Common (Translated Scientific) Name: American Beech - Southern Sugar Maple - White Oak Forest Group
Colloquial Name: Southern Mesic Beech - Oak - Mixed Deciduous Forest
Hierarchy Level: Group
Type Concept: This group is composed of tall (25-32 m), productive and diverse forests primarily dominated by deciduous broad-leaved trees of the inner coastal plains of the southeastern United States. They occur from near sea level to about 125 m (400 feet) in the loess hills and bluffs. Examples of this group occur in a variety of mesic fire-sheltered sites, including lower slopes, bluffs and ravines, mesic flats, and local topographic high areas within bottomland terraces or wet flats. Stands are characteristically dominated by Fagus grandifolia in combination with Acer barbatum and/or Quercus alba. Some stands may exhibit codominance or perhaps dominance by Quercus spp., but the most mesic stands may lack oaks. If Quercus spp. are dominant, then a suite of herbs characteristic of mesic forests will be diagnostic. Quercus rubra will be important only north of 35°N latitude, and Pinus taeda conversely of greater importance to the south. Other hardwood species include Acer rubrum, Fraxinus americana, Liquidambar styraciflua, Liriodendron tulipifera, Nyssa sylvatica, Magnolia acuminata (of local distribution), and Tilia americana. Upland and bottomland oaks at the mid range of moisture tolerance are usually also present, particularly Quercus alba, but sometimes also Quercus falcata, Quercus michauxii, Quercus nigra, Quercus pagoda, and/or Quercus shumardii. Pinus taeda is sometimes present, but it is unclear if it is a natural component or has entered only as a result of past cutting. Some subcanopy components include Carpinus caroliniana, Cornus florida, Diospyros virginiana, Ilex opaca, Magnolia macrophylla, Ostrya virginiana, Oxydendrum arboreum, and Ulmus alata. Shrubs and woody vines include Decumaria barbara, Rhododendron canescens, Smilax glauca, Toxicodendron radicans, and Vitis rotundifolia. Important herbs include Hexastylis arifolia, Mitchella repens, and Polystichum acrostichoides.
Diagnostic Characteristics: No Data Available
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: Fagus grandifolia and Quercus alba are often codominant and are characteristic. Acer barbatum is included as an indicator of a southern distribution.
Classification Comments: The range of this group is defined as being north of the range of Magnolia grandiflora as mapped by Outcalt (1990) and Pinus glabra as mapped by Kossuth and Michael (1990), which excludes the warm temperate "beech-magnolia" forests to the south of its range. Some species that are excluded from the coastal plain farther south are common components farther north. In Maryland and the District of Columbia, the vegetation of this group can extend into the Piedmont, straddling the fall zone where the Coastal Plain and Piedmont meet. Besides the variation across this group's range, there are two significant gradients worthy of mention. Acidic and basic substrates have substantial floristic differences. Variants on upland slopes, nonriverine swamp islands, and high ridges in bottomlands are also noteworthy. Floristic differences may exist between these variants, but they are subtle and do not appear to be definitive at the group level, they may help to define alliances, for example.
Similar NVC Types:
G007 Southern Mesic Beech - Magnolia - Oak Forest, note:
G020 Appalachian-Central Interior Mesic Forest, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: Stands of this group have deciduous canopies and are composed of tall (20-35 m) trees.
Floristics: Stands of this group are dominated by Fagus grandifolia or this species in combination with Acer barbatum (or Acer saccharum) and/or Quercus alba. The most characteristic feature of the vegetation in some examples may be Fagus grandifolia, but a variety of other hardwood species may also be found in the overstory, and Fagus grandifolia may not always be present. Some stands may be dominated by Fagus grandifolia and Quercus alba, others by Quercus alba or Quercus pagoda with other mesic hardwoods. Some stands may exhibit codominance by Quercus spp., the most notable being Quercus alba, Quercus falcata, Quercus muehlenbergii, Quercus pagoda, and Quercus shumardii, but the most mesic stands may lack oaks. Quercus rubra will be important only north of 35°N latitude, and Pinus taeda conversely of greater importance to the south. Pinus taeda may be common in some examples in the southern portion of the range and, depending on previous disturbance and site conditions, may be locally dominant. In addition, a variety of other hardwood species may also be found in the overstory, including Acer rubrum, Fraxinus americana, Liquidambar styraciflua, Liriodendron tulipifera, Nyssa sylvatica, Magnolia acuminata (of local distribution), and Tilia americana. Species of subcanopy trees, shrubs and vines can vary across the range of the group. Some subcanopy components (in addition to canopy species) include Carpinus caroliniana, Cornus florida, Diospyros virginiana, Ilex opaca, Magnolia macrophylla, Morus rubra, Oxydendrum arboreum, Ostrya virginiana, and Ulmus alata. Some typical shrubs include Hamamelis virginiana, Rhododendron canescens, Stewartia malacodendron, and Symplocos tinctoria. Within its range, Sabal minor may be a prominent shrub. Woody vines include Decumaria barbara, Smilax glauca, Toxicodendron radicans, and Vitis rotundifolia. Some stands may contain Arundinaria gigantea. Some typical herbs include Hexastylis arifolia, Mitchella repens, and Polystichum acrostichoides. Species richness may be fairly high in basic sites but is fairly low otherwise. This group is found north of the distribution of Pinus glabra and Magnolia grandiflora, which will be absent, or confined to lower strata at low cover values. In many cases, the loess bluffs provide habitat for plant species that are rare or absent from other parts of the coastal plain. Braun (1950) noted that the composition of forest changes from north to south along the bluffs.
Dynamics: These are stable, generally fire-sheltered forests, with relatively low fire frequency and intensity. There is presumably some natural disturbance from the effects of windstorms and collapse of the fragile loess in Crowley's Ridge and loess bluff examples. Canopy dynamics are dominated by gap-phase regeneration on a fine scale.
Environmental Description: Examples of this group occur in a variety of mesic and moist (but non-wetland) sites that are naturally sheltered from frequent fire. These sites include lower slopes, bluffs and ravines along or near streams and rivers in dissected terrain, mesic flats between drier pine-dominated uplands and floodplains, and local topographic high areas within bottomland terraces or nonriverine wet flats. Bordering the northern portion of the eastern edge of the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain and on Crowley's Ridge, they occur on the lower sheltered portions of steep bluffs and hills composed of deep loess. The bluffs may extend to 150 m (500 feet) in elevation and from 30 to 60 m (100-200 feet) above the adjacent plain. They are often deeply eroded and very steep, with fertile topsoil and abundant moisture (Miller and Neiswender 1987). Climate: Cool temperate. Soil/substrate/hydrology: Stands of this group occur on coastal plain soils, which are deep, rich, and variable in texture. They are derived from alluvium, colluvium, and in some cases, wind-deposited loess; and rarely on shell deposits. The best and most fertile stands are found on finer-textured soils. Moisture regimes are mesic to moist, but these are upland not wetland communities.
Geographic Range: Vegetation of this group is found in the Southeastern Coastal Plain from Virginia south to coastal South Carolina and interior Georgia, and west to central Mississippi and including Crowley's Ridge in Arkansas and Missouri. Rarely, it occurs northward in the coastal plain to New Jersey. In Mississippi, it extends south to about 32°N latitude (where the Big Black River cuts through the loess bluffs). South of this area, and in southern Georgia and South Carolina, where Magnolia grandiflora and Pinus glabra become reliable canopy components, similar forests are placed in a different, warm temperate macrogroup and group.
States/Provinces: AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, MO, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Confident or certain
White and Black River Alluvial Plains Section
Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions: 35:C, 63:C, 64:P, 65:C, 74:C, 84:C
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: = Mixed Mesophytic Forest (Mississippi Embayment Section Subtype) (Braun 1950)
Concept Author(s): E.L. Braun (1950)
Author of Description: M. Pyne
Version Date: 12May2015
- Barnes, B. V. 1991. Deciduous forests of North America. Pages 219-344 in: E. Röhrig and B. Ulrich, editors. Ecosystems of the World 7: Temperate deciduous forests. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, New York.
- Braun, E. L. 1950. Deciduous forests of eastern North America. Hafner Press, New York. 596 pp.
- Bryant, W. S., W. C. McComb, and J. S. Fralish. 1993. Oak-hickory forests (western mesophytic/oak-hickory forests). Pages 143-201 in: W. H. Martin, S. G. Boyce, and A. C. Echternacht, editors. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.
- Christensen, N. L. 2000. Vegetation of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Pages 398-448 in: M. G. Barbour and W. D. Billings, editors. North American terrestrial vegetation. Second edition. Cambridge University Press, New York. 434 pp.
- Clark, G. T. 1974. A preliminary ecological study of Crowley's Ridge. Pages 213-241 in: Arkansas Department of Planning. Arkansas natural area plan. Arkansas Department of Planning. Little Rock. 248 pp.
- Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.
- EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. 2004. Level III and IV Ecoregions of EPA Region 4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR. Scale 1:2,000,000.
- Evans, M. 1991. Kentucky ecological communities. Draft report to the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. 19 pp.
- Faber-Langendoen, D., J. Drake, S. Gawler, M. Hall, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, L. Sneddon, K. Schulz, J. Teague, M. Russo, K. Snow, and P. Comer, editors. 2010-2017a. Divisions, Macrogroups and Groups for the Revised U.S. National Vegetation Classification. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. plus appendices. [in preparation]
- Fralish, J. S., and S. B. Franklin. 2002. Taxonomy and ecology of woody plants of North America (excluding Mexico and subtropical Florida). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
- Franklin, S. B., and J. A. Kupfer. 2004. Forest communities of Natchez Trace State Forest, western Tennessee Coastal Plain. Castanea 69(1):15-29.
- Greller, A. M. 1988. Deciduous forest. Pages 288-316 in: M. G. Barbour and W. D. Billings, editors. North American terrestrial vegetation. Cambridge University Press, New York.
- Kossuth, S. V., and J. L. Michael. 1990. Pinus glabra Walt., spruce pine. Pages 355-358 in: R. M. Burns and B. H. Honkala, editors. Silvics of North America. Volume 1, Conifers. USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 654, Washington, DC.
- Miller, N. A., and J. B. Neiswender. 1987. Plant communities of the Third Chickasaw Loess Bluff and Mississippi River Alluvial Plain, Shelby County, Tennessee. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences 62:1-6.
- NatureServe Ecology - Southeastern United States. No date. Unpublished data. NatureServe, Durham, NC.
- NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Central Databases. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.
- Nelson, P. 2005. The terrestrial natural communities of Missouri. Third edition. Missouri Natural Areas Committee, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO. 550 pp.
- Outcalt, K. W. 1990. Magnolia grandiflora L., southern magnolia. Pages 445-448 in: R. M. Burns and B. H. Honkala, editors. Silvics of North America. Volume 2, Hardwoods. USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 654, Washington, DC.
- USGS [U.S. Geological Survey]. 1992. National land cover dataset. U.S. Geological Survey, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD.