Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Dry red oak - white pine forest  (S3S4)



Dry red oak - white pine forests
are dominated by red oak (Quercus rubra) and/or white pine (Pinus strobus), and occurs on dry sandy or rocky sites maintained by periodic fire. They are structurally and functionally similar to fire-maintained Appalachian oak and pine forest types, but lacks southern oaks and pitch pine. These dry, acidic forests typically have a “thin woods” aspect to them, created by a somewhat sparse canopy cover transitional to a woodland structure and a sparse tall woody layer in the understory. White pine is sparse or absent in some examples, particularly on ridges in the White Mountains

Soils are dry and well to excessively drained. They include shallow tills over bedrock, coarse washed tills, outwash, river and kame terraces, and other ice-contact deposits. They are generally derived from siliceous (silica rich) bedrock and are therefore acidic and low in available nutrients.

Some early successional hemlock - beech - oak - pine forests can superficially resemble this community. For example, red oak and white pine can dominate the overstory in forests that develop from abandoned pastures or in cut-over areas on mesic or dry-mesic soils, but in the absence of drier soils and fire, hemlock and beech will eventually increase in prominence.

This community is more widespread in the state than other types of dry forest. In many examples, the absence of fire will increase the cover of late successional species such as beech and/or hemlock. At these sites, the return of natural, semi-natural, and/or controlled fire regimes may be necessary for the long-term maintenance of red oak.

Characteristic Vegetation: The community has an open forest canopy dominated by red oak (Quercus rubra) and white pine (Pinus strobus), with lesser amounts of other species such as red maple (Acer rubrum), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and gray birch (Betula populifolia), or black birch (Betula lenta). Red oak may dominate to the near exclusion of white pine on rocky ridge examples, whereas white pine is more abundant on sites with sandy soils.

The understory is dominated by lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina). Other species that may be present include maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), distant sedge (Carex lucorum), and rough-leaved rice grass (Oryzopsis asperifolia).


Good examples of this community occur at Rattlesnake Mountain (Rumney), Pine River State Forest (Ossipee), Ames Mountain (Wentworth), Sugarloaf Mtn. (Benton), and Dinsmore Mtn. (Sandwich).

Dry red oak - white pine forests often occur as part of larger hemlock - hardwood - pine forest systems.


Dry red oak - white pine forest at Fall Mountain State Forest (photo by Pete Bowman for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Dry red oak - white pine forest at Fall Mountain State Forest (photo by Pete Bowman) 

Dry red oak - white pine forest at Rattlesnake Mtn. in Rumney (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Dry red oak - white pine forest at Rattlesnake Mtn. in Rumney (photo by Dan Sperduto)

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