Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge  (S3)

Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridges
communities are the most widespread of New Hampshire's low-elevation (below 1,000 ft.) woodlands on rocky ridges in the southern third of the state. The community is characterized by a mix of red and other oaks, occasional pines, and, in some instances, dense thickets of scrub oak. Open glades and a patchy tree canopy support a diverse assemblage of plants. 

This community has a scattered, moderately short or stunted tree canopy (25-60% cover, 15-40 ft. tall), a significant short-medium shrub layer (25-70%, 1-7 ft.), and a sparse (<1%) to moderately dense herb layer. Rock exposures typically cover 25-50% of the ground surface. These communities are fire-prone, and many have fire histories. Fire contributes to the maintenance of shallow, impoverished soils, an open canopy structure, and the presence of species adapted to fire. The attractive, glade-like character and good views found in these communities make them popular hiking destinations. Openings with less than 25% tree cover are considered part of a woodland-barren mosaic due to their generally small size (<0.25 acres).

Soils are typically shallow-to-bedrock sandy loams, droughty (xeric to dry moisture regime), very gravelly or stony, and derived from acidic or intermediate bedrock of glacially-scoured summits, ridges and slopes. Surface organic and A horizons are usually moderate to very shallow in depth and form a fibric turf over the sandy, gravelly, or stony B and C horizons (if present). Surface gravel “pads” may form on flat or sloping bedrock surfaces. Soils are very well to excessively drained and very low in nutrients.

Characteristic Vegetation: Appalachian and other transitional tree and understory species characteristic of this community that distinguish it from red oak - pine rocky ridge communities include pitch pine (Pinus rigida), white oak (Q. alba), black oak (Q. velutina), chestnut oak (Q. prinus), scrub oak (Q. ilicifolia), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and sassafras (Sassafras albidum). Red oak (Quercus rubra) is consistently present in quantity in the tree layer, and white pine (Pinus strobus) and ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) are common. Red pine (Pinus resinosa) is occasional. Forests and woodlands dominated by chestnut oak are classified as chestnut oak forest/woodland.

Frequent or abundant characteristic shrubs include (in decreasing order of frequency) Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry; nearly constant), Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry), Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry) (late low blueberry), Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaved viburnum), Juniperus communis (creeping juniper), and Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern). Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak) is a dominant species and can form extensive shrublands at some sites. Other occasional characteristic shrubs include Diervilla lonicera (bush honeysuckle), Gaylussacia frondosa (dangleberry), Vaccinium myrtilloides (velvet-leaf blueberry), and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry). Characteristic and frequent herbaceous species include the lawn-forming Carex pensylvanica or C. lucorum (Pennsylvania and woodland sedges), Deschampsia flexuosa (common hair-grass) (nearly constant), Pteridium aquilinum (bracken), Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem), Corydalis sempervirens (pale corydalis), Danthonia spicata (poverty oat-grass), Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower), Solidago bicolor (silverrod), and Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen). Other characteristic but apparently less frequent herbs include Comandra umbellata (bastard toad-flax), Antennaria plantaginifolia (pussy toes), Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody), Melampyrum lineare (cow-wheat), Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine), Aureolaria pedicularia var. intercedens (fern-leaved false-foxglove), Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod), and Panicum spp. (panic grasses). Lichens and mosses are abundant.

Good examples of this community occur at Rocky Ridge and South Mtn. in Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham), Mt. Wantastiquet (Hinsdale), and Rattlesnake Mtn. (Rumney).

Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridges
often occur as part of larger temperate ridge - cliff - talus systems.

Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge at Dumplingtown Hill (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge at Dumplingtown Hill in Raymond (photo by Ben Kimball)

Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge at Rock Rimmon in Manchester, NH (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge at Rock Rimmon in Manchester, NH (photo by Ben Kimball)

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