Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Virginia Pine - Post Oak / Running Serviceberry / Poverty Oatgrass / Pincushion Moss Woodland
Colloquial Name: Appalachian-Northern Piedmont Riverside Outcrop Woodland
Hierarchy Level: Association
Type Concept: This community occupies exposed, xeric outcrops along high-gradient stretches of the New River in West Virginia and the Potomac River in Maryland and northern Virginia. It has an open to nearly closed canopy dominated by a mixture of evergreen conifer and deciduous tree species over a diverse understory of shrubs and herbs often with heavy ground cover by mosses and lichens. In West Virginia stands, the open canopy is dominated by about equal amounts of Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana and Pinus virginiana. Associated deciduous tree species include Quercus stellata, Fraxinus americana, Celtis occidentalis, Ulmus americana, and Cercis canadensis. The dense shrub layer includes Amelanchier stolonifera, Rhus copallinum, Rosa carolina, and Viburnum prunifolium. Vines include Toxicodendron radicans, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and Vitis aestivalis. The exotics Ligustrum vulgare, Rubus phoenicolasius, Lonicera japonica, and Rosa multiflora may also be present. The herbaceous layer has high representation of grasses; species include Andropogon virginicus, Danthonia spicata, Leersia virginica, Melica mutica, and Piptochaetium avenaceum. The fern ally Selaginella rupestris may also contribute significant ground cover. Cover by mosses and lichens is variable and may approach 90%. The Potomac Gorge stands are woodlands or open forests of stunted trees (usually 7 m tall or less). The overstory may be strongly dominated by Pinus virginiana or by a mix of Pinus virginiana, Carya glabra, Quercus prinus, Quercus rubra, and Quercus stellata. Fraxinus americana and Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana are minor, but constant, associates and are most often limited to the subcanopy, where Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana is often abundant. A sparse tall-shrub layer is present, with Chionanthus virginicus, Viburnum prunifolium, Amelanchier arborea, and Rhus copallinum most frequent. A short-shrub layer is often present and dominated by Vaccinium pallidum; Hypericum prolificum, Rosa carolina, and Amelanchier stolonifera are less frequent. The herbaceous layer is somewhat sparse to moderately dense, with Danthonia spicata the most abundant species, and Carex umbellata, Carex tonsa var. tonsa, Carex nigromarginata, Helianthus divaricatus, Comandra umbellata, Solidago ulmifolia, Eupatorium hyssopifolium var. laciniatum, Potentilla canadensis, Silene caroliniana, Stylosanthes biflora, Symphyotrichum patens (= Aster patens), Dichanthelium laxiflorum, Dichanthelium depauperatum, Dichanthelium commutatum, Dichanthelium sphaerocarpon, Dichanthelium villosissimum, Houstonia caerulea, and Houstonia longifolia often present. Vines are occasional; Smilax glauca and Vitis aestivalis are the most frequent species.
Diagnostic Characteristics: No Data Available
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: This community was first described by Rouse and McDonald (1986) as a part of the "Appalachian river flatrock" community, by McDonald and Trianosky (1995) as sub-mesic Virginia pine woodland, and by Suiter (1995) and Suiter and Evans (1999) as Pinus virginiana - Juniperus virginiana - Quercus stellata woodland. McDonald and Trianosky (1995) identified communities described from other eastern states which are superficially similar to the community described here, but their ecology is related to fire and/or edaphic regimes rather than flooding. They suggested this community may be most similar to xeric Pinus virginiana woodlands in the vicinity of Great Falls on the Potomac River in Maryland. The community at Great Falls has been described as Pinus virginiana - Carya glabra - Quercus (rubra, stellata) / Chasmanthium latifolium (Thomson et al. 1999) and Pinus virginiana - Quercus stellata / Vaccinium pallidum / Helianthus divaricatus Forest (Lea 2000). In a previous report (Vanderhorst 2001b), this association was divided into a woodland type and a sparsely vegetated type, however, floristic similarities, small size of openings, and constant co-occurrence of these physiognomic expressions support recognition of just one woodland association. Two separate community types within this association at Camp Brookside were also recognized and described by Mitchem (2004). In 2007, as part of the NCR parks vegetation mapping project, ecologists at VDNH and WVNHP compared classifications of the New River and Potomac Gorge stands. They agreed that, both compositionally and environmentally, the vegetation of the two areas was very similar and should be treated as a single USNVC association. Plots of the Potomac Gorge vegetation were examined in a large regional dataset assembled for the NCR project and performed as a discrete group. However, the Maryland plots sampled by Lea (2000) are much more species-rich (n = 72) and contain more species typical of the adjacent oak-hickory forest Carya glabra - Quercus (rubra, prinus) - Fraxinus americana / Viburnum rafinesquianum Forest (CEGL006209) than the Virginia plots sampled by VDNH (n = 35), in which Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana is also much more important. These differences may have resulted from the different purposes and protocols of the two studies.
Similar NVC Types:
Physiognomy and Structure: No Data Available
Floristics: This woodland has an open to nearly closed canopy (40-75% total cover) dominated by a mixture of evergreen conifer and deciduous tree species over a diverse understory of shrubs and herbs often with heavy ground cover by mosses and lichens. The open canopy is dominated by about equal amounts of Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana and Pinus virginiana. Associated deciduous tree species occurring in lesser amounts include Quercus stellata, Fraxinus americana, Celtis occidentalis, Chionanthus virginicus, Ulmus americana, Gleditsia triacanthos, Ostrya virginiana, and Cercis canadensis. In addition to saplings of tree species, the dense shrub layer (60% total cover) layer includes Amelanchier stolonifera, Rhus copallinum, Rosa carolina, and Viburnum prunifolium. The exotics Ligustrum vulgare and Rosa multiflora may also be present. Vines (5% total cover) include Toxicodendron radicans, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and Vitis aestivalis. The invasive exotics Lonicera japonica and Rubus phoenicolasius may invade this stratum as well. The herbaceous layer (20-40% cover) has high representation of grasses compared to most woodland communities in this region; species include Andropogon virginicus, Danthonia spicata, Leersia virginica, Melica mutica, and Piptochaetium avenaceum. Unusually high cover by the small fern Asplenium platyneuron has been noted in examples of this community; in addition, the fern ally Selaginella rupestris may contribute significant ground cover (Suiter 1995). Additional characteristic species in the herb layer include Hypericum gentianoides, Krigia virginica, Lespedeza virginica, Potentilla simplex, Salvia lyrata, Symphyotrichum patens, and Toxicodendron radicans. Vascular plant species richness in the 5 sampled plots at New River Gorge ranges from 19 to 53 (mean = 36.4). Cover by mosses and lichens is variable, though typically high, approaching 90%. Mosses identified in plots include Dicranum condensatum, Dicranum scoparium, Grimmia pilifera, Hedwigia ciliata, Hypnum imponens, Isopterygium tenerum, Leucobryum glaucum, Plagiomnium ciliare, Polytrichum juniperinum, and Thuidium delicatulum. Lichens in the plots include Cladonia furcata, Cladonia grayi, Cladonia robbinsii, Cladonia strepsilis, Cladina subtenuis (= Cladonia subtenuis), Parmotrema hypotropum, and Punctelia rudecta.
Dynamics: The oldest trees in this community at Camp Brookside are estimated to be about 100 years in age based on increment cores taken from larger Pinus virginiana and Juniperus virginiana in 1994 (McDonald and Trianosky 1995). Although it is similar to other types which have fire ecologies, fire was probably not an important part of the natural disturbance regime of this association, and its herbaceous component is distinct from related fire-maintained communities. The use of fire to maintain conifer dominance is likely to have adverse effects on populations of rare plants. Management to maintain conifer dominance should proceed slowly with small trials and emphasize close monitoring of rare plant and exotic species populations as well as community composition and structure. Management of weed populations should take precedence over altering successional trends. Despite the above, in 2002 a controlled burn was conducted in this community at Camp Brookside with the objective of maintaining conifer dominance (Gellerstedt and Johnson 2005). The exotic Rubus phoenicolasius was found in the shrub layer of one plot at Sandstone Falls in 1999 and has since become abundant in this community at Camp Brookside, apparently in positive response to the controlled burn conducted in 2002. Fires have also occurred at Sandstone Falls where they were related to unregulated camping and other forms of recreation. This community continues to be subject to trampling by recreational visitors. Lea (2000) suggested that frequent mechanical damage to trees and xeric conditions were responsible for the ability of Pinus virginiana to maintain long-term dominance in the Potomac Gorge stands.
Environmental Description: This community occupies exposed, xeric outcrops along high-gradient stretches of the New River in West Virginia and the Potomac River west of Washington, DC. In West Virginia, the type is associated with areas of flat sandstone along the New River Gorge National River (Camp Brookside and Sandstone Falls), West Virginia. These areas are above the normal river floodplain but are hypothesized to have been impacted by catastrophic floods in the late 1800s resulting in establishment of primary successional species on the scoured bedrock (McDonald and Trianosky 1995). The soils are shallow with considerable areas of exposed rock. Soils are extremely acidic (pH = 3.9) with high organic matter content and low levels of major nutrients (Mitchem 2004). Soil moisture regime is relatively xeric. Slopes range from level to moderate (mapping unit values range from 0-13°, mean = 4°). Elevations of mapped stands range from 379 to 402 m. In the Potomac Gorge, this vegetation occurs on the rimrock of high bedrock terraces of metamorphic rocks (schists, gneisses, metagraywacke) below Great Falls that are flooded with an average return interval of 12 to 30 years. Soils are extremely shallow, often gravelly sands or loamy sands, with modest organic horizon development in protected areas. Samples collected from plots are extremely acidic with very low base status. Bedrock cover is high, usually from 20-70%.
Geographic Range: This community is currently restricted to the New River Gorge of West Virginia and the Potomac Gorge in Maryland and Virginia.
States/Provinces: MD, VA, WV
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (1994/1995)|
Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic) Province
Confident or certain
Northern Appalachian Piedmont Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: High
Confidence Level Comments:
Greasons: The natural distribution of this community has no doubt always been extremely limited by its high environmental specificity and restriction to high-gradient river gorges. There are currently only two occurrences of this vegetation known (New River Gorge and occurrences on the Maryland and Virginia sides of the Potomac) totaling less than 100 hectares in aggregate. This community hosts several rare plant species and is itself a rare element of biodiversity. Unfortunately, its long-term persistence is uncertain due to altered flooding regimes since building of Bluestone Dam in 1949. Succession of this community towards deciduous woodland has been very slow, probably due to shallow, droughty soils and occasional catastrophic flooding impacts. Occurrences of this community are in extremely rocky areas which are protected and not vulnerable to resource extraction, conversion, or development; however, these areas may be impacted by trampling associated with recreational activities. Currently stands of this association are probably most threatened by encroachment of exotic weeds such as Lonicera japonica, Rubus phoenicolasius, and Rosa multiflora.
Synonomy: > Juniperus virginiana - Pinus virginiana - Quercus stellata / Asplenium platyneuron woodland (Vanderhorst 2001b)
> Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana - Pinus virginiana - Quercus stellata / Amelanchier (stolonifera, nantucketensis) / Danthonia spicata Woodland (Lea 2004)
> Pinus virginiana - Juniperus virginiana - Quercus stellata woodland (Suiter 1995)
> Pinus virginiana - Juniperus virginiana - Quercus stellata woodland (Suiter and Evans 1999)
= Pinus virginiana - Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana - Quercus stellata / Amelanchier stolonifera / Danthonia spicata / Leucobryum glaucum Woodland (Fleming et al. 2007b)
> Pinus virginiana - Quercus stellata / Vaccinium pallidum / Helianthus divaricatus Forest (Lea 2000)
< Appalachian river flatrock (Rouse and McDonald 1986)
> sub-mesic Virginia pine woodland (McDonald and Trianosky 1995)
Concept Author(s): M. Pyne after Vanderhorst (2000)
Author of Description: M. Pyne, after Vanderhorst (2000), S.C. Gawler and G.P. Fleming
Version Date: 29May2007
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