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CEGL006045 Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis - Prunus serotina Forest

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Type Concept Sentence:
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Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Sugar Maple - Yellow Birch - Black Cherry Forest
Colloquial Name: Central Appalachian Northern Hardwood Forest
Hierarchy Level: Association
Type Concept: This northern hardwood forest of the Allegheny Plateau and central Appalachian Mountains occurs on moderate to deep, acidic to circumneutral loams or loamy sands, mesic to wet-mesic and nutrient-rich soils, on flat to moderate slopes. A thick layer of fallen leaves often occurs. In the glaciated portion of the range, this vegetation occurs on glacial tills, and in the unglaciated portion on sandstone or shale of northern slopes and high elevations. Prunus serotina is an important canopy component, with Acer saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, and Fagus grandifolia. Other associates include Acer rubrum, Fraxinus americana, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Betula lenta, Ostrya virginiana, Picea rubens, Pinus strobus, Quercus rubra, Tsuga canadensis, and in the southern portion of this type's range, Magnolia acuminata and Magnolia fraseri. Acer rubrum may be the most abundant tree in stands with recent harvests. Conifers contribute less than 25% cover, in general. The shrub layer consists of Acer pensylvanicum, Corylus cornuta, Hamamelis virginiana, Ilex montana (in the unglaciated portion of the range), Lonicera canadensis, Amelanchier arborea, Viburnum acerifolium, and Viburnum lantanoides. Herbs include Dennstaedtia punctilobula, Thelypteris noveboracensis, Arisaema triphyllum, Aralia nudicaulis, Chimaphila maculata, Clintonia borealis, Lycopodium spp., Maianthemum canadense, Oxalis montana, Viola rotundifolia, Pteridium aquilinum, Dryopteris intermedia, Trillium undulatum, and Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus.
Diagnostic Characteristics: No Data Available
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: Stands with repeated harvests can be difficult to classify to this versus other northern hardwood and hardwood/oak associations.

In West Virginia, 96 plots from the Allegheny Mountains are classified to this association. This is the most abundant northern hardwoods association in the state and it represents the matrix forest of higher elevations in the Allegheny Mountains. Liriodendron tulipifera is rare at elevations where this association proliferates in WV and is generally contra-diagnostic. Some areas currently occupied by this association previously supported forests dominated by Picea rubens or Tsuga canadensis, and these species may be scattered in the canopy or abundant in the lower strata. Some plots from Camp Dawson, Preston County, WV, previously classified as this association (Vanderhorst 2001a, Vanderhorst and Streets 2006) have been reclassified to other ruderal or oak associations.
Similar NVC Types:
Betula alleghaniensis - Quercus rubra / Acer spicatum / Dryopteris intermedia - Oclemena acuminata Forest, note:
Fagus grandifolia - Acer saccharum Glaciated Midwest Forest, note:
Betula alleghaniensis - Fagus grandifolia / Viburnum lantanoides / Eurybia chlorolepis - Dryopteris intermedia Forest, note: has less Prunus serotina, and prevalence of several key Southern Appalachian species, e.g., Aesculus flava, Eurybia chlorolepis, Ageratina altissima var. roanensis, Carex lucorum var. austrolucorum, Prenanthes roanensis, and Eutrochium steelei.
Picea rubens - Tsuga canadensis - Fagus grandifolia / Dryopteris intermedia Forest, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: No Data Available
Floristics: The type encompasses closed-canopy deciduous forests generally dominated by Acer saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, and Fagus grandifolia. In addition, Prunus serotina is a prominent associate that increases in importance following logging and other disturbances. Acer rubrum may be the most abundant tree in stands with recent harvests. Additional woody and herbaceous associates reported from throughout the range include Acer rubrum, Betula lenta, Quercus rubra, Pinus strobus, Picea rubens, Magnolia acuminata, Magnolia fraseri, Tsuga canadensis, Acer pensylvanicum, Corylus cornuta, Hamamelis virginiana, Ilex montana, Lonicera canadensis, Viburnum lantanoides, Viburnum acerifolium, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, Dryopteris intermedia, Dryopteris campyloptera, Thelypteris noveboracensis, Lycopodium spp., Maianthemum canadense, Oxalis montana, Arisaema triphyllum, Viola hastata, Trillium undulatum, Carex intumescens var. fernaldii, and Clintonia borealis.

In Virginia, Acer saccharum, Prunus serotina, Quercus rubra, and Acer rubrum are the most abundant canopy trees, while Betula alleghaniensis is an infrequent component. Fagus grandifolia, Betula lenta, and Fraxinus americana are frequent, though rarely codominant canopy associates. Canopy composition varies occasionally to nearly pure Acer saccharum. Lower woody layers are usually open, patchy, and dominated mostly by Acer pensylvanicum, Acer saccharum, and Fagus grandifolia. The herb layers of many stands are characterized by patch-dominance of Dennstaedtia punctilobula. Other more-or-less constant or characteristic herbaceous species are Anemone lancifolia, Arisaema triphyllum, Carex appalachica, Carex digitalis, Carex blanda, Carex debilis, Carex leptonervia, Milium effusum, Polystichum acrostichoides, Solidago curtisii, Thelypteris noveboracensis, Viola blanda, and Viola rotundifolia. Additional herbs may include Arisaema triphyllum, Aralia nudicaulis, Chimaphila maculata, Clintonia borealis, Lycopodium spp., Maianthemum canadense, Oxalis montana, Viola rotundifolia, Pteridium aquilinum, Dryopteris intermedia, and Streptopus lanceolatus var. roseus (= Streptopus roseus). Several uncommon or state-rare plant species associated with this vegetation in Virginia, including Carex arctata, Milium effusum, and Schizachne purpurascens, reach or approach their southern range limits in Highland County.
Dynamics: The importance of Prunus serotina, Acer rubrum, and Quercus rubra in contemporary Virginia and West Virginia examples of this community type, as well as on the High Allegheny Plateau, reflects secondary succession following catastrophic logging and fire disturbances in the early part of the twentieth century. Acer saccharum and Fagus grandifolia, both abundant in understory layers, appear positioned to assume dominance as current stands mature. However, beech-bark disease and excessive deer browsing are serious threats to the future viability of the largest stands on Allegheny Mountain (Fleming and Moorhead 1996). Although widespread in the eastern United States, Prunus serotina reaches maximal productivity and importance in the cool, mesic, Alleghenian northern hardwoods region (Braun 1950, Fowells 1965, Eyre 1980). While most abundant in secondary forests, this species is probably able to persist as an associate of Acer saccharum and Fagus grandifolia in mature stands due to its prolific reproduction, ability to colonize gaps, rapid growth, and relatively long life (Fowells 1965). Some areas in West Virginia currently occupied by this association previously supported forests dominated by Picea rubens or Tsuga canadensis, and these species may be scattered in the canopy or abundant in the lower strata.
Environmental Description: In the main portion of its range, this community occurs on glacial tills or on higher-elevation sites underlain by sandstone or shale. Stands are generally associated with deep, acidic to circumneutral loams or loamy sands on flat to moderate, mesic slopes. Forest-floor habitats are often characterized by thick leaf litter. In Virginia, this association is generally restricted to cool slopes over 915 m (3000 feet) on Allegheny Mountain and over 1070 m (3500 feet) elsewhere. Mean elevation of 19 plot-sampled stands in Virginia is 1090 m (3575 feet). In West Virginia, elevations range from 585 to 1366 m (1920-4481 feet). In the Allegheny Mountains, it occupies a variety of slope positions and aspects. At disjunct sites further south, stands typically occupy middle to upper, north-facing slopes. Site moisture conditions range from mesic to submesic. Soils are extremely acidic (mean pH = 3.9 in Virginia and West Virginia samples), with low base status. Virtually all Virginia sites supporting this community have a history of intensive logging and subsequent fires in the early part of the twentieth century. On sites that were cut using narrow-gauge railroads and steam-powered cable skidders, pit-and-mound scars are extensive (Fleming and Moorhead 1996).
Geographic Range: The principal range of this community type is the Allegheny Plateau region of southern New York and northern Pennsylvania, extending south along the high Allegheny Mountains of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. In Virginia, the type is widespread only on Allegheny Mountain in northwest Highland County, but occurs locally in disjunct, high-elevation areas of the Ridge and Valley, Cumberland Mountains and, very rarely, the northern Blue Ridge. In West Virginia, this association represents the matrix forest of higher elevations in the Allegheny Mountains, much of it on the Monongahela National Forest.
Nations: CA,US
States/Provinces: MD, NY, PA, VA, WV
US Forest Service Ecoregions (1994/1995)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Laurentian Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 212    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Western Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau Section
Section Code: 221F     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Northeastern Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 211    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Western Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau Section
Section Code: 221F     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions:
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Grank: G4
Greasons: Although the total geographic range of this association is not large, it is a matrix forest community and covers large areas in the Allegheny Plateau region and Allegheny Mountains.
Concept Lineage:
Predecessors:
Obsolete Names:
Obsolete Parents:
Synonomy: = Acer (rubrum, saccharum) - Prunus serotina - Betula alleghaniensis - Fagus grandifolia / Maianthemum canadense Forest [Typical Northern Hardwoods Forest] (Vanderhorst 2018)
= Acer saccharum - Betula alleghaniensis - Prunus serotina Forest (Vanderhorst and Streets 2006)
= Prunus serotina - Acer saccharum - Fagus grandifolia / Carex digitalis - (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) Forest (Fleming and Coulling 2001)
? Prunus serotina - Quercus rubra / Dennstaedtia punctilobula - Carex digitalis Association (Fleming and Moorhead 1996)
< Black Cherry - Maple: 28 (Eyre 1980)
? Maple-beech-birch-cherry northern hardwoods (matrix) (CAP pers. comm. 1998)
> Mixed montane hardwood forest (Vanderhorst 2001a)
Concept Author(s): G. Fleming
Author of Description: G. Fleming, E. Largay, S.C. Gawler, J. Vanderhorst
Acknowledgements:
Version Date: 20Dec2018
References:
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  • CAP [Central Appalachian Forest Working Group]. 1998. Central Appalachian Working group discussions. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.
  • CDPNQ [Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec]. No date. Unpublished data. Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec, Québec.
  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.
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  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2009b. Classification of selected Virginia montane wetland groups. In-house analysis, December 2009. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
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  • Perles, S. J., G. S. Podniesinski, E. A. Zimmerman, E. Eastman, and L. A. Sneddon. 2006d. Vegetation classification and mapping at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2006/079. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA.
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  • Vanderhorst, J., and B. P. Streets. 2006. Vegetation classification and mapping of Camp Dawson Army Training Site, West Virginia: Second approximation. Natural Heritage Program, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Elkins. 83 pp.