Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Dwarf cherry river channel  (S2)



The dwarf cherry river channel community typically occurs on exposed channel bars and shelves scoured by floodwater and ice along the Connecticut and Pemigewasset Rivers. The coarse substrate consists of sand, gravel, and cobble. Following spring floods, they are typically dry (or merely moist) for most of the growing season and are characterized by the low-growing shrub dwarf cherry (Prunus pumila). Dwarf cherry (also known as sand cherry) forms clonal patches, sometimes trapping organic debris and creating fluvial dunes of sand on their downstream side.

This community supports the highest cover of low shrubs (average cover = 12%) of any open riparian community in the state. Bryophytes and medium and tall shrubs are generally scattered or absent except in successional settings where severe scouring by ice and flood has not occurred in recent years. Associates vary from site to site, ranging from few species with low cover to moderate species richness with low to moderate cover. This variation in species composition and cover likely relates to the variable environmental conditions, propagule availability, and disturbance dynamics of stream channels. Some examples have native “prairie species” as well as exotics.

Characteristic Vegetation: Dwarf cherry is always present and often dominant. Both varieties of dwarf cherry (var. susquehanae and var. depressa) have been documented at one site. Native “prairie species” are frequently present in low cover, including big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Panic grasses (Panicum spp.), upland bentgrass (Agrostis perennans), and twisted sedge (Carex torta) may also be present. Forbs can include hemp dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), asters (Aster spp.), bedstraws (Galium spp.), and several other less frequent herbs. Scattered, generally short shrubs and trees may include eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), red maple (Acer rubrum), bristly dewberry (Rubus hispidus), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), willows (Salix spp.), and alders (Alnus spp.).


A good example of this community occurs at Livermore Falls (Holderness).

Dwarf cherry river channel usually occurs as part of a larger moderate-gradient sandy-cobbly riverbank system.


Dwarf cherry river channel at Livermore Falls (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Dwarf cherry river channel at Livermore Falls (photo by Dan Sperduto)

Dwarf cherry river channel at Livermore Falls (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Dwarf cherry river channel at Livermore Falls (photo by Dan Sperduto)


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