Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forest  (S3S4)

Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forests
are dominated by red maple, oaks, and birches, with sparse pine and hemlock. Cinnamon fern and tall wetland shrubs such as highbush blueberry are present in moderate abundance. Other wetland plants are sparse. 
This community occurs in settings with somewhat poorly drained mineral soil, in transition zones between better drained upland communities and wetlands such as very poorly drained swamps. Soils consist of sand, sandy loams and silt loams, typically with a dark brown or black A horizon over B horizon materials with mottling within ~30 cm of the surface. Soils series include Pipestone sand, Boxford silt loam, and possibly Raynham silt loam and Eldridge fine sandy loam.

Characteristic Vegetation: Red maple (Acer rubrum) and red oak (Quercus rubra) are usually present and often dominant, mixing with various combinations of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), black birch (B. lenta), white ash (Fraxinus americana), white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Q. velutina), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), beech (Fagus grandifolia), white pine (Pinus strobus), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) can be abundant. Ferns such as New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) are more abundant than in mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forests.

A few wetland species are present in low to moderate abundance, including cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) and tall wetland shrubs such as highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). These wetland species differentiate this community from various mesic upland forests (such as mesic Appalachian oak - hickory forest and hemlock - beech - oak - pine forest) of central and southern New Hampshire.

This community is similar to hemlock - cinnamon fern forest, especially in terms of drainage class, but it lacks the prominence of hemlock, is dominated by hardwoods, and can have denser shrub and herb layers. It is also similar to the red maple - elm - lady fern silt forest, but either lacks or has a lower abundance of northern lady fern, sensitive fern, and elm. More coastal or southern examples may contain Appalachian oaks, hickories, and possibly black huckleberry, species that are absent from examples in central parts of the state.

Good examples of this community occur at Wagon Hill Farm (Durham) and Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Newington).

Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forests
 sometimes occur as part of larger temperate peat swamp systems or temperate minerotrophic swamp systems.

Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forest at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham (photo by Ben Kimball)
Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forest
at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham (photo by Ben Kimball)

Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forest in Boscawen (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Red maple - red oak - cinnamon fern forest 
in Boscawen (photo by Dan Sperduto)

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