Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland  (S1S2)



Pitch pine - scrub oak woodlands
occur in sandplain settings where the soil is very well drained and fire historically played a crucial role in maintaining species composition. Several successional or disturbance related expressions can be present including scrub oak thickets, pockets of pitch pine forest, grassy openings, and heath barrens. Fire is important for maintaining community structure, dynamics, and composition (floristic and faunal). A fire return interval of 50–100 years is required for maintaining community structure, dynamics, and composition (floristic and faunal). In some of New Hampshire’s examples, logging history has also influenced canopy structure and composition. A large number of rare Lepidoptera are associated with this community, including the Karner Blue Butterfly.

Characteristic Vegetation: Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and a tall shrub layer of scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) are the dominant species. Common associates are lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), distant sedge (Carex lucorum), slender mountain rice (Piptatherum pungens), hillside blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), and bracken (Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum). Other species include American hazelnut (Corylus americana), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), rough-leaved rice grass (Oryzopsis asperifolia), pinweeds (Lechea spp.), bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata), black chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), and asters (Aster spp.). 

Variants:
Two variants are described:

1. Ossipee variant 
   This variant occurs on deep outwash deposits between Ossipee and Silver Lake (an area known as the Ossipee Pine Barrens). More northern plants that are diagnostic of this variant, although typically low in cover, are bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata), and savin-leaved clubmoss (Diphasiastrum x sabinifolium). This variant lacks the rare Lepidoptera found in the southern variant but does support the only New England occurrence of pine pinion moth (Lithophane lepida lepida) and the more northern pink-edged sulphur (Colias interior) and Xylena thoracica (a noctuid moth).

2. Merimack Valley variant 
   This variant only occurs at the Concord Pine Barrens, on deltaic deposits associated with the post-glacial Lake Merrimack. Impacted by development, it is a remnant of formerly extensive areas of pitch pine and scrub oak in the Merrimack River Valley that extended into Massachusetts. The diversity of both common and rare vascular plants is greater in this variant and includes such species as wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), blunt-leaved milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), golden heather (Hudsonia ericoides), rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum), and eastern New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus). This variant supports a suite of Lepidoptera fauna associated with wild lupine and other plants that are either restricted to or more frequent in this variant. Rare, lupine-feeding Lepidoptera include Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides samuelis), frosted elfin (Incisalia irus), and Persius dusky wing (Erynnis persius). 

For a small window of time in mid-July, visitors to NH Fish & Game's Karner Blue Butterfly Easement in Concord may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of New Hampshire's signature rare butterfly, the Karner Blue. Their preferred sources of nectar include several plant species of the pitch pine - scrub oak woodland habitat: wild lupine, New Jersey tea, and spreading dogbane. After mating, the females quickly deposit the fertilized eggs on the leaves of the wild lupine (and only the wild lupine!).


A good example of this community can be seen at the West Branch Pine Barrens Preserve in Madison/Ossipee. Remnants of a formerly much larger example occur at the Karner Blue Butterfly Easement near the airport in Concord.

Pitch pine - scrub oak woodlands occur as part of a larger pitch pine sand plain system.


Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Ossipee variant) at West Branch Pine Barrens Preserve (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Ossipee variant) at West Branch Pine Barrens Preserve
(photo by Ben Kimball)

Wild lupine in a pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Merimack Valley variant) at the Concord Pine Barrens (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau) Wild lupine in a pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Merimack Valley variant) at the Concord Pine Barrens (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Wild lupine in a pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Merimack River Valley variant)
at the Concord Pine Barrens (photo by Ben Kimball)
 

Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Ossipee variant) (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Ossipee variant) (photo by Dan Sperduto)

Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Concord variant) (photo by Ben Kimball)  Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Concord variant) (photo by Ben Kimball)
Pitch pine - scrub oak woodland (Concord variant) (photos by Ben Kimball)

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