Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide 


Temperate circumneutral cliff  (S2)


(formerly lowland circumneutral cliff)

Temperate circumneutral cliffs often contain many of the same species as their acidic counterparts (temperate acidic cliffs), but differ by the presence of rich-site indicators. They are uncommon, but can occur statewide, generally below 2,200 ft. elevation.

Characteristic vegetation: Circumneutral indicator plants include fragrant fern (Dryopteris fragrans), slender cliffbrake (Cryptogramma stelleri), maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), smooth woodsia (Woodsia glabella), alpine woodsia (Woodsia alpina), early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa).

The most common species on these cliffs are rusty woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis) and harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), even though these species are not restricted to circumneutral conditions. In contrast, the rare fragrant fern, a species restricted to overhangs on circumneutral cliffs, is a reliable indicator of high levels of calcium. It grows only where there is seasonal seepage of circumneutral water (the seepage may be periodic or nearly perennial).

A diversity of calciphytic bryophytes may also be concentrated near cracks that emit calcium-rich seepage water. Circumneutral cliff communities may occupy most of the area of a cliff, or be restricted to specific zones within a larger and otherwise acidic cliff.


A good example of this community can be found at Holts Ledge (Lyme).

Temperate circumneutral cliffs
sometimes occur as part of a larger temperate ridge - cliff - talus system.



temperate circumneutral cliff community at Holts Ledge in Lyme, NH (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
temperate circumneutral cliff at Holts Ledge in Lyme, NH 
(photo by Dan Sperduto)

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