Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Chestnut Oak / Catawba Rosebay - Mountain Laurel Forest
Colloquial Name: Central Appalachian Chestnut Oak / Catawba Rosebay Forest
Hierarchy Level: Association
Type Concept: This community is documented from the northern Virginia Blue Ridge, scattered locations in the Ridge and Valley province of west-central and southwestern Virginia, and in the gorges of the New and Gauley rivers of southern West Virginia. In addition, there are a few local outliers on sheltered, north-facing bluffs along the James River in the western Piedmont. In the main part of this association's range, stands are associated with strongly convex, upper slopes and spur crests at elevations from 325 m to over 975 m (1050-3200 feet). North or northwest aspects are common, but the type has been documented from other aspects as well, generally with high solar exposure. The vegetation is a species-poor, open to closed-canopy forest of stunted (often <20 m tall, sometimes <10 m tall), gnarled trees over a dense, evergreen tall-shrub layer. Quercus montana is the usual canopy dominant, with occasional associates of Betula lenta, Tsuga canadensis, Quercus velutina, Quercus coccinea, Quercus alba, Nyssa sylvatica, Acer rubrum, Pinus virginiana, and/or Pinus strobus. The shrub layer is dominated by Rhododendron catawbiense, Kalmia latifolia, and/or Rhododendron maximum (the latter primarily in West Virginia occurrences). Additional shrubs which are present at low cover include Hamamelis virginiana, Ilex montana, and Amelanchier arborea. Deciduous ericads such as Gaylussacia baccata and Vaccinium pallidum may be present but rarely contribute more than 10% cover. Herbs and subshrubs are exceedingly sparse in the densely shaded, forest-floor environment; most likely to be encountered are the evergreen species Gaultheria procumbens, Epigaea repens, Galax urceolata, Goodyera pubescens, Mitchella repens, and Chimaphila maculata, sometimes present at low cover.
Diagnostic Characteristics: No Data Available
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features:
Classification Comments: The geographic distribution of this community and the extent to which it recurs throughout the Northern Blue Ridge and Ridge and Valley are somewhat uncertain and need further investigation. Although documented by plot data only on the Blue Ridge of Virginia and at New River Gorge and the Gauley River in West Virginia, similar vegetation is reported to be frequent on xeric, rocky upper slopes and summits throughout the west-central and southwestern Virginia Ridge and Valley region (T.F. Wieboldt pers. comm.). These putative Ridge and Valley occurrences sometimes contain mixtures of Rhododendron catawbiense and Rhododendron maximum, as do the Gauley River occurrences. For the most part, however, this community appears to reach optimal development in geographic areas (i.e., the Northern Blue Ridge) and drier habitats where Rhododendron maximum is spotty or absent. Tsuga canadensis is prominent in this association at New River Gorge and the Gauley River, another contrast to Virginia stands. One stand in West Virginia along the WV/VA border on Allegheny Mountain is more similar to typical Virginia stands, lacking both Tsuga canadensis and Rhododendron maximum. This association (CEGL008524) is not likely to be found in the Southern Blue Ridge, where Rhododendron catawbiense is more restricted to high elevations and exposed habitats, above the elevational limits of Quercus montana (Newell 1997, A.S. Weakley pers. comm.). Although stands of this type can be rather difficult to plot-sample, the collection of additional quantitative data from well-developed occurrences would be desirable. This community type is similar to and sometimes co-occurs with Tsuga caroliniana / Kalmia latifolia - Rhododendron catawbiense Forest (CEGL007139) on the Northern Blue Ridge. The degree to which periodic fires have influenced the structure and composition of this community type needs investigation.
Similar NVC Types:
Fagus grandifolia - Quercus alba / Kalmia latifolia - (Rhododendron catawbiense) / Galax urceolata Forest, note:
Tsuga caroliniana / Kalmia latifolia - Rhododendron catawbiense Forest, note:
Quercus montana - Quercus rubra / Rhododendron maximum / Galax urceolata Forest, note: is a more mesophytic forest of protected slopes, with substantial Quercus rubra and a Rhododendron maximum understory.
Physiognomy and Structure: No Data Available
Floristics: The vegetation is an exceptionally species-poor, open to closed-canopy forest of somewhat stunted (<20 m tall) to very stunted (<10 m tall), gnarled deciduous or mixed evergreen-deciduous trees over a dense, evergreen tall-shrub layer. Quercus montana (= Quercus prinus) is the canopy dominant, with occasional associates of Tsuga canadensis, Betula lenta, Nyssa sylvatica, Acer rubrum, Quercus velutina, Quercus coccinea, Quercus alba, Quercus rubra, Betula alleghaniensis, Pinus virginiana, and/or Pinus strobus. Acer rubrum and Oxydendrum arboreum may be abundant subcanopy trees. Rhododendron catawbiense and Kalmia latifolia, each with mean cover of 25-50% in plots, dominate the shrub layer; Rhododendron maximum may be locally important in West Virginia occurrences. Additional shrubs present at low cover include Acer pensylvanicum, Gaylussacia baccata, Hamamelis virginiana, Ilex montana, Ilex opaca, Amelanchier arborea, Smilax rotundifolia, Vaccinium pallidum, and Viburnum acerifolium. Although not documented in plots, Pieris floribunda is reported to be a characteristic shrub of this community in the Thunder Ridge - Apple Orchard Mountain area of Virginia's Bedford and Botetourt counties (Rawinski et al. 1996). Herbs and subshrubs are exceedingly sparse in the densely shaded forest floor environment, but the evergreen species Gaultheria procumbens, Epigaea repens, Galax urceolata, Goodyera pubescens, Mitchella repens, and Chimaphila maculata are sometimes present at low cover. Occasional herbs include Aralia nudicaulis, Conopholis americana, Cypripedium acaule, Dryopteris intermedia, Hexastylis virginica, and Polypodium virginianum. The bryophyte layer may have significant cover by Leucobryum glaucum; other bryophytes identified in plots include Hypnum imponens, Thuidium delicatulum, Dicranum scoparium, Bazzania trilobata, and Polytrichum juniperinum. Lichens collected from this community include Cladonia caroliniana, Cladonia uncialis, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis, and Umbilicaria mammulata. Vascular plant species richness (per 400 m2) of Virginia plot-sampled stands ranges from 9 to 16 taxa (mean = 12); in the nine WV sampled plots it ranges from 13 to 33 taxa (mean = 22.4).
Dynamics: No Data Available
Environmental Description: This type is generally associated with strongly convex, upper slopes, cliff tops, and spur crests at elevations from 325 m to over 975 m (1050-3200 feet). Plot-sampled stands have various aspects, with north or northwest aspects most common. Slopes are mostly steep, generally >20Â° but sometimes as low as 10Â°. Piedmont occurrences of this vegetation type differ somewhat from the main part of the range: they are confined to steep, sheltered bluffs subtending the James River at <200 m (650 feet) elevation. Site moisture potential appears to be in the subxeric to submesic range, with soils in plots described as well- to rapidly-drained, dry sandy loam and silty clay. Surface cover of rocks varies from low to high, and soils have thick, poorly decomposed duff layers. Soils are extremely acidic (mean pH = 4.1) and infertile, with low levels of most nutrients (Ca, Cu, K, Mg, Mn, P, Zn).
Geographic Range: The documented range of this community includes the southern part of the Central Appalachians and adjacent areas of the Southern Blue Ridge, Southern Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia. In addition, there are a few local outliers on sheltered, north-facing bluffs along the James River in the western Virginia Piedmont.
States/Provinces: VA, WV
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (1994/1995)|
Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Confident or certain
Southern Appalachian Piedmont Section
Confident or certain
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Confident or certain
Northern Ridge and Valley Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Greasons: Although this is a somewhat geographically restricted, mostly small-patch vegetation type, many stands occur in public lands on generally inaccessible steep slopes, ridge, and spurs. Threats to this association are neither serious nor wide-ranging, and include occasional clearing for utility corridors with essentially slight impact. Hemlock woolly adelgid may impact some occurrences with high hemlock cover, but in general, this would not cause conversion to a different vegetation type. The dry, acidic soils of this vegetation provide some natural protection against invasive plant species.
Quercus prinus / Rhododendron catawbiense - Kalmia latifolia Forest
Quercus montana - Quercus coccinea Forest Alliance
Quercus alba - Quercus rubra - Quercus montana Forest Alliance
Synonomy: ? Quercus montana - Pinus strobus / Kalmia latifolia / Gaylussacia baccata Forest (Coulling and Rawinski 1999)
? Quercus montana / Kalmia latifolia / Vaccinium pallidum Association: Rhododendron catawbiense / Galax urceolata Subassociation (Rawinski et al. 1996)
> Quercus prinus - (Tsuga canadensis) / Oxydendrum arboreum / Rhododendron catawbiense - Rhododendron maximum Forest [Chestnut Oak (- Hemlock) / Catawba Rosebay Forest] (Vanderhorst 2017d)
> Quercus prinus - (Tsuga canadensis) / Oxydendrum arboreum / Rhododendron catawbiense - Rhododendron maximum Forest [Chestnut Oak (- Hemlock) / Catawba Rosebay Forest] (Vanderhorst 2017c)
= Quercus prinus / Rhododendron catawbiense - Kalmia latifolia Forest (Fleming and Coulling 2001)
? Quercus rubra - Tsuga canadensis / Rhododendron catawbiense Association, pro parte (Rawinski et al. 1996)
< Chestnut Oak: 44 (Eyre 1980)
Concept Author(s): G.P. Fleming and P.P. Coulling (2001)
Author of Description: G. Fleming, P. Coulling, S.C. Gawler
Version Date: 01Apr2010
- Coulling, P. P., and T. J. Rawinski. 1999. Classification of vegetation and ecological land units of the Piney River and Mt. Pleasant area, Pedlar Ranger District, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 99-03, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
- Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.
- Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.
- Fleming, G. P. 2002b. Preliminary classification of Piedmont & Inner Coastal Plain vegetation types in Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-14. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 29 pp.
- Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
- Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2009a. A vegetation classification for the Appalachian Trail: Virginia south to Georgia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. In-house analysis, March 2009.
- 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.
- Fleming, G. P., and P. P. Coulling. 2001. Ecological communities of the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Preliminary classification and description of vegetation types. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 317 pp.
- Fleming, G. P., K. D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2017. The natural communities of Virginia: A classification of ecological community groups and community types. Third approximation. Version 3.0. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. [http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/natural-communities/]
- Newell, C. L. 1997. Local and regional variation in the vegetation of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1008 pp.
- Rawinski, T. J., K. N. Hickman, J. Waller-Eling, G. P. Fleming, C. S. Austin, S. D. Helmick, C. Huber, G. Kappesser, F. C. Huber, Jr., T. Bailey, and T. K. Collins. 1996. Plant communities and ecological land units of the Glenwood Ranger District, George Washington and Jefferson national forests, Virginia. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 96-20. Richmond. 65 pp. plus appendices.
- Vanderhorst, J. 2017c. Wild vegetation of West Virginia: Upland hemlock hardwood forests. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program. [http://wvdnr.gov/Wildlife/Factsheets/Hemlock.shtm]
- Vanderhorst, J. 2017d. Wild vegetation of West Virginia: Oak / heath forests. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program. [http://www.wvdnr.gov/Wildlife/Factsheets/OakHeath.shtm]
- Vanderhorst, J. P., B. P. Streets, Z. Arcaro, and S. C. Gawler. 2010. Vegetation classification and mapping at Gauley River National Recreation Area. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2010/148. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA.
- Vanderhorst, J. P., J. Jeuck, and S. C. Gawler. 2007. Vegetation classification and mapping of New River Gorge National River, West Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR-2007/092. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 396 pp.
- Wieboldt, Thomas F. Personal communication.
- WVNHP [West Virginia Natural Heritage Program]. No date. Unpublished data. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, Elkins.