Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide 

Montane sloping fen  (S1)

Montane sloping fens
are a rare community type of the White Mountain region. These moderately to weakly acidic fens form on gently to strongly sloped terrain at elevations above 2,400 ft. Groundwater seepage is common, and the peat ranges from relatively shallow to moderately deep over silty material.

This community is weakly to moderately minerotrophic and forms nearly level to demonstrably sloping soligenous peat mats in the White Mountains at moderate to high elevations (above 2,400 ft.). It is dominated by graminoids or graminoids and shrubs, and is the only known fen in the state or region that is dominated by a grass. It is characterized by a prominence of Pickering’s bluejoint (Calamagrostis pickeringii) and frequent Wiegand’s sedge (Carex wiegandii), numerous other northern fen plants, and the absence of southern or lowland fen plants such as highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata). The abundance of Pickering’s bluejoint makes this the only peatland community in New Hampshire dominated by a species of grass. This community occurs in mosaics with montane alder - heath shrub thickets and montane heath woodlands.

Slopes are frequently up to 10 degrees, with a maximum of about 20 degrees. Soils are characterized by shallow organics over hydric, cryic, silty gravels. The pH ranges from 4.2 to 6.2, and averages 5.3. Hummock and hollow topography is moderately to poorly developed. Climate, hydrologic conditions, and soil features are the primary factors contributing to the development of this unique soligenous peatland community.

Characteristic Vegetation:
Pickering’s bluejoint is one of the dominant herbs, typically contributing 5% cover or more (up to 25%). Sphagnum moss is abundant under a dense herb layer (20–60+% cover) and moderate dwarf shrub layer (<5–20% cover). The herbaceous layer is characterized by a mix of fen plants and those typical of more minerotrophic marsh or swamp habitats. Herbs include prickly sedge (Carex echinata), few-flowered sedge (C. pauciflora), Michaux’s sedge (C. michauxiana), Wiegand’s sedge, few seeded sedge (C. oligosperma), brownish sedge (C. brunnescens), Pursh’s goldenrod (Solidago purshii), false hellebore (Veratrum viride), tall meadow-rue (Thalictrum pubescens), pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea), tall white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata), small green woodland orchid (P. clavellata), bluets (Houstonia caerulea), round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), three-leaved false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina trifolia), rough-leaved aster (Aster radula), and tawny cotton-grass (Eriophorum virginicum). 

Common shrubs include Chamaedaphne calyculata (leatherleaf), Kalmia polifolia (bog laurel), Ledum groenlandicum (
Labrador tea), Vaccinium oxycoccos (small cranberry), Rhododendron canadense (rhodora), Nemopanthus mucronatus (mountain holly), Viburnum nudum (witherod), Vaccinium myrtilloides (velvet-leaf blueberry), Aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry), Coptis trifolia (goldthread), and Cornus canadensis (bunchberry). Sphagnum mosses are abundant, and include S. subtile, S. angustifolium, and S. girgensohnii (detailed surveys not undertaken).

Other occasional species include three-seeded sedge (Carex trisperma var. trisperma), false violet (Dalibarda repens), short-tailed rush (Juncus brevicaudatus), speckled alder (Alnus incana), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and Bartram’s serviceberry (Amelanchier bartramiana). Scattered trees include larch (Larix laricina), black spruce (Picea mariana), and red spruce (P. rubens).

Good examples
of this community occur on Whitewall Mtn. (Bethlehem) and North Bald Cap Mtn. (Success), and in the Shoal and Ethan Pond vicinity (Lincoln).

Montane sloping fens also occur as diagnostic communities of montane sloping fen systems

 montane sloping fen community on Whitewall Mountain (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
montane sloping fen community on Whitewall Mountain (photo by Dan Sperduto) 

montane sloping fen community on Whitewall Mountain (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
montane sloping fen community on Whitewall Mountain (photo by Dan Sperduto) 

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