Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest (S1)



Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest
is an uncommon to rare community of the lower Merrimack River valley. The canopy has a forest or woodland structure. This is a mixed forest with pitch pine and various Appalachian oak trees. It occurs on glacial sand plain deposits or dry till habitats. It differs from dry Appalachian oak forests by having considerable pine in the canopy, particularly pitch pine. This community is reasonably distinct, but it is similar to or may grade into other oak and pine types, including pitch pine - scrub oak woodland. It is undoubtedly fire-adapted and fire-prone, and may require maintenance of an adequate fire-regime for long-term perpetuation.

It primarily occurs on Hinckley and Windsor soils of glacial deposits, particularly outwash plains, eskers, moraine and kame features, outwash, and other sand plain formations with coarse, draughty soils and low nutrient availability (oligotrophic). It may also occur on ridges and slopes with shallow till soils.

Characteristic vegetation:
Dominants consist of pitch pine (Pinus rigida), white pine (P. strobus) and Appalachian oaks including scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), black oak (Q. velutina), white oak (Q. alba), and chestnut oak (Q. prinus). Red pine (Pinus resinosa) may be present in low abundance, but it is the more southern Appalachian species distinguish this community. Pines may be locally abundant or dominant to the near exclusion of tree oaks in some examples, while other expressions are heavy to oak. In the understory, scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), dwarf chestnut oak (Q. prinoides), and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) may also be present, but they are usually not dense under the forested canopies.

Typical “southern” plants may include sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora), round headed bush-clover (Lespedeza capitata), stiff-leaved aster (Ionactis linariifolius), and tick-trefoils (Desmodium spp.). In openings, such species as northern blazing star (Liatris novae-angliae) and wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) may be present.

Plants characteristic of most acidic, dry-site oak - pine forests include ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), hillside blueberry (V. pallidum), dangleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa), black huckleberry (G. baccata), maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), Pennsylvania and woodland sedges (Carex pensylvanica/lucorum), common hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa), rough-leaved rice grass (Oryzopsis asperifolia), poverty oatgrass (Danthonia spicata), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum), whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), and pinweed (Lechea intermedia). Velvet-leaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides) and sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) may also be occasional.


Good examples
of this community occur at Derryfield Park (Manchester) and Ponemah Plain (Amherst).

Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest may occur as part of a larger Appalachian oak - pine forest system.


Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest at Derryfield Park in Manchester (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest at Derryfield Park in Manchester
(photo by Ben Kimball)


Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest at Derryfield Park in Manchester (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Pitch pine - Appalachian oak - heath forest at Derryfield Park
in Manchester (photo by Ben Kimball)


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