Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Montane heath woodland  (S2)



Montane heath woodlands
occur on moist, high-elevation ridgetop settings near or at the transition to the subalpine zone. They have a sparse woodland canopy and a well-developed, medium to tall shrub layer consisting of heaths and other montane shrubs. They have shallow, peaty soils over bedrock or silty gravel, and are found on mesic to wet-mesic sites on exposed, high-elevation (2,500–4,000 ft.) ridges, on flat or gentle slopes near the transition to subalpine heath - krummholz and subalpine bogs in the White Mountains. Some occurrences are associated with historic fires.

This community is distinguished from the other three montane rocky ridge types by a shallow, mesic, and organic soil layer, fewer bedrock outcrops, and a more robust heath shrub layer. Of the other types, it most closely resembles the red spruce - heath - cinquefoil rocky ridge in appearance. The community occurs in several locations at the transition to subalpine communities and in association with montane sloping fens in the upper Pemigewasset River valley. It is distinguished from subalpine heath snowbanks by a lack of subalpine species, a taller woodland structure (trees >2 m), and a robust (0.4–1.5 m tall) shrub layer.

Characteristic Vegetation: Trees include black spruce (Picea mariana), red spruce (Picea rubens), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea). The shrub layer is characterized by rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronatus), Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and witherod (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides). Alnus incana (speckled alder) is notably absent or in low abundance.


Good examples of this community occur on Zealand Mtn. (Lincoln), Whitewall Mtn. (Lincoln), Mt. Crawford/Mt. Resolution (Hadley's Purchase), and at the transition to the subalpine communities on Mt. Chocorua (Albany) and South Baldface (Chatham).

Montane heath woodlands sometimes occur as inclusions within larger montane rocky ridge systems and subalpine heath - krummholz/rocky bald systems.


Montane heath woodland on Zealand Ridge (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
A trail passes through montane heath woodland on Zealand Ridge (photo by Dan Sperduto)

Montane heath woodland along the Davis Path (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Montane heath woodland along the Davis Path near Mt. Crawford (photo by Ben Kimball)

Montane heath woodland on the Carter Ledge Trail on Mt. Chocorua (photo by Ben Kimball)
Montane heath woodland on the Carter Ledge Trail on Mt. Chocorua (photo by Ben Kimball)

back to Natural Communities of NH Photo Guide