Hemlock - cinnamon fern forest (S4)
Hemlock - cinnamon fern forest has a seasonally-high water table, and as such is a transitional community type exhibiting some of the characteristics of a forest and some of the characteristics of a swamp. It occurs in imperfectly to somewhat poorly drained areas along stream drainages, high floodplains, inactive river terraces, and other upland-wetland ecotones, and is characterized by hemlock, red maple, and a mixture of other wetland and upland plant species. Examples may occur along a narrow transition zone between uplands and wetlands or may be broader in extent and cover several acres. Although some sub-surface seepage may influence certain examples, this community appears distinct from seepage forest and forest seep communities, which tend to have relatively constant surface or near-surface seepage influence and more seepage or minerotrophic plant indicators.
Soils are nutrient-poor. They vary from loamy sands to sandy loam till and river/kame terrace soils with a shallow water table (within 0.3 m (1 ft.) of soil surface for portion of growing season). Mottles are evident within 30 cm (12 in.) of the soil surface in some examples, while others have deep A horizons (tending to obscure mottles) over moist to wet sediments. Soils include series Au Gres, among other types.
Characteristic vegetation: Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and red maple (Acer rubrum) dominate in the overstory. Canopy associates may include white pine (Pinus strobus), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and, less frequently, swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), red oak (Quercus rubra), black birch (Betula lenta), American elm (Ulmus
Although the overstory association can approximate certain upland forests, more mesic to wet conditions are indicated by the presence of cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), Canadian honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin), and various mosses. Other herbs may include
Good examples of this community occur in the
Hemlock - cinnamon fern forests sometimes occur as part of temperate peat swamp systems and temperate minerotrophic swamp systems.
Hemlock - cinnamon fern forest at Northwood Meadows State Park. Cinnamon fern, moss, and
a red maple trunk are in the foreground; hemlock is in the background. (photo by Ben Kimball)
Hemlock - cinnamon fern forest (photo by Dan Sperduto)
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