Spruce - moss wooded talus (S2S3)
Note: This community was formerly named spruce - birch - mountain maple wooded talus, but was split into this community and birch - mountain maple wooded talus.
Spruce - moss wooded talus forms in cold environments, on refrigerator- to truck-sized talus boulders at the bases of major talus slopes or in deep, talus-filled gorges at moderate elevations, and is influenced by late-melting ice and cold-air drainage. This produces a cold montane microclimate that supports a spruce and fir community far below the average lower limit of high-elevation spruce - fir forest (similar to elevation range of lowland spruce - fir forest). This type occurs in association with the subalpine cold-air talus shrubland community at a few sites, usually in more wooded areas immediately below the shrubland. Moss cover is denser than in birch - mountain maple wooded talus.
Documented examples occur at elevations ranging from 700–2,200 ft. North-facing slopes and gorges are common settings for this community, where often remains beneath the boulders until late spring or early summer.
Characteristic vegetation: The community has a woodland to open forest tree canopy structure characterized by red spruce (Picea rubens), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis). Black spruce (Picea mariana) may also be present in some areas. A lush carpet of mosses and rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum) often festoon the large boulders and fallen logs. Bryophytes include stairstep moss (Hylocomium splendens) and liverwort (Bazzania trilobata), although many other species are undoubtedly present. Characteristic shrubs and herbs include Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), rock polypody, gooseberries and currents (Ribes spp.), and naked miterwort (Mitella nuda). Northern wild licorice (Galium kamtschaticum) may be present in some examples. Rare species may include lily-leaved twayblade (Listera convallarioides), and there are historic reports of Hornemann’s willow-herb (Epilobium hornemannii) and other subalpine plants.
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, and Devil’s Hopyard (Stark).
Spruce - moss wooded talus often occurs as part of a larger montane acidic talus system.
Spruce - moss wooded talus at Devil's Hopyard (photos by Ben Kimball)
Spruce - moss wooded talus at Rattlesnake Mtn. in Rumney (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Spruce - moss wooded talus at Devil's Hopyard (photo by Ben Kimball)
back to Natural Communities of NH Photo Guide