Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Moist alpine herb - heath meadow  (S1)

Moist alpine herb - heath meadow
is a diverse alpine tundra community dominated by a mix of forbs, sedges, and heath shrubs, many of which are rare, even elsewhere in the alpine zone. It is restricted to Mount Washington. Circumneutral indicators such as harebell, scirpus-like sedge, Boott’s rattlesnake root, and viviparous knotweed may be present. While these meadows have some plants in common with alpine herbaceous snowbank/rills, and may occur adjacent to them, they are generally drier and lack many of the key diagnostic species of snowbanks (no hellebore, bluejoint, or bluets).

Soils are moist organic turfs (O and A horizons) near drainages and snowbanks, and on sloping benches. Bliss (1963) documented the highest pH (4.7–4.9) and calcium levels (70–1500 ppm) in this community, compared to all other alpine communities.

Characteristic Vegetation: Diagnostic plants include mountain avens (Geum peckii), tussock bulrush (Trichophorum cespitosum), viviparous knotweed (Persicaria vivipara), bearberry willow (Salix uva-ursi), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Cutler's goldenrod (Solidago cutleri), scirpus-like sedge (Carex scirpoidea), Boott's rattlesnake root (Nabalus boottii), and alpine sweet grass (Hierochloe alpina). Also frequent are Bigelow's sedge (Carex bigelowii), boreal bentgrass (Agrostis mertensii), highland rush (Juncus trifidus), alpine bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata).

Species that are absent in this community that are diagnostic in the somewhat similar alpine herbaceous snowbank/rill community include large-leaved goldenrod (Solidago macrophylla), common hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa), dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum), bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis), false hellebore (Veratrum viride), and bluets (Houstonia caerulea).

In New Hampshire, the moist alpine herb - heath meadow community only occurs in the Alpine Garden on Mt. Washington.

This community occurs along with other alpine communities as part of a larger alpine tundra system.

Moist alpine herb - heath meadow in the Alpine Garden on Mt. Washington (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Moist alpine herb - heath meadow in the Alpine Garden on Mt. Washington
(photo by Dan Sperduto)

Nabalus bootii (photo by Dan Sperduto)  Geum peckii Nabalus bootii (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Nabalus bootii (Boott's rattlesnake root ) and Geum peckii (mountain avens) are
two species found in the moist alpine herb - heath meadow community
(photos by Dan Sperduto)

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