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Menziesia pilosa - Vaccinium (erythrocarpum, simulatum, corymbosum) - Sorbus americana Shrubland
Translated Name: Minniebush - (Southern Mountain Cranberry, Upland Highbush Blueberry, Highbush Blueberry) - American Mountain-ash Shrubland
Common Name: Southern Appalachian Deciduous Heath Bald
Unique Identifier: CEGL004819
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This deciduous shrubland is known from several exposed, rock outcrop promontories between 1500 and 1675 m (5000-5500 feet) elevation in the Mount Rogers - Whitetop massif of the southern Virginia Blue Ridge. The exposed sites are subject to low winter temperatures, high winds, and ice storms, as well as high solar irradiation and moisture evaporation during the growing season. Slope profiles are strongly convex and surface cover of exposed bedrock and boulders is >25% in plot samples. Soils are extremely acidic (mean pH = 3.9) and low in base status. Vegetation is a deciduous shrubland codominated by Menziesia pilosa, stunted Sorbus americana, and either Vaccinium simulatum or Vaccinium erythrocarpum, or both. Associated shrubs and tree saplings include Rubus canadensis, Crataegus punctata, Amelanchier laevis, Ribes rotundifolium, Ribes cynosbati, Prunus pensylvanica, Rhododendron calendulaceum, and Smilax tamnoides. The most frequent herbs are Danthonia compressa, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, Oclemena acuminata, Carex debilis var. rudgei, Heuchera villosa, Saxifraga michauxii, Maianthemum canadense, Carex pensylvanica, and Carex brunnescens ssp. sphaerostachya.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: This community type was initially classified in a 950-plot dataset analysis of Virginia montane plot data conducted for the George Washington and Jefferson national forests and NatureServe (Fleming and Coulling 2001). At that time, it was treated as a deciduous variant of Rhododendron catawbiense Shrubland (CEGL003818). The same group, with an additional plot sample, performed discretely in an analysis of 1050 plots of Southern Appalachian vegetation conducted for the Appalachian Trail vegetation mapping project in 2009 (Fleming and Patterson 2009a). This group (n= 4) shows close affiliation with CEGL003818 in cluster analysis, but this may be the result of spatial autocorrelation. In any case, treating these shrublands as one group produces a very awkward "type" that can vary from pure Rhododendron catawbiense to a mixed deciduous shrubland with no Rhododendron catawbiense at all. This association was placed within an evergreen formation, even though it is deciduous.

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 Southern Appalachian Shrub Bald
Alliance Catawba Rosebay - Carolina Azalea - Mountain Laurel Shrub Bald

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

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL003814 Kalmia latifolia - Rhododendron catawbiense - (Gaylussacia baccata, Pieris floribunda, Vaccinium corymbosum) Shrubland



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Menziesia pilosa - Vaccinium (erythrocarpum, simulatum, corymbosum) - Sorbus americana Shrubland
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2009a. A vegetation classification for the Appalachian Trail: Virginia south to Georgia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. In-house analysis, March 2009.
Related Concept Name: Southern Appalachian Shrub / Grass Bald
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

NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G2 (15Oct2014)
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This association is known from very few occurrences, and has a small to moderate area of potential occurrence. Existing occurrences appear stable and unthreatened. It occurs in the context of a globally rare, high-elevation ecosystem of the Southern Blue Ridge. The association may result from catastrophic disturbance of red spruce - Fraser fir forests. However, existing occurrences are persisting with a shrubland structure, with no invasion by tree-forming species. Although small spruce and fir saplings are scattered in the type, their growth is extremely slow, likely due to the massive rock outcrops and shallow soils of the habitats. This association is ranked lower than numbers of occurrences suggest, because of the likelihood of its occurrence at other high-elevation environments in the Appalachian Mountains, both south and north of Virginia.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This community is known from three sites in the Mount Rogers - Whitetop (Balsam Mountains) massif of the southern Virginia Blue Ridge: Buzzard Rock near Whitetop, Wilburn Ridge near Mount Rogers, and Haw Orchard Mountain in Grayson Highlands State Park. It is likely in other high-elevation areas of the Appalachian Mountains.

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: Blue Ridge Mountains Section
Section Code: M221D Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: Vegetation is a deciduous shrubland that typically contains 10 to 75% cover of 0.5- to 1.5-m tall Menziesia pilosa, 10 to 50% of Sorbus americana >1.5 m tall, and up to 25% cover of either Vaccinium simulatum or Vaccinium erythrocarpum, or both. This community is slightly more diverse than associated shrublands with nearly monospecific dominance by Rhododendron catawbiense, with a mean species richness of 23 taxa per 100 m2 in three plot-sampled stands. Associated shrubs and tree saplings include Rubus canadensis, Crataegus punctata, Amelanchier laevis, Ribes rotundifolium, Ribes cynosbati, Prunus pensylvanica, Rhododendron calendulaceum, and Smilax tamnoides. Opportunities for herbaceous species appear to be somewhat greater in this all-deciduous shrubland than in the densely evergreen, Rhododendron catawbiense shrublands. The most common and abundant herbs in known stands, averaging >5% cover in plots, are Danthonia compressa, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides, and Oclemena acuminata. Other species that occur with lower cover in 50% or more of the plot samples are Carex debilis var. rudgei, Heuchera villosa, Saxifraga michauxii, Maianthemum canadense, Carex pensylvanica, and Carex brunnescens ssp. sphaerostachya.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Menziesia pilosa G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Sorbus americana G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)  
 
 
Vaccinium erythrocarpum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Vaccinium simulatum G2 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Oclemena acuminata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides G2 Fern (Spore-bearing forb) Herb (field)  
 
 
Danthonia compressa G2 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: N
Environmental Summary: Habitats are exposed, rocky summits and promontories between 1500 and 1675 m (5000-5500 feet) elevation. The exposed sites are subject to low winter temperatures, high winds, and ice storms, as well as high solar irradiation and moisture evaporation during the growing season. Slope profiles are strongly convex and surface cover of exposed bedrock and boulders is >25% in plot samples. Soils are extremely acidic (mean pH = 3.9) and low in base status.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Occurrences of this shrubland may result from secondary succession after fires and logging, but may also occur as topo-edaphic climaxes on exposed, rocky sites. At present, there is little evidence of successional advance at any of the three Virginia sites, although there are stunted, widely scattered specimens of Abies fraseri and a few Picea rubens seedlings in the largest stand on Wilburn Ridge near Mount Rogers. It is not clear whether the shrublands here originated from the nearly complete destruction of spruce-fir forests on this ridge, or whether the massive bedrock promontories have always supported edaphic shrublands or woodlands with a shrub understory similar to this vegetation. At this site, the deciduous shrublands co-occur with more extensive stands of Rhododendron catawbiense-dominated shrublands, although the two occupy discrete parts of the outcrops and do not intermingle.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): G.P. Fleming and K.D. Patterson (2009a)
Element Description Edition Date: 15Oct2014
Element Description Author(s): G.P. Fleming
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Oct2014

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., 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. 2009a. A vegetation classification for the Appalachian Trail: Virginia south to Georgia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. In-house analysis, March 2009.

  • 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.


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