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Scientific Name: West Gulf Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Hardwood-Pine Flatwoods
Unique Identifier: CES203.548
Image 22082
© NatureServe
Summary: This ecological system represents predominantly wet hardwood and hardwood-pine flatwoods of the West Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas, eastern Texas, and western Louisiana. Examples may be somewhat more common in the inland portions of the region but are also found in the Outer Coastal Plain as well. These areas are usually found on Pleistocene high terraces (EPA Ecoregion 35c) primarily associated with the Red and Mississippi rivers that are located above the current floodplain. The hydrology is controlled by local rainfall events and not by overbank flooding. Soils are fine-textured, and hardpans may be present in the subsurface. The limited permeability of these soils contributes to perched water tables during fairly substantial portions of the year (when precipitation is greatest and evapotranspiration is lowest). Saturation occurs not from overbank flooding but typically whenever precipitation events occur. The local landscape is often a complex of ridges and swales, usually occurring in close proximity. There is vegetation variability related to soil texture and moisture and disturbance history. Most examples support hardwood forests or swamps, which are often heavily oak-dominated. Important species are tolerant of inundation. They include Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus laurifolia, Quercus michauxii, and Quercus phellos, with sparse coverage of wetland herbs such as Carex glaucescens. Some swales support unusual pockets of Fraxinus caroliniana and Crataegus spp. Some examples can contain Pinus taeda.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system may grade upslope into West Gulf Coastal Plain Pine-Hardwood Flatwoods (CES203.278) and down into West Gulf Coastal Plain Flatwoods Pond (CES203.547). Apparently, this system occurs within the historic range of longleaf pine [see USFS ecomap attributions]. Within this range, more information is needed to identify the toposequence between longleaf pine-dominated flatwoods/savannas/uplands and hardwood/loblolly-dominated flatwoods. The distribution of this system in the South Central Plains Flatwoods and Southern Tertiary Uplands (EPA 35e and f) needs to be better defined.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES202.454 Interior Highlands Unglaciated Flatwoods
CES203.193 Lower Mississippi River Flatwoods
CES203.278 West Gulf Coastal Plain Pine-Hardwood Flatwoods
CES203.547 West Gulf Coastal Plain Flatwoods Pond

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL004753 Fraxinus caroliniana Swamp Forest
CEGL007069 Pinus taeda - (Pinus echinata) - Quercus (pagoda, phellos) Wet Woodland
CEGL007363 Quercus phellos - Quercus similis / Crataegus marshallii - Crataegus spathulata / Chasmanthium laxum Wet Forest
CEGL007371 Quercus phellos / Chasmanthium laxum - Carex (flaccosperma, intumescens) - Hymenocallis liriosme Wet Flatwoods Forest
CEGL007386 (Quercus laurifolia) / Crataegus opaca - Crataegus viridis Swamp Forest
CEGL007390 Nyssa biflora - Quercus laurifolia / Sphagnum spp. Riparian Forest
CEGL007549 Quercus lyrata - Quercus phellos - Ulmus americana / Rhynchospora spp. Wet Forest
CEGL007804 Quercus laurifolia - Liquidambar styraciflua - Nyssa biflora - Acer rubrum / Sabal minor Floodplain Forest
CEGL007902 Taxodium distichum - Nyssa biflora - Magnolia virginiana - Acer rubrum Floodplain Forest
CEGL007961 Quercus laurifolia - Quercus phellos / Viburnum dentatum - (Ditrysinia fruticosa) / Carex glaucescens Upper West Gulf Wet Flatwoods Forest
CEGL008576 Quercus phellos / Chasmanthium laxum Wet Forest


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Silt Soil Texture  
West Gulf Coastal Plain  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Isolated Wetland Partially Isolated

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Nyssa biflora G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus michauxii G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus nigra G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus phellos G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus laurifolia G5 Broad-leaved evergreen tree Tree canopy    
Crataegus spathulata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Ditrysinia fruticosa G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Sabal minor G5 Palm shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Chasmanthium laxum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AR, LA, TX
Global Range: This system is found in the West Gulf Coastal Plain, Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain, and Mississippi River Alluvial Plain (P. Faulkner pers. comm.).

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
203-Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
31 Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes Possible
40 Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain Confident or certain
41 West Gulf Coastal Plain Confident or certain
42 Mississippi River Alluvial Plain Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
36 Western Gulf Plains Possible
37 Ouachita Hills and Delta Confident or certain
44 Ozark Highlands Confident or certain
45 Northern Mississippi Alluvial Plains Confident or certain
98 Southern Mississippi Alluvial Plains Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9350
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1506
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2506

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: Yes

Element Description Edition Date: 20Aug2015
Element Description Author(s): R. Evans, M. Pyne, J. Teague and 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.

  • 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.

  • Evans, Rob. Personal communication. Regional Ecologist, Plant Conservation Program, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Raleigh, NC.

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

  • Foti, Tom. Personal communication. Ecologist [retired]. Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Little Rock.

  • Marks, P. L., and P. A. Harcombe. 1981. Forest vegetation of the Big Thicket, southeast Texas. Ecological Monographs 51:287-305.

  • Zollner, Douglas. Personal communication. Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Field Office, Little Rock.

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