Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Birch - mountain maple wooded talus  (S3)


(formerly spruce - birch - mountain maple wooded talus; split into this community and spruce - moss wooded talus)

Birch - mountain maple wooded talus
is dominated by birches and other hardwood species. It occurs as inclusions in low to mid-slope till landscapes of low to high mountains at New Hampshire’s middle and higher elevations (generally between 1,600 ft. and 3,000 ft.). The exposed, higher elevation settings exclude species more characteristic of central and southern parts of the state. It tends to have an open woodland character, with frequent or large canopy gaps and lichen-dominated talus barren openings. Trees are often less than 30 feet in height, and shrubs and herbs are scattered or locally abundant among the lichen-dominated rocky openings.

The talus blocks in this community are derived from acidic or intermediate bedrock, which weather to yield acidic soil conditions. Soil development is variable, and moisture conditions range from dry to mesic. Larger talus slopes may have colder and moister microclimates produced by subsurface cold-air drainage and late-melting ice at their base.

Characteristic vegetation: Dominant or frequent trees include yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), paper birch (B. papyrifera), heartleaf birch (B. cordifolia), mountain ashes (Sorbus americana or S. decora), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), and striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum). Red spruce (Picea rubens) may be present in low abundance. Herbs and shrubs include species typical of other talus communities, including rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), fringed bindweed (Polygonum cilinode), skunk currant (Ribes glandulosum), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and common hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa), as well as species preferential to northern or higher elevation areas such as velvet-leaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides), Rand’s goldenrod (Solidago randii), highland rush (Juncus trifidus), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis), and numerous others. Mosses and lichens are often present but have not been specifically studied or documented. Moss cover is less dense than in spruce - moss wooded talus.


Good examples
of this community can be found below Cannon Cliff (Franconia Notch), Ice Gulch (Randolph), Carter Notch (Beans Purchase), King and Castle Ravines in the Presidential Range, Mt. Monadnock (Jaffrey), the Ossipee Mountains (Ossipee), and Devil’s Hopyard (Stark).  

Birch - mountain maple wooded talus often occurs as part of a larger montane acidic talus system.


birch - mountain maple wooded talus at Mt. Stanton (photo by Dan Sperduto)
birch - mountain maple wooded talus at Mt. Stanton (photo by Dan Sperduto)

birch - mountain maple wooded talus at Mt. Stanton (photo by Dan Sperduto)
birch - mountain maple wooded talus (background) at Mt. Stanton (photo by Dan Sperduto)


Birch - mtn. maple wooded talus (typic variant) at Cape Horn (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Birch - mtn. maple wooded talus at Cape Horn (photo by Ben Kimball)

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