Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen  (S4)

Winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen
is a weakly to moderately minerotrophic tall shrub thicket community with a sparse, low-tree canopy of red maple and sometimes black spruce, and variable mixtures of medium shrubs and herbaceous species. Winterberry and cinnamon fern are abundant. It commonly occurs in a peatland’s lagg zone (moat around the upland edge), as a broad to narrow zone around the border of small peatlands, or along sluggish stream borders. Occasionally it can dominate large areas of big peatland basins. It is essentially restricted to lowland areas south of the White Mountains.

The tree layer is sparse (ca. 1-20% cover), and the tall shrub layer is moderate to dense (ca. 5-40% cover, but usually around 30-40% cover including tree species in the shrub layer). The medium shrub layer is sparse to moderately well developed (1-25% cover, average height 0.85 m). Average pH is 4.4. Peat is well decomposed near the surface, and hummock-hollow topography is well developed (average hummock height is 0.22 m; average maximum height is 0.44 m). Peat depths are often less than 1 m.

Characteristic Vegetation:
Characteristic tall shrubs include highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), male berry (Lyonia ligustrina), Nemopanthus mucronatus (mountain holly), speckled alder (Alnus incana ssp. rugosa), and black chokeberry (Photinia melanocarpa). coastal water willow (Decodon verticillatus) is occasionally abundant, and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), and black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) are common. Red maple (Acer rubrum) is always present in low abundance in the sparse, low-tree canopy or tall shrub layer. Herbaceous species indicative of at least weakly minerotrophic conditions are diagnostic (but in low abundance), especially in hollows. These herbs include cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), silvery sedge (Carex canescens), swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris), marsh St. John’s-wort (Triadenum virginicum), common water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus), and tussock sedge (Carex stricta; occasionally abundant). Wild calla (Calla palustris), northern blue flag (Iris versicolor), and common cattail (Typha latifolia) are occasional in wet hollows. A few examples are dominated by herbs such as silvery sedge (Carex canescens) and have little shrub cover. Sphagnum fallax (sensu latu) is frequent and usually abundant (= S. fallax (sensu stricta) and S. isoviitae). Sphagnum fimbriatum and S. cuspidatum are frequent, while S. henryense, S. recurvum, S. palustre, S. angustifolium, and S. affine, and the moss Aulocomnium palustre are occasional. Bog aster (Oclemena nemoralis) and Blake’s bog aster (O. x blakei) are occasional.

Good examples of this community occur east of the Pine River (Ossipee), and at Mud Pond (Hillsborough) and Bradford Bog (Bradford).

Winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen often occurs as part of larger medium level fen systems and temperate peat swamp systems.

winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen (photo by Dan Sperduto)
winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen in Raymond (photo by Dan Sperduto)

winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen in Canterbury (photo by Dan Sperduto)
winterberry - cinnamon fern wooded fen in Canterbury (photo by Dan Sperduto)

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