Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Subalpine rocky bald  (S2)



Subalpine rocky balds
are indicated by extensive areas of bedrock with only scattered subalpine vegetation, which is relegated to cracks and hollows. In New Hampshire, they occur mostly between 3,000 and 3,500 ft. Most examples are associated with initially natural subalpine areas that were later expanded by historic fires (such as Mt. Monadnock, Mt. Cardigan, and Mt. Chocorua).

Bedrock is typically granitic (e.g., granite, syenite). This is the best community in the state to see exfoliation sheets, which are big slabs of rock that separate along a series of concentric shells or layers (similar to cabbage leaves). This process occurs in massive, formerly buried igneous rocks (like granite) that tend to expand upward and outward as overlying bedrock is eroded away. In cold climates, frost wedging accelerates this erosional process. South Baldface Mtn. and Percy Peaks are excellent examples of “exfoliation domes” similar to those in the Sierra Nevada of California and other parts of the world.

Characteristic vegetation: Dwarf shrub species that may be present include three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata), alpine bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea ssp. minus), alpine blueberry (Vaccinium boreale), black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum), purple crowberry (Empetrum atropurpureum), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and rhodora (Rhododendron canadense). Herbs may include boreal bentgrass (Agrostis mertensii), highland rush (Juncus trifidus), mountain sandwort (Minuartia groenlandica), and common hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa). 


Good examples of this community occur on portions of Mt. Chocorua, Mt. Cardigan, Mt. Monadnock, Percy Peaks, and South Baldface Mtn.

Subalpine rocky balds often occur as part of subalpine heath - krummholz/rocky bald systems.


Subalpine rocky bald on Mt. Monadnock (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Subalpine rocky bald on Mt. Monadnock (photo by Dan Sperduto)

Exfoliating slabs in the subalpine rocky bald community on South Baldface Mtn. (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Exfoliating slabs in the subalpine rocky bald community on South Baldface (photo by Ben Kimball)

Subalpine rocky bald community on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Subalpine rocky bald community on Mt. Cardigan (photo by Ben Kimball)

Subalpine rocky bald on the north summit of Percy Peaks (photo by Dan Sperduto)
Subalpine rocky bald on the north summit of Percy Peaks (photo by Dan Sperduto)

Subalpine rocky bald at the summit of Mt. Monadnock (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Subalpine rocky bald at the summit of Mt. Monadnock (photo by Ben Kimball)


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