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

Scientific Name: Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Pond
Unique Identifier: CES203.518
Image 21955
© Robert E. Zaremba
Summary: This system includes vegetation of groundwater-flooded depressions characterized by a flora generally characteristic of the northeastern and mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain, with peripheral occurrences to southern Maine and southern Vermont. Also included in this system are ponds supporting coastal plain flora in southern Canada, and in scattered locations in the Great Lakes region. Ponds may contain permanent water, such as the deep glacial kettleholes of Cape Cod and Long Island, New York, or may be shallow basins where groundwater drops below the surface late in the growing season. This system occurs on porous deposits such as outwash plains of the glaciated region, and on sandy and silty sediments of the mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region. Vegetation within this system varies from nearly forested to entirely herbaceous, largely dependent on the depth and duration of seasonal inundation. Overall the floristics are characterized by species that are well-adapted to long periods of submersion or inundation. The vegetation of steeper-sided basins (generally those containing permanent water) are characterized by strong zonation, with a border of tall shrubs, such as Vaccinium corymbosum, and several essentially concentric bands or zones dominated by different associations, depending on geography. Characteristic species in Massachusetts and Long Island include Carex striata, Cyperus dentatus, Drosera filiformis, Euthamia caroliniana, Fimbristylis autumnalis, Gratiola aurea, Juncus militaris, Juncus pelocarpus, Panicum verrucosum, Rhexia virginica, Rhynchospora capillacea, Rhynchospora macrostachya, Sabatia kennedyana, Scleria reticularis, Xyris difformis, and many others. In very steep-sided ponds, zonation is compressed or nonexistent.

Ponds of the New Jersey Pine Barrens share many of these species, with others including Juncus repens, Muhlenbergia torreyi, Rhynchospora cephalantha, Rhynchospora chalarocephala, Rhynchospora oligantha, and many others. In shallow basins, such strong zonation is generally lacking but still remains evident in some cases. On Cape Cod, Long Island, and New Jersey, this system most often occurs within the pitch pine barrens. From Cape May and south, the system occurs within an upland matrix of mixed hardwood forests and generally supports a seasonally flooded swamp forest characterized by Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, wetland oaks such as Quercus palustris and Quercus phellos, and in Virginia and scattered locations on the Inner Coastal Plain of Maryland Nyssa biflora. Shrub zones are characterized by Cephalanthus occidentalis, Diospyros virginiana, and Eubotrys racemosa. The vegetation includes many of the species from New England, New York and New Jersey and also Boltonia asteroides, Carex joorii, Coelorachis rugosa, Dichanthelium spretum, Eleocharis quadrangulata, Fimbristylis perpusilla, Juncus repens, Rhynchospora corniculata, Saccharum baldwinii, Saccharum giganteum, Torreyochloa pallida, and others. This system provides important habitat for the state-rare chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia) and three state-listed amphibians: Mabee's salamander (Ambystoma mabeei), tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), and barking tree frog (Dryophytes gratiosus). In addition, the globally rare plants Fimbristylis perpusilla and Litsea aestivalis are confined to these habitats in Virginia.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: In some cases, these are locally known as "Delmarva bays."

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.245 Atlantic Coastal Plain Clay-Based Carolina Bay Wetland
CES203.262 Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Depression Pond
CES203.374 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Pitch Pine Lowland

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL004047 Leersia hexandra - (Panicum verrucosum, Scleria reticularis) Marsh
CEGL004120 Carex striata var. brevis Marsh
CEGL004290 Polygonum (hydropiperoides, punctatum) - Leersia spp. Shoreline Wet Meadow
CEGL005089 Decodon verticillatus Shrub Swamp
CEGL005108 Rhynchospora capitellata - Rhexia virginica - Rhynchospora scirpoides - Schoenoplectiella hallii Marsh
CEGL006016 Cladium mariscoides - Eleocharis equisetoides Marsh
CEGL006035 Lysimachia terrestris - Dulichium arundinaceum - Rhexia virginica Marsh
CEGL006086 Nymphaea odorata - Eleocharis robbinsii Aquatic Vegetation
CEGL006087 Decodon verticillatus / Triadenum virginicum Wet Shrubland
CEGL006095 Spartina pectinata North Atlantic Coast Marsh
CEGL006110 Liquidambar styraciflua - Acer rubrum - Quercus phellos / Eubotrys racemosa Swamp Forest
CEGL006210 Rhynchospora capitellata - Cyperus dentatus - Rhexia virginica - Xyris difformis Marsh
CEGL006214 Taxodium distichum - Nyssa (biflora, sylvatica) / Clethra alnifolia / Boehmeria cylindrica Floodplain Forest
CEGL006223 Liquidambar styraciflua - Acer rubrum - Nyssa biflora / Carex joorii Swamp Forest
CEGL006242 Cephalanthus occidentalis / Polygonum hydropiperoides - Panicum verrucosum Shrub Swamp
CEGL006243 Calamagrostis canadensis - Dichanthelium meridionale - (Mixed Shrub) Marsh
CEGL006261 Eleocharis (obtusa, flavescens) - Eriocaulon aquaticum Marsh
CEGL006264 Rhexia virginica - Panicum verrucosum Marsh
CEGL006300 Rhexia virginica - Crotalaria sagittalis Marsh
CEGL006332 Cladium mariscoides - Coelorachis rugosa Marsh
CEGL006338 Panicum hemitomon - Panicum verrucosum Marsh
CEGL006345 Juncus militaris - Eriocaulon aquaticum Marsh
CEGL006346 Eriocaulon aquaticum - Lobelia dortmanna Marsh
CEGL006371 Vaccinium corymbosum - Rhododendron viscosum - Clethra alnifolia Acidic Peatland
CEGL006400 Eleocharis flavescens - Xyris difformis Marsh
CEGL006415 Dulichium arundinaceum - Juncus canadensis - Juncus pelocarpus Marsh
CEGL006608 Eragrostis hypnoides - Ludwigia sphaerocarpa - Polygonum hydropiperoides Marsh
CEGL006609 Saccharum giganteum - (Dichanthelium spretum, Panicum verrucosum) Marsh
CEGL006610 Juncus repens - Boltonia asteroides Marsh
CEGL006760 Muhlenbergia torreyana - Rhynchospora fusca Marsh
CEGL006761 Panicum virgatum / Sphagnum spp. Wet Meadow
CEGL006762 Cladium mariscoides - Juncus canadensis Marsh
CEGL006763 Dichanthelium (spretum, dichotomum var. dichotomum) - Panicum (verrucosum, rigidulum var. pubescens) - Andropogon virginicus Marsh
CEGL006764 Polygonum (hydropiper, punctatum, lapathifolium) - Bidens connata - Leersia oryzoides Marsh


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

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

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Clonophis kirtlandii
  (Kirtland's Snake)
Coreopsis rosea
  (Rose Coreopsis)
Dichanthelium hirstii
  (Hirsts' Panicgrass)
Eulimnadia agassizii
  (Agassiz Clam Shrimp)
Eupatorium leucolepis var. novae-angliae
  (White-bract Boneset)
Eupatorium resinosum
  (Pine Barrens Boneset)
Euthamia galetorum
  (Narrowleaf Fragrant Goldenrod)
Fimbristylis perpusilla
  (Harper's Fimbry)
Helenium virginicum
  (Virginia Sneezeweed)
G3 LT: Listed threatened
Hypericum adpressum
  (Creeping St. John's-wort)
Lobelia boykinii
  (Boykin's Lobelia)
Lycopodiella margueritiae
  (Northern Prostrate Clubmoss)
Lycopodiella subappressa
  (Northern Appressed Clubmoss)
Oxypolis canbyi
  (Canby's Dropwort)
G2 LE: Listed endangered
Papaipema sulphurata
  (Decodon Stem Borer Moth)
Rhexia aristosa
  (Awned Meadowbeauty)
Sabatia kennedyana
  (Plymouth Rose-gentian)
Sagittaria teres
  (Slender Arrowhead)
Schoenoplectus etuberculatus
  (Canby's Bulrush)
Scirpus ancistrochaetus
  (Northeastern Bulrush)
G3 LE: Listed endangered

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Drosera filiformis G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Euthamia caroliniana G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Gratiola aurea G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Rhexia virginica G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Sabatia kennedyana G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Sisyrinchium montanum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
Cyperus dentatus G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Fimbristylis autumnalis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Juncus militaris G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Scleria reticularis G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Ambystoma mabeei
  (Mabee's Salamander)
Ambystoma maculatum
  (Spotted Salamander)
Ambystoma tigrinum
  (Tiger Salamander)
Clonophis kirtlandii
  (Kirtland's Snake)
Condylura cristata
  (Star-nosed Mole)
Deirochelys reticularia
  (Chicken Turtle)
Dryophytes gratiosus
  (Barking Treefrog)
Dryophytes versicolor
  (Gray Treefrog)
Eulimnadia agassizii
  (Agassiz Clam Shrimp)
Papaipema sulphurata
  (Decodon Stem Borer Moth)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: DE, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, VA, VT, WI
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: NS, ON
Global Range: This system ranges from the southern portion of the Delmarva peninsula to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with scattered Coastal Plain occurrences north to southern Maine; also in limited, highly disjunct occurrences on sand lakeplain in Nova Scotia, near southern Lake Michigan and in southeastern Vermont. Outwash sandplains in the Connecticut River Valley of southern Massachusetts support a few degraded occurrences.

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

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
48 Great Lakes Confident or certain
58 Chesapeake Bay Lowlands Confident or certain
61 Lower New England / Northern Piedmont Confident or certain
62 North Atlantic Coast Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
49 Central Till Plains Possible
51 Great Lakes Plains Confident or certain
60 Chesapeake Bay Confident or certain
61 Northern Appalachia Never was there
63 Finger Lakes Predicted or probable
64 Northeastern Highlands Predicted or probable
65 Connecticut River Basin and Highlands Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9283

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): SC. Gawler, R. Evans, L.A. Sneddon, M. Pyne

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.

  • Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero, editors. 2014a. Ecological communities of New York state. Second edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's ecological communities of New York state. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

  • Faber-Langendoen, D., C. Hedge, M. Kost, S. Thomas, L. Smart, R. Smyth, J. Drake, and S. Menard. 2011. Assessment of wetland ecosystem condition across landscape regions: A multi-metric approach. NatureServe, Arlington VA. plus appendices.

  • Gawler, S. C., and A. Cutko. 2010. Natural landscapes of Maine: A classification of vegetated natural communities and ecosystems. Maine Natural Areas Program, Department of Conservation, Augusta.

  • Kost, M. A., D. A. Albert, J. G. Cohen, B. S. Slaughter, R. K. Schillo, C. R. Weber, and K. A. Chapman. 2007. Natural communities of Michigan: Classification and description. Report No. 2007-21, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing. 314 pp. []

  • Lundgren, J. A. 1989. Distribution and phenology of pondshore vegetation at a coastal plain pond in Plymouth, MA. Master's thesis, Botany Department. University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

  • NYNHP [New York Natural Heritage Program]. 2013g. Online conservation guide for Coastal Plain Pond Shore. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY. [] (accessed September 26, 2013).

  • Schneider, R. 1994. The role of hydrologic regime in maintaining rare plant communities of New York's coastal plain pondshores. Biological Conservation 68:253-260.

  • Sorrie, B. A. 1994. Coastal Plain ponds in New England. Biological Conservation 68:223-233.

  • Sperduto, D. D., and W. F. Nichols. 2004. Natural communities of New Hampshire: A guide and classification. New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, DRED Division of Forests and Lands, Concord. 242 pp.

  • Swain, P. C., and J. B. Kearsley. 2011. Classification of the natural communities of Massachusetts. Version 1.4. Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. []

  • WDNR [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]. 2015. The ecological landscapes of Wisconsin: An assessment of ecological resources and a guide to planning sustainable management. PUB-SS-1131 2015. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison. []

  • Wisheu, I. C., and P. A. Keddy. 1989. The conservation and management of a threatened coastal plain plant community in eastern North America (Nova Scotia, Canada). Biological Conservation 48:229-238.

  • Zaremba, R. E., and E. E. Lamont. 1993. The status of the Coastal Plain pondshore community in New York. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 120:180-187.

  • Zebryk, T. M. 2004. Inland sandy acid pondshores in the lower Connecticut River Valley, Hampden County, Massachusetts. Rhodora 106:66-76.

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