is a Maryland state-rare species that occurs in this type. The herbaceous layer is also variable, differing greatly on opposite sides of the river. The Maryland stands are dominated by tall, weedy native species, primarily Ageratina altissima and Teucrium canadense; Verbesina alternifolia and Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (= Aster lateriflorus) also are frequent. The Virginia stands are dominated by graminoids, primarily Elymus hystrix var. hystrix, Elymus villosus, Elymus virginicus, Dichanthelium boscii, and Chasmanthium latifolium. The unusual combination of tall, disturbance-adapted herbs of low floodplains, upland herbs, and trees of higher floodplains and uplands is probably due to the combination of frequent flooding and seasonal dryness.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Overall, this vegetation type is something of a "hybrid" between a well-drained floodplain forest and Carya glabra - Quercus (rubra, prinus) - Fraxinus americana / Viburnum rafinesquianum Forest (CEGL006209) which occupies higher, rarely flooded bedrock terraces downstream of Great Falls. The 6 plots of this type, 3 from Maryland and 3 from Virginia, do not form a comfortable group due to the pronounced difference in herbaceous vegetation among stands on the two sides of the river and the much higher species richness of Virginia stands. Moreover, this vegetation type is enigmatic and currently unreplicated anywhere. It has a very small range (<10 ha) and occupies an ecotone between other more widespread vegetation types, never fully developing its own character. That said, it cannot be merged with any other type, and the best solution is to treat it as a provisional USNVC type, both for mapping and to get the description out to a wider audience.

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 Appalachian-Northeastern Oak - Hardwood - Pine Forest & Woodland
Group Northeastern Oak - Hickory Forest & Woodland
Alliance Northeastern Oak - Hickory Forest

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL006209 Carya glabra - Quercus (rubra, prinus) - Fraxinus americana / Viburnum rafinesquianum Forest



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Quercus rubra - Quercus shumardii - Fraxinus americana / Teucrium canadense Forest
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Lea, C. 2000. Plant communities of the Potomac Gorge and their relationship to fluvial factors. M.S. thesis, George Mason University. Fairfax, VA. 219 pp.
Related Concept Name: Quercus rubra - Quercus shumardii / Cercis canadensis Temporarily Flooded Forest [Provisional]
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: 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.
Related Concept Name: Piedmont / Mountain Floodplain 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
CES202.608 Central Appalachian River Floodplain


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: GNR (04Jun2007)
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: MD, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: So far as known, this vegetation is endemic to <10 hectares on the Maryland side of the Potomac River near Great Falls, where the floodplain is being rapidly incised by anastomosing channels and is transitional to a strath terrace (Lea 2000).

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


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: These are open forests to woodlands with the tree canopy dominated by Quercus rubra, Quercus shumardii, Fraxinus americana, and Carya cordiformis. Minor overstory associates include Quercus alba, Ulmus americana, Juglans nigra, Ulmus rubra, Quercus bicolor, and Celtis occidentalis. Quercus macrocarpa is a Maryland state-rare species that occurs in this type. The subcanopy layers are poorly developed. The shrub layer ranges from very open (on the Maryland side) to fairly dense (on the Virginia side); Cercis canadensis is a constant and characteristic shrub throughout, while Carpinus caroliniana, Asimina triloba, and Ptelea trifoliata are common in the Virginia stands. The herbaceous layer also varies dramatically on the two sides of the river. The Maryland stands are dominated by tall, weedy native species, primarily Ageratina altissima and Teucrium canadense, with Verbesina alternifolia and Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (= Aster lateriflorus) also common. These weedy herbs are much less abundant in the Virginia stands, which are dominated by graminoids, primarily Elymus hystrix var. hystrix, Elymus villosus, Elymus virginicus, Dichanthelium boscii, Festuca subverticillata, and Chasmanthium latifolium, which are entirely absent from the Maryland stands. Mesophytic forbs such as Amphicarpaea bracteata, Galium concinnum, and Packera aurea are also common in the Virginia stands, which have a notably higher mean species richness (n = 82 taxa per 400 square meters) than their Maryland counterparts (n = 54 taxa per 400 square meters). The invasive introduced grass Microstegium vimineum is rampantly abundant in parts of this association.


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: This community is confined to floodplains near the knickpoint at the head of the Potomac River fall-line at Great Falls, where the floodplain is being rapidly incised by anastomosing channels and is transitional to a strath terrace. Soils are fertile sandy loams and are somewhat shallow with bedrock exposures. Average flood-return interval is about 1 to 2 years (Lea 2000) on the Maryland side; at least some of the Virginia habitat has a longer return interval.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: The unusual combination of tall, disturbance-adapted herbs of low floodplains, upland herbs, and trees of higher floodplains and uplands is probably due to the combination of frequent flooding and seasonal dryness. This vegetation type is apparently somewhat spatially ephemeral in that it represents a transition from depositional processes to erosional processes and may "migrate" upstream with the Potomac River channel knickpoint at Great Falls. The type would be converted to a channel shelf (and eventually, a channel) type if attacked by erosion, or to a more xeric terrace type if it remained elevated on an interfluve between two deepening channels. Construction of the Washington Aqueduct diversion dam (weir) just above Great Falls may have stalled new formation of this type or converted existing examples of it (prior to 1857) by increasing the rate of deposition on surfaces that were once more conducive to formation of this type. Conn Island, which is located just above the dam, was evidently continuous with present-day Great Falls and Olmsted Island prior to this construction and may have supported this type. There is some evidence of this hypothesis in the frequency of Quercus rubra on the Conn Island floodplain.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): C. Lea
Element Description Edition Date: 06Apr2012
Element Description 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
  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • Fleming, G. P. 2007. Ecological communities of the Potomac Gorge in Virginia: Composition, floristics, and environmental dynamics. Natural Heritage Technical Report 07-12. Unpublished report submitted to the National Park Service. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 341 pp. plus appendices.

  • 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., 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.

  • Lea, C. 2000. Plant communities of the Potomac Gorge and their relationship to fluvial factors. M.S. thesis, George Mason University. Fairfax, VA. 219 pp.

  • Lea, C. 2004. Draft vegetation types in National Capital Region Parks. Edited by S.C. Gawler and J. Teague. Working draft for review by NatureServe, Virginia Natural Heritage, West Virginia Natural Heritage, Maryland Natural Heritage, and National Park Service. July 2004. 157 pp.

  • Lea, Chris. Personal communication. Ecologist, formerly with National Park Service, USGS / NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, Denver, CO.


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