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Scientific Name: Interior Low Plateau Seepage Fen
Unique Identifier: CES202.346

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Summary: This system accommodates small-scale, herbaceous-dominated seepage areas found in limited areas of the unglaciated Interior Low Plateau. It is most frequent in the Western Highland Rim of Tennessee (Lewis, Cheatham, and Williamson counties). There are also rare occurrences of this system in the Eastern Highland Rim of Tennessee and related limited areas of Kentucky and possibly Ohio. These features have been generally known as "seepage fens" and are fed by mineral-rich groundwater. Examples are associated with stream drainages but are generally not affected by stream-related hydrology. Soils contain a thin organic layer over limestone gravel, over a less permeable layer of more solid rock. The vegetation is dominated by herbaceous plants. Characteristic species include Carex atlantica, Carex lurida, Carex leptalea ssp. harperi, Parnassia grandifolia, Juncus brachycephalus, Rudbeckia fulgida var. umbrosa, Cardamine bulbosa, Impatiens capensis, Juncus coriaceus, Juncus effusus, Lobelia puberula, Lobelia cardinalis, Oxypolis rigidior, Phlox glaberrima, Rhynchospora capitellata, Scirpus atrovirens, Scirpus cyperinus, Solidago patula var. patula, and Thelypteris palustris var. pubescens. Woody species include Alnus serrulata, Cornus amomum, Salix caroliniana, Salix humilis, and Acer rubrum, which may invade the herbaceous seep. Xyris tennesseensis is endemic to this system and occurs in 50% or more of its occurrences.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system is a small-patch system, originally described from a small region. Its range has been expanded to include a greater geographic scope.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES202.052 Ozark-Ouachita Fen
CES202.458 Southern Ridge and Valley Seepage Fen
CES202.607 North-Central Appalachian Seepage Fen

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL004161 Carex lurida - Carex leptalea - Parnassia grandifolia - Juncus brachycephalus - (Xyris tennesseensis) Seepage Fen
CEGL007059 Alnus serrulata Southern Interior Seepage Shrubland


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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Seepage-Fed Sloping  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Shrubland (Shrub-dominated)  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Parnassia grandifolia
  (Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus)
Xyris tennesseensis
  (Tennessee Yellow-eyed-grass)
G2 LE: Listed endangered

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Salix caroliniana G5 Broad-leaved deciduous tree Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Alnus serrulata G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Impatiens capensis G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Oxypolis rigidior G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Parnassia grandifolia G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Rudbeckia fulgida var. umbrosa T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
Carex leptalea ssp. harperi T4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
Juncus effusus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    

Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
Pseudotriton ruber
  (Red Salamander)
Sorex longirostris
  (Southeastern Shrew)

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: KY, OHpotentially occurs, TN
Global Range: This system is found in limited areas of the Interior Low Plateau of Tennessee, Kentucky and possibly Ohio (D. Minney pers. comm. 2006), including primarily the Western Highland Rim region of Tennessee (Ecoregion 71f of Griffith et al. (1998), EPA (2004); Subsection 222Eg of Keys et al. (1995)).

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
202-Central Interior and Appalachian C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
44 Interior Low Plateau Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
47 Appalachia Bluegrass Hills Confident or certain
48 Cumberland Highlands Confident or certain
53 Appalachia Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9409

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 30Jun2016
Element Description Author(s): 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.

  • EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. 2004. Level III and IV Ecoregions of EPA Region 4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR. Scale 1:2,000,000.

  • Evans, M., B. Yahn, and M. Hines. 2009. Natural communities of Kentucky 2009. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, Frankfort, KY. 22 pp.

  • Griffith, G. E., J. M. Omernik, and S. H. Azevedo. 1998. Ecoregions of Tennessee. (Two-sided color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs). U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA. Scale 1:940,000.

  • Keys, J. E., Jr., C. A. Carpenter, S. L. Hooks, F. G. Koenig, W. H. McNab, W. E. Russell, and M-L. Smith. 1995. Ecological units of the eastern United States - first approximation (map and booklet of map unit tables). Presentation scale 1:3,500,000, colored. USDA Forest Service, Atlanta, GA.

  • Minney, D. 2000. Edge of Appalachia Preserve: Plant community descriptions. Preliminary draft. An unpublished report for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

  • Minney, D. Personal communication. The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Chapter, Dublin.

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Data last updated: March 2018