Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Chestnut oak forest/woodland  (S1S2)



Chestnut oak (Quercus montana) dominates or co-dominates chestnut oak forest/woodlands on rocky ridges, hilltops, and hillsides. Canopy associates include red oak, white oak, and white pine. Heath shrubs are common in the understory. Chestnut oak is a dry-site species that reaches the northeast end of its range in New Hampshire, and it has a limited distribution in the state and region compared to other Appalachian oaks. 

Most examples occur as woodlands on rocky ridges and hilltops with frequent rock outcrops, but some occur as closed-canopy forests on dry, shallow-to-bedrock hillsides with fewer outcrops. Other than dominance or co-dominance by chestnut oak, it is floristically similar to Appalachian oak - pine rocky ridge woodlands and dry Appalachian oak forests. Soils are typically shallow and well to excessively well drained stony sandy loams derived from granitic or other silicious bedrock.

Characteristic Vegetation:
Chestnut oak is dominant or co-dominant along with red oak (Q. rubra), white oak (Q. alba), and white pine (Pinus strobus). Numerous other trees may be present as well, including black birch (Betula lenta), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), black oak (Q. velutina), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), red maple (Acer rubrum), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and beech (Fagus grandifolia). Heath shrubs are common in the sparse to moderately well developed understory, and include lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), hillside blueberry (V. pallidum), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and sometimes mountain laurel (K. latifolia). Other shrubs include witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). Herbs and dwarf trailing shrubs include wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), Pennsylvanian sedge (Carex pensylvanica) or distant sedge (Carex lucorum), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), large-leaved aster (Aster macrophyllus), whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), bastard toad-flax (Comandra umbellata), rough-leaved rice-grass (Oryzopsis asperifolia), and striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) among many others.



Good examples of this community can be seen on Beaver Brook Association land (Hollis), at Dumplingtown Hill (Raymond), and at Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham).

Chestnut oak forest/woodlands often occur as part of larger temperate ridge - cliff - talus systems, and sometimes as part of rich Appalachian oak rocky woods systems.


Chestnut oak forest/woodland community at Dumplingtown Hill (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Chestnut oak forest/woodland community at Dumplingtown Hill (photo by Ben Kimball)

Chestnut oak forest/woodland community at Dumplingtown Hill (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Chestnut oak forest/woodland community at Dumplingtown Hill (photo by Ben Kimball)

chestnut oak (Quercus montana) (photo by Pete Bowman)
chestnut oak (Quercus montana) (photo by Pete Bowman)


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