Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods  (S2)



The rich Appalachian oak rocky woods community occurs on hills below 1,000 feet in southern New Hampshire. It is characterized by a mix of Appalachian oaks, hickories, and a diverse assemblage of rich-site herbs, often growing among the mossy boulders of talus slopes. The community has a woodland to thin woods forest structure and an open understory with few shrubs. It supports a large number of southern species, many of which are near the northern limit of the range and therefore rare in New Hampshire.

This community is most frequent on south, southeast and west-facing aspects, and occasionally occurs on ridgetops. Soils on these hillside are often thin and rocky. The substrate is typically a somewhat to very rocky till, or talus. Moisture status ranges from dry to dry-mesic. Colluvial sediments and intermediate or base-rich bedrock associated with these forests probably contributes to the elevated nutrient status indicated by the species composition. Bedrock types include various diorites, monzodiorites, mafic bedrock types, and in the seacoast area, the Berwick, Eliot, Rye, and Kittery Formations.

Characteristic Vegetation:
Frequent or abundant trees in the thin canopy include red oak (Quercus rubra), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), white oak (Quercus alba), white ash (Fraxinus americana), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Red maple (Acer rubrum), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), white pine (Pinus strobus), and chestnut oak (Quercus montana) are occasional. Black oak (Quercus velutina) and scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) may also be present.

Species indicative of an elevated nutrient status that distinguish this community from other oak - hickory forests include: ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron; present in most examples in low abundance), early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), flat-leaved sedge (Carex platyphylla), early buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis), blunt-lobed hepatica (Anemone americana), skydrop aster (Symphyotrichum patens), sickle-pod (Arabis canadensis), smooth rock cress (Arabis laevigata), Missouri rock cress (Arabis missouriensis), downy false foxglove (Aureolaria virginica), reflexed sedge (Carex retroflexa), slender bush-clover (Lespedeza virginica), hoary mountain mint (Pycnanthemum incanum), smooth-forked chickweed (Paronychia canadensis), rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides), four-leaved milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia), and blunt-lobed woodsia (Woodsia obtusa).

Other species present may include downy arrowwood (Viburnum rafinesquianum), sprout muhlenbergia (Muhlenbergia sobolifera), plantain-leaved pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), and bird's-foot violet (Viola pedata), as well as many other species common to oak - hickory forests. Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) may occur in this community, but generally only in low abundance; forests with understories dominated by extensive lawns of this species are described in the red oak - ironwood - Pennsylvania sedge woodland community.

Variants:
Two variants are described:

1. Till variant
:

   (as described above). This variant occurs on rocky till slopes.

2. Talus variant
:

   Most of the species mentioned for the till variant can also occur in the talus variant. Species more frequent or abundant on talus include round-leaved dogwood (Cornus rugosa), herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), butternut (Juglans cinerea), black birch (Betula lenta), spikenard (Aralia racemosa), blackseed rice-grass (Oryzopsis racemosa), virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), purple-flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus), and long-beaked sedge (Carex sprengelii). Species characteristic of both acidic and enriched talus include marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), grape-woodbine (P. vitacea), fringed bindweed (Polygonum cilinode), blue-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia), false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa), gooseberries and wild currants (Ribes spp.), and common hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa).


Good examples of this community occur at Jeremy Hill (Pelham), Merrill Hill (Pelham), Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham), Crommet Creek (Newmarket), and Mt. Wantastiquet (Hinsdale).

Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods communities usually occur as part of larger rich Appalachian oak rocky woods systems.


Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Fall Mtn. State Forest (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Fall Mtn. State Forest (photo by Ben Kimball)

Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Fall Mtn. State Forest (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Fall Mtn. State Forest (photo by Ben Kimball)

Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Hickory Hill in Pelham (photo by Pete Bowman)
Rich Appalachian oak rocky woods at Hickory Hill in Pelham (photo by Pete Bowman)

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