NatureServe Explorer logo.An Online Encyclopedia of Life
Ecological System Comprehensive Report: Record 1 of 1 selected. View Glossary
<< Previous | Next >>

Scientific Name: Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Mesic Meadow
Unique Identifier: CES306.829
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

Search for Images on Google
Summary: This Rocky Mountain ecological system is restricted to sites from lower montane to subalpine where finely textured soils, snow deposition, or windswept dry conditions limit tree establishment. Many occurrences are small patch in spatial character, and are often found in mosaics with woodlands, more dense shrublands, or just below alpine communities. It is typically found above 2000 m in elevation in the southern part of its range and above 600 m in the northern part. These upland communities occur on gentle to moderate-gradient slopes and relatively moist habitats. The soils are typically seasonally moist to saturated in the spring, but if so will dry out later in the growing season. These sites are not as wet as those found in Rocky Mountain Alpine-Montane Wet Meadow (CES306.812). Vegetation is typically forb-rich, with forbs often contributing more to overall herbaceous cover than graminoids. Some stands are composed of dense grasslands, these often being taxa with relatively broad and soft blades, but where the moist habitat promotes a rich forb component. Important taxa include Erigeron spp., Asteraceae spp., Mertensia spp., Penstemon spp., Campanula spp., Lupinus spp., Solidago spp., Ligusticum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, Valeriana sitchensis, Rudbeckia occidentalis, Balsamorhiza sagittata, and Wyethia spp. Important grasses include Deschampsia cespitosa, Koeleria macrantha, perennial Bromus spp., and a number of Carex species. Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda and Symphoricarpos spp. are occasional but not abundant. Burrowing mammals can increase the forb diversity.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: There are probably quite a number of Carex- and Calamagrostis-dominated types that could be cited as constituent associations.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES306.812 Rocky Mountain Alpine-Montane Wet Meadow

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001847 Antennaria microphylla - Artemisia scopulorum Alpine Meadow
CEGL001880 Deschampsia cespitosa - Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis Wet Meadow
CEGL001884 Deschampsia cespitosa - Geum rossii Wet Meadow
CEGL001885 Deschampsia cespitosa - Ligusticum tenuifolium Wet Meadow
CEGL001887 Deschampsia cespitosa - Mertensia ciliata Wet Meadow
CEGL001889 Deschampsia cespitosa - Potentilla diversifolia Wet Meadow
CEGL001902 Ivesia gordonii - Minuartia obtusiloba Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001903 Ivesia gordonii - Eriogonum caespitosum Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001915 Ligusticum porteri - Lupinus parviflorus ssp. myrianthus Meadow
CEGL001916 Ligusticum porteri - Vicia americana Meadow
CEGL001917 Ligusticum tenuifolium - Trollius laxus ssp. albiflorus Meadow
CEGL001920 Phleum alpinum - Achillea millefolium Meadow
CEGL001935 Trifolium dasyphyllum Alpine Fell-field
CEGL001936 Trifolium parryi Alpine Snowbed
CEGL001937 Agastache urticifolia - Heliomeris multiflora Meadow
CEGL001940 Heracleum maximum - Rudbeckia occidentalis Wet Meadow
CEGL001941 Ligusticum filicinum - Delphinium x occidentale Meadow
CEGL001942 Lupinus argenteus - Fragaria virginiana Meadow
CEGL001943 Lupinus spp. - Poa spp. Meadow
CEGL001944 Mertensia ciliata Meadow
CEGL001947 Wyethia amplexicaulis Meadow
CEGL001970 Geum rossii - Trifolium spp. Alpine Turf
CEGL005856 Chamerion angustifolium Rocky Mountain Meadow
CEGL005859 Xerophyllum tenax Meadow
CEGL005873 Luzula glabrata var. hitchcockii - Erythronium grandiflorum Meadow


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Upper Montane
Silt Soil Texture  
Clay Soil Texture  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Temperate Temperate Continental
Shallow Soil  
Mineral: W/ A-Horizon >10 cm  
W-Patch/Medium Intensity  
W-Landscape/Medium Intensity  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Balsamorhiza sagittata G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium T5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Eriogonum umbellatum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Geranium viscosissimum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Lupinus argenteus G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Potentilla gracilis G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Festuca idahoensis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Pseudoroegneria spicata ssp. spicata T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: AB, BC
Global Range: This system is very widespread in the Rocky Mountain cordillera from New Mexico north into Canada. It probably occurs in the Black Hills region, as well as the "island ranges" of central Montana.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
304-Inter-Mountain Basins C: Confident or certain
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
11 Great Basin Confident or certain
18 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
19 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
21 Arizona-New Mexico Mountains Confident or certain
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
68 Okanagan Confident or certain
7 Canadian Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
8 Middle Rockies - Blue Mountains Confident or certain
9 Utah-Wyoming Rocky Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Possible
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Confident or certain
13 Death Valley Basin Confident or certain
15 Mogollon Rim Confident or certain
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Predicted or probable
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
20 Missouri River Plateau Confident or certain
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
22 Wyoming Basin Predicted or probable
23 Colorado Plateau Confident or certain
24 Navajo Plateau Confident or certain
25 Rio Grande Basin Confident or certain
27 Great Plains Tablelands Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 7118
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1145
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2145

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 23Jan2006
Element Description Author(s): NatureServe Western Ecology Team

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

  • Buckner, D. L. 1977. Ribbon forest development and maintenance in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Unpublished dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder. 224 pp.

  • 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.

  • Ellison, L. 1954. Subalpine vegetation of the Wasatch Plateau, Utah. Ecological Monographs 24(2):89-104.

  • Fritz, R. J. 1981. Alpine vegetational patterns around isolated tree islands on the eastern and western slopes of the Tenmile Range, Summit County, Colorado. Unpublished thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. 233 pp.

  • Gregory, S. 1983. Subalpine forb community types of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming. Unpublished completion report #36 for USDA Forest Service Cooperative Education Agreement (contract 40-8555-3-115). Bozeman, MT 63 pp.

  • Hall, H. H. 1971. Ecology of a subalpine meadow of the Aquarius Plateau, Garfield and Wayne counties, Utah. Unpublished dissertation, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • Hammerson, G. A. 1979. Structure and reproduction of "tree island" populations of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) in the lower alpine tundra of Colorado. Journal of the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science 11(1):23-24 (Abstract).

  • Marr, J. W. 1977a. The development and movement of tree islands near the upper limit of tree growth in the southern Rocky Mountains. Ecology 58:1159-1164.

  • Meidinger, D., and J. Pojar, editors. 1991. Ecosystems of British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Forests Special Report Series No. 6. Victoria, BC. 330 pp.

  • NCC [The Nature Conservancy of Canada]. 2002. Canadian Rockies ecoregional plan. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Victoria, BC.

  • Nachlinger, J. L. 1985. The ecology of subalpine meadows in the Lake Tahoe region, California and Nevada. Unpublished thesis, University of Nevada, Reno. 151 pp.

  • Neely, B., P. Comer, C. Moritz, M. Lammerts, R. Rondeau, C. Prague, G. Bell, H. Copeland, J. Humke, S. Spakeman, T. Schulz, D. Theobald, and L. Valutis. 2001. Southern Rocky Mountains: An ecoregional assessment and conservation blueprint. Prepared by The Nature Conservancy with support from the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Bureau of Land Management.

  • Potkin, M., and L. Munn. 1989. Subalpine and alpine plant communities in the Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wyoming. USDA Forest Service Contract No. 53-8555-3-00015. Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie. 117 pp. plus appendix.

  • Shiflet, T. N., editor. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO. 152 pp.

  • Starr, C. R. 1974. Subalpine meadow vegetation in relation to environment at Headquarters Park, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Unpublished thesis, University of Wyoming, Laramie.

  • Steen, O. A., and R. A. Coupé. 1997. A field guide to forest site identification and interpretation for the Cariboo Forest Region. Land Management Handbook No. 39. Parts 1 and 2. British Columbia Ministry of Forests Research Program, Victoria, BC.

  • WNHP [Washington Natural Heritage Program]. 2018. Unpublished data files. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA.

Use Guidelines and Citation

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.

Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of March 2019.
Note: This report was printed on

Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: Copyright © 2019 NatureServe, 2511 Richmond (Jefferson Davis) Highway, Suite 930, Arlington, VA 22202, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2019. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit Local Programs).

Feedback Request: NatureServe encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data through (see Contact Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.

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