Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide


Pitch pine - heath swamp  (S1S2)



Pitch pine - heath swamp is a rare natural community in New Hampshire. It occurs in sand plain regions of southern and east-central parts of the state, and is characterized by a canopy of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) canopy that ranges from sparse woodland to woodland. Tall and medium heath shrubs dominate in the understory, which is often dense. Herbs and peat mosses are present but relatively sparse. It resembles pitch pine swamps found on Cape Cod and in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Soils are saturated or seasonally saturated and have a shallow organic horizon over sand. Although pitch pine trees are found as scattered individuals in open peatlands in southern NH, this community is distinct in its abundance of pitch pine in the canopy.

Characteristic Vegetation:
In the canopy, the dominant pitch pine (Pinus rigida) is sometimes joined by variable amounts of other species, including red maple (Acer rubrum), gray birch (Betula populifolia), black spruce (Picea mariana), and white pine (Pinus strobus). A tall and/or short shrub layer consists of leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) (often dense), rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), male berry (Lyonia ligustrina), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), black chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), dwarf raspberry (Rubus pubescens), and meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia). Herbs are scattered but may include three-way sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum), silvery sedge (Carex canescens), woolly bulrush (Scirpus cyperinus), small tussock sedge (Carex stricta var. strictior), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis).

This community resembles pitch pine swamps found further south on Cape Cod and in the pine barrens of New Jersey. Although pitch pine trees are found as scattered individuals in more open peatlands in southern parts of New Hampshire, this community is distinct in its abundance of pitch pine in the canopy.


Good examples of this community occur at Goodwin Town Forest (Madison), Grassy Pond (Litchfield), West Branch Pine Barrens Preserve (Ossipee), and White Lake State Park (Tamworth).

Pitch pine - heath swamps sometimes occur as part of or are associated with coastal conifer peat swamp systems, pitch pine sand plain systems, and sand plain basin marsh systems.


pitch pine heath swamp in the Ossipee region (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
a pitch pine heath swamp in the Ossipee region (photo by Dan Sperduto)

pitch pine heath swamp at White Lake State Park (photo by Bill Nichols)
a pitch pine heath swamp at White Lake State Park (photo by Bill Nichols)

a pitch pine heath swamp at White Lake State Park (photo by Bill Nichols)
a pitch pine heath swamp at White Lake State Park (photo by Bill Nichols)


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