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Scientific Name: Tamaulipan Floodplain
Unique Identifier: CES301.990
Classification Confidence: 1 - Strong

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Summary: This ecological system is limited to riparian areas of the lower Rio Grande Valley and Rio Corona in southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Stands occur on riverbanks, floodplains and deltas. Stands are generally deciduous woodlands or forests with tree height reaching to 15 m. Canopy cover is variable, but sometimes reaches near 100%. The canopy may have a conspicuous (sometimes dominant to codominant) evergreen component of species such as Ebenopsis ebano and Ehretia anacua. Dominant species of the overstory canopy often include one or more of the following: Celtis laevigata, Ulmus crassifolia, Fraxinus berlandieriana, Prosopis glandulosa, Vachellia farnesiana, Diospyros texana, Leucaena pulverulenta, Celtis ehrenbergiana, Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, Ebenopsis ebano, Ehretia anacua, and Parkinsonia aculeata. These woodlands are a unique mix of species from southeastern North America and subtropical Central America and are often dominated by Vachellia farnesiana, Diospyros texana, Ebenopsis ebano, Ehretia anacua, Fraxinus berlandieriana, or Ulmus crassifolia, and many other tree species present to locally dominant. The highly variable understory is dependent on canopy density and may include dense shrub or herbaceous layers.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES301.716 Rio Grande Delta Thorn Woodland

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL002054 Ebenopsis ebano - Ehretia anacua / Condalia hookeri Riparian Forest
CEGL002131 Vachellia farnesiana - (Prosopis glandulosa) Riparian Woodland
CEGL002169 Ebenopsis ebano - Phaulothamnus spinescens Scrub
CEGL004115 Phragmites australis ssp. berlandieri Riverbank Wet Meadow
CEGL007752 Celtis laevigata - Ulmus crassifolia - (Fraxinus berlandieriana) / Rivina humilis - Chromolaena odorata Riparian Forest
CEGL007753 Salix interior / Phragmites australis ssp. berlandieri Wet Shrubland
CEGL007754 Salix nigra - Celtis laevigata var. laevigata / Baccharis neglecta Riparian Forest
CEGL007755 Vachellia farnesiana - Parkinsonia aculeata Riparian Forest
CEGL007782 Celtis laevigata - Ulmus crassifolia - (Fraxinus spp.) / Celtis ehrenbergiana / Elymus virginicus Riparian Forest


Land Cover Class: Woody Wetland
Spatial Pattern: Linear
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: No
Wetland: Yes
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Lowland Lowland
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Tropical/Subtropical Tropical Xeric
Riverine / Alluvial  
Intermediate (5-25 yrs) Flooding Interval  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Broad-Leaved Tree  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Diospyros texana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Fraxinus berlandieriana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy  
Ulmus crassifolia G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Acacia farnesiana G5 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree canopy    
Ebenopsis ebano G4 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree canopy  
Ehretia anacua G5 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree canopy  
Condalia hookeri G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Parkinsonia aculeata G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Eupatorium odoratum G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Rivina humilis G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Arundo donax G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica TNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
Bromus catharticus GNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
Cynodon dactylon GNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
Pennisetum ciliare GNR Graminoid Herb (field)    
Urochloa maxima G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: TX
Distribution Outside Canada and the United States: Mexico
Global Range: This system encompasses vegetation of riparian areas of the lower Rio Grande Valley and Rio Corona in southern Texas and northeastern Mexico.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
301-Madrean Semidesert C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
30 Tamaulipan Thorn Scrub Confident or certain
31 Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes Predicted or probable

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
36 Western Gulf Plains Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9136
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1467
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2467

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): J. Teague, M. Pyne, L. Elliott

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

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Correll, D. S., and M. C. Johnston. 1970. Manual of the vascular plants of Texas. Texas Research Foundation. Renner, TX. (Second printing, 1979. University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson) 1881 pp.

  • Diamond, D. D. 1987. Plant communities of Texas (series level). Texas Natural Heritage Program, Austin. 36 pp.

  • Elliott, L. 2011. Draft descriptions of systems, mapping subsystems, and vegetation types for Phases I, II, III, and IV. Unpublished documents. Texas Parks and Wildlife Ecological Systems Classification and Mapping Project. Texas Natural History Survey, The Nature Conservancy of Texas, San Antonio.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Jahrsdoerfer, S. E., and D. M. Leslie. 1988. Tamaulipan brushland of the lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas: Description, human impacts, and management options. USDI Fish & Wildlife Service. Biological Report 88(36). 63 pp.

  • LANDFIRE [Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Database]. 2007a. Landfire National Vegetation Dynamics Models. Landfire Project, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior. (January - last update) [] (accessed 8 February 2007).

  • Lonard, R. I., and F. W. Judd. 2002. Riparian vegetation of the lower Rio Grande. The Southwestern Naturalist 47:420-432.

  • McLendon, T. 1991. Preliminary description of the vegetation of south Texas exclusive of coastal saline zones. Texas Journal of Science 43:13-32.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 2013. Climate Wizard. The Nature Conservancy, University of Washington, and The University of Southern Mississippi. [] (accessed September 19, 2013).

  • Webster, G. L. 2001. Reconnaissance of the flora and vegetation of La Frontera. Pages 6-38 in: G. L. Webster and C. J. Bahre, editors. Changing plant life of La Frontera: Observations of vegetation in the United States/Mexico borderlands. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.

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Version 7.1 (2 February 2009)
Data last updated: March 2019