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Scientific Name: West Gulf Coastal Plain Small Stream and River Forest
Unique Identifier: CES203.487

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Summary: This is a predominantly forested system of the West Gulf Coastal Plain associated with small rivers and creeks. In contrast to West Gulf Coastal Plain Large River Floodplain Forest (CES203.488), examples of this system have fewer major geomorphic floodplain features. Those features that are present tend to be smaller and more closely intermixed with one another, resulting in less obvious vegetational zonation. Bottomland hardwood tree species are typically important and diagnostic, although mesic hardwood species are also present in areas with less inundation, such as upper terraces and possibly second bottoms. As a whole, flooding occurs annually, but the water table usually is well below the soil surface throughout most of the growing season. Areas impacted by beaver impoundments are also included in this system. Stands of this system are typically dominated by hardwood tree species such as Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus nigra, Celtis laevigata, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Betula nigra, Quercus laurifolia, Ulmus americana, Ulmus crassifolia, Ulmus alata, Ulmus rubra, Quercus michauxii, Quercus texana, Quercus pagoda, Quercus falcata, Platanus occidentalis, Diospyros virginiana, Gleditsia triacanthos, and Acer rubrum. Wetter sites tend to be dominated by more flood-tolerant species such as Taxodium distichum, Nyssa aquatica, Gleditsia aquatica, Carya aquatica, Quercus lyrata, Quercus similis, Planera aquatica, and Quercus phellos.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.488 West Gulf Coastal Plain Large River Floodplain Forest
CES205.709 Southeastern Great Plains Riparian Forest

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL004099 Andropogon glomeratus var. pumilus Ruderal Marsh
CEGL004613 Populus deltoides - Salix nigra / Ilex vomitoria Floodplain Forest
CEGL004779 Pallavicinia lyellii - Sphagnum sp. Cliff Vegetation
CEGL004911 Pinus taeda - Liquidambar styraciflua - Quercus (nigra, phellos) / Crataegus marshallii Floodplain Forest
CEGL007142 Pinus taeda Riparian Forest
CEGL007320 Fagus grandifolia - Pinus taeda - (Liquidambar styraciflua, Magnolia grandiflora, Quercus alba) Small Stream Forest
CEGL007359 Quercus pagoda - Quercus similis - Carya glabra - Quercus sinuata var. sinuata / Crataegus triflora Floodplain Forest
CEGL007407 Quercus texana - Quercus lyrata Floodplain Forest
CEGL007778 Ulmus americana - Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Celtis laevigata / Glyceria striata - (Carex cherokeensis) Riparian Blackland Woodland
CEGL007779 Maclura pomifera - Diospyros virginiana / Glyceria striata - (Carex cherokeensis) Floodplain Woodland
CEGL007780 Quercus muehlenbergii - Liquidambar styraciflua / (Arundinaria gigantea) / Carex cherokeensis - Chasmanthium latifolium Mesic Riparian Forest
CEGL007804 Quercus laurifolia - Liquidambar styraciflua - Nyssa biflora - Acer rubrum / Sabal minor Floodplain Forest
CEGL007898 Betula nigra - Liquidambar styraciflua - Platanus occidentalis - Quercus nigra Floodplain Forest
CEGL007899 Quercus pagoda - Liquidambar styraciflua - Pinus taeda Floodplain Forest
CEGL007901 Quercus michauxii - Quercus nigra - Pinus taeda / Carpinus caroliniana Floodplain Forest
CEGL007903 Magnolia grandiflora - Fagus grandifolia - Quercus alba - Pinus taeda Forest
CEGL007910 Pinus taeda - Quercus phellos - Quercus nigra Riparian Forest
CEGL007928 Taxodium distichum - Fraxinus pennsylvanica Floodplain Forest
CEGL007950 Ulmus crassifolia - Celtis laevigata - (Ulmus rubra) / Carex digitalis - Geum canadense Floodplain Forest
CEGL007952 Quercus pagoda / Ulmus crassifolia - Celtis laevigata / Carex cherokeensis Floodplain Forest
CEGL007953 Quercus nigra - Ulmus alata / Ostrya virginiana Floodplain Forest
CEGL007954 Quercus nigra - Quercus phellos / Carya myristiciformis - Sabal minor / Carex cherokeensis Floodplain Forest
CEGL007976 Fagus grandifolia - Magnolia virginiana - (Pinus palustris) / Chasmanthium sessiliflorum Sandhill Streamhead Forest
CEGL007984 Quercus nigra - Liquidambar styraciflua / Ilex opaca - Vaccinium fuscatum / Carex debilis Floodplain Forest
CEGL007987 Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Ulmus americana - (Quercus texana) / Bidens aristosa - Leersia virginica Floodplain Forest
CEGL007990 Cephalanthus occidentalis - Cornus obliqua - Salix nigra / Carex joorii - Polygonum hydropiperoides Beaver Pond Shrub Swamp
CEGL008497 Taxodium distichum West Gulf Coastal Plain Lakeshore Swamp Woodland
CEGL008574 Fagus grandifolia - Quercus (laurifolia, nigra) - Pinus taeda 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
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Riverine / Alluvial  
Intermittent Flooding  
West Gulf Coastal Plain  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Betula nigra G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus michauxii G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Quercus phellos G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Tree canopy    
Arundinaria gigantea ssp. gigantea T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Carex debilis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Chasmanthium sessiliflorum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Leersia virginica G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Berchemia scandens G5 Liana Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AR, LA, OK, TX
Global Range: West Gulf Coastal Plain.

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 Predicted or probable
40 Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain Confident or certain
41 West Gulf Coastal 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
98 Southern Mississippi Alluvial Plains Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9196

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 17Feb2011
Element Description Author(s): R. Evans, M. Pyne 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.

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

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

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