Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide


Highbush blueberry - sweet gale - meadowsweet shrub thicket  (S4)



Highbush blueberry - sweet gale - meadowsweet shrub thicket
is a weakly to moderately minerotrophic, limnogenous community dominated by medium-height shrubs (average height 0.9 m) with a sparse to moderate cover of tall shrubs. It is found along upland borders and laggs of acidic fens, along sluggish stream borders, and sometimes as the dominant fen community in basins influenced by upland runoff. It generally occurs in central and southern parts of New Hampshire, but also occasionally farther north. 

Average pH is 4.6. Hummock-hollow topography is well developed (average hummock height is 0.25 m; average maximum height is 0.47 m), and peat is moderately well decomposed near the surface. Peat depths are often less than 1 m.

Characteristic vegetation: Sweet gale (Myrica gale) and meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia) are diagnostic in combination with tall shrubs, including various combinations of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and speckled alder (Alnus incana). Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is always present in low to moderate abundance. Red maple (Acer rubrum) is common in low abundance in the tall shrub and low tree layers. Bottle-shaped sedge (Carex utriculata), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) are occasional. Bryophyte cover is moderate (average ca. 50% cover), with Sphagnum fimbriatum, S. henryense, S. torreyanum, S. flexuosum, and S. fallax usually present in some combination.


Good examples of this community occur at Wilkinson Brook (Effingham), Berry Pond (Moultonborough/Sandwich), Powwow River (Kingston), and Betty Meadows (Northwood).

Highbush blueberry - sweet gale - meadowsweet shrub thickets sometimes occur as part of larger medium level fen systems.

Highbush blueberry - sweet gale - meadowsweet shrub thicket along Wilkinson Brook in Effingham (photo by Pete Bowman for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) 
highbush blueberry - sweet gale - meadowsweet shrub thicket
along Wilkinson Brook in Effingham (photo by Pete Bowman)

back to Natural Communities of NH Photo Guide