Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest  (S2S3)



Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest
is characterized by a broad diversity of trees, including Appalachian oaks (white, black, and scarlet), hickories (Carya spp.), white ash (Fraxinus americana), white pine (Pinus strobus), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), birch (Betula spp.), maple (Acer spp.), and beech (Fagus grandifolia). Many of the oaks in this community are at the northern edge of their ranges, which are centered in the Appalachian region farther south. The shrub and herb layer is sparsely to moderately developed, and commonly includes wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens).

Low heaths and other dry site understory plants are absent or in low abundance, as are species characteristic of more northern forests, such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and wood ferns (Dryopteris spp.). This community is restricted to fine-textured soils and other mesic or dry-mesic settings in southwestern, southern, and coastal parts of the state.

Characteristic vegetation:
This community has a diverse tree canopy, dominated by red oak (Quercus rubra), white pine (Pinus strobus), black oak (Quercus velutina), red maple (Acer rubrum), and sometimes black birch (Betula lenta). Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is also frequently present, but usually not as a dominant. Other frequent trees found in lower abundance in the canopy or sub-canopy include black cherry (Prunus serotina), white oak (Quercus alba), white ash (Fraxinus americana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Although beech and hemlock are typically not dominant, they may be expected to increase in importance in later successional examples. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), basswood (Tilia americana), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) are infrequent. Other enriched site species (e.g., certain herbs) are typically absent.

The tall shrub layer is typically sparse or absent. When present, it consists of Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaved viburnum), Corylus cornuta (beaked hazel-nut), Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel), and Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry). Low or trailing shrubs and clubmosses are frequent as a group, but typically constitute low cover. They include Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy), Mitchella repens (partridgeberry), Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen), Lycopodium obscurum (princess pine), L. hickeyi (Hickey’s tree clubmoss), and Diphasiastrum digitatum (southern ground-cedar). Infrequent species include Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry), Viburnum dentatum (northern arrowwood), Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar), J. communis var. depressa (ground juniper), Smilax spp. (greenbriars), and the exotics Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry), Rhamnus frangula (European alder-buckthorn), and R. cathartica (common buckthorn). Although lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is occasional, it is always in low abundance (<1–5%) and the well-developed heath layer of dry Appalachian oak forests is absent. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) may be present in low abundance.

Herbaceous species are typically sparse. Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) are the only frequent species that often exceed 1% cover. Other frequent species present in low abundance include Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) and/or distant sedge (C. lucorum), and occasional species include hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), Rudge’s sedge (Carex debilis), and one-flowered shinleaf (Moneses uniflora). Rich or semi-rich site herbs are absent or in very low abundance. Large whorled pogonia (Isotria verticillata) and round-leaved ragwort (Senecio obovatus) are rare species known to occur in this forest type in southwest New Hampshire.

Variants:
Two weakly described variants are recognized:

1.  Dry-mesic variant: This variant typically occurs on well drained fine sandy loam soils where beech, paper birch, and dry-site herbs may be more frequent or abundant.

2.  Mesic variant: This variant is more likely on silt loam soils with higher moisture holding capacity or at slope-bases. White ash, black cherry, and poison ivy may be more frequent on mesic sites.


Good examples of this community occur at Mt. Wantastiquet (Hinsdale), Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Newington), and Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham).

Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest often occurs as part of a larger Appalachian oak - pine forest system.


Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest
Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest near Beaver Brook in Hollis (photo by Ben Kimball)

Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the Sandy Point Discovery Center on Great Bay (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the
Great Bay Discovery Center (photo by Ben Kimball)

Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the Sandy Point Discovery Center on Great Bay (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the
Great Bay Discovery Center (photo by Ben Kimball)

Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the Sandy Point Discovery Center on Great Bay (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest at the
Great Bay Discovery Center (photo by Ben Kimball)

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