Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Orchardgrass - Canada Goldenrod - Multiflora Rose Eastern North American Ruderal Grassland & Shrubland
Colloquial Name: Eastern North American Ruderal Grassland & Shrubland
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: These ruderal grasslands and shrublands encompass sites in the northern and central regions of the eastern United States that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development) and then abandoned, and are now are dominated by weedy or generalist native and exotic forbs, grasses, ferns, and shrubs. There are three variants of this vegetation, each of which has its own characteristic herbs and shrubs. The better known variants are the "mesic open old-field meadow variant" and the "mesic old-field shrubland variant." There are also dry variants which are less well-described. The mesic open old-field meadow variant has characteristic forbs that include Asclepias syriaca, Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos, Cerastium arvense, Daucus carota, Euthamia graminifolia, Fragaria virginiana, Oenothera biennis, Picris hieracioides, Potentilla simplex, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago altissima, Solidago canadensis, Solidago juncea, Solidago nemoralis, Solidago rugosa, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, and Symphyotrichum novae-angliae. Common grasses include Anthoxanthum odoratum, Bromus inermis, Dactylis glomerata, Elymus repens, Lolium spp., Phleum pratense, Poa compressa, and Poa pratensis. Shrubs may be present, but collectively they have less than 25% cover. Characteristic shrubs in this variant include those of the mesic shrub variant. The mesic old-field shrubland variant is typically dominated by Amelanchier spp., Cornus racemosa, Cornus sericea, Crataegus spp., Juniperus virginiana, Prunus americana, Prunus virginiana, Rhus glabra, Rhus typhina, Rubus spp., Rubus spp., Viburnum lentago, and Viburnum recognitum. The exotic shrubs Elaeagnus angustifolia, Lonicera spp., and Rosa multiflora may be invasive in some areas. The dry old-field grassland and shrubland variant is found on sandy or rocky substrates and is typically dominated by Andropogon virginicus, Poa compressa, Schizachyrium scoparium, Solidago nemoralis, and an assortment of dry weedy species such as the exotic Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos. Scattered native or exotic trees may be present, including Acer rubrum, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, Pinus rigida, Pinus strobus, Pinus sylvestris, and Populus deltoides.
Diagnostic Characteristics: This successional ruderal vegetation occurs on abandoned farmland sites which have been cleared and/or cultivated and then abandoned or left fallow for several years, but also in formerly forested sites. The sites contain a mix of weedy, generalist native and exotic shrubs and herbs, often with some woody sapling establishment from surrounding forests. Draft criteria for distinguishing this type from more native grassland and shrub types include either >80% exotic species, or >80% combination of exotic species and a specified set of weedy or generalist native herbs and shrubs. The specified set of weedy natives needs to be developed.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: The species chosen are a mix of weedy native shrub and herb generalists and exotic species which are common on sites that were formerly plowed and abandoned.
Classification Comments: A north-south gradient in floristics occurs across old fields in the eastern U.S., including among herbaceous, shrub and tree species, and these may warrant separate groups (Wright and Fridley 2010, Table 2). Not all human-disturbed sites produce a distinct ruderal vegetation; there are natural types that originate through both natural and human disturbances, but these have natural analogs and are placed in other "natural" groups. See examples in the Dynamics section. Conversely, recently harvested crop fields may quickly become very early-successional old fields, dominated by Ambrosia artemisiifolia, Hieracium spp., Taraxacum officinale, etc. Practically speaking, they may be treated as fallow cropland under Cultural Vegetation, as long as a more-or-less continuous cover of vegetation is not present.
Similar NVC Types:
M013 Eastern North American Ruderal Forest, note:
M307 Southeastern Ruderal Grassland & Shrubland, note:
M498 Great Plains Ruderal Grassland & Shrubland, note:
Physiognomy and Structure: The vegetation is dominated by forbs, grasses, ferns and shrubs. Tree saplings may form a growing percentage of the cover should succession lead to a forested state.
Floristics: There are three variants of this vegetation, each of which has its own characteristic herbs and shrubs. The better known variants are the "mesic open old-field meadow variant" and the "mesic old-field shrubland variant." There are also dry variants which are less well-described. The mesic old-field meadow variant is dominated by forbs and grasses that occur on sites that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned. These characteristic forbs include Asclepias syriaca, Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos (= Centaurea maculosa), Cerastium arvense, Daucus carota, Euthamia graminifolia, Fragaria virginiana, Oenothera biennis, Picris hieracioides, Potentilla simplex, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago altissima, Solidago canadensis, Solidago juncea, Solidago nemoralis, Solidago rugosa, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (= Aster lateriflorus), and Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (= Aster novae-angliae). Common invasive and exotic grasses include Anthoxanthum odoratum, Bromus inermis, Dactylis glomerata, Elymus repens (= Agropyron repens), Phleum pratense, Poa compressa, and Poa pratensis. Shrubs may be present, but collectively they have less than 25% cover. Characteristic shrubs in this variant include Cornus amomum, Cornus racemosa (= Cornus foemina ssp. racemosa, = Swida racemosa), Cornus sericea (= Swida sericea), Juniperus virginiana, Rhus typhina, Rhus glabra, Rubus spp., and Viburnum recognitum (= Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum) (Edinger et al. 2002). The mesic old-field shrubland variant occurs on sites that have been cleared (for farming, logging, development, etc.) or otherwise disturbed, and has at least 25% cover of shrubs. Its stands are typically dominated by Amelanchier spp., Cornus racemosa, Cornus sericea, Crataegus spp., Juniperus virginiana, Pinus strobus, Prunus virginiana, Prunus americana, Rhus glabra, Rhus typhina, Rubus spp., Viburnum lentago, and Viburnum recognitum. The exotic shrubs Elaeagnus angustifolia, Lonicera spp., Rhamnus cathartica, and Rosa multiflora may be invasive in some areas (Edinger et al. 2002). The dry old-field grassland and shrubland variant is found on sandy or rocky substrates and is typically dominated by Andropogon virginicus, Poa compressa, Schizachyrium scoparium, Solidago nemoralis, and an assortment of dry weedy species such as the exotic Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos. A north-south gradient in floristics occurs, including in the herbaceous layer, where old fields in the north are more strongly dominated by Solidago spp. and those in the south by bunchgrasses (especially Andropogon virginicus, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Andropogon gerardii) (Wright and Fridley 2010). Changes in shrub and tree species from south to north are also noteworthy.
Dynamics: Depending on the availability of adjacent seed sources, ongoing mowing, etc., sites may either remain as herb- and shrub-dominated meadows for 20-50+ years, or may succeed to forests. Sites in which Rhamnus cathartica establishes may persist in a small-tree state for many years. A wide variety of studies have been completed on old field dynamics in this region (e.g., Egler 1954, Bazzaz 1968, Myster and Pickett 1990, Gill and Marks 1991). For a recent synthesis of these studies in this region, see Wright and Fridley (2010). For a list of trees that establish on old fields, see Wright and Fridley (2010, Table 1). See also Motzkin and Foster (2002) for a discussion of old ruderal sandplain sites with a mix of natural and novel characteristics. Examples of these fairly natural sandplain associations include ~Vaccinium angustifolium / Schizachyrium scoparium - Carex lucorum Shrub Grassland (CEGL006393)$$.
It is possible that the successional sequence may lead to a recognizable, if simplified, native forest type in this region. Further review of the literature is needed. See Sivicek and Taft (2011) for a comparison of assisted succession in tallgrass prairie that leads to a recognizable, though lower quality, native grassland type. Similarly some natural types that originate through both natural and human disturbances have natural analogs and are placed in other "natural" groups. A well-studied example is the "old field" sand barrens of the upper Midwest, studied at Cedar Creek Natural History Area (Inouye et al. 1987). They are treated as "native successional grasslands" within ~Central Tallgrass Prairie Group (G333)$$, because within 10-25 years they are very similar to naturally occurring sand barrens and oak barrens types in the surrounding landscape. Examples of recovery is also possible on other soil types.
Environmental Description: Sites where this vegetation is found have typically been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned. Mesic sites are typically relatively flat to rolling and fairly moist, because of their desirability for agricultural activities. Drier, sand, rocky or steeper sloped sites are subject to other kinds of development or weedy invasion, and are not well-described. See also Motzkin and Foster (2002) for a discussion of sandplain sites in coastal New England.
Geographic Range: This macrogroup occurs widely across the northern and central regions of the United States, extending westward into the tallgrass region of the midwestern United States.
Nations: CA, US
States/Provinces: CT, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NB, NC?, ND, NE, NH, NS, NY, OH, ON, PA, PE, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Confidence Level: High
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: > Successional fern meadow (Edinger et al. 2002)
> Successional old field (Edinger et al. 2002)
> Successional shrubland (Edinger et al. 2002)
Concept Author(s): Faber-Langendoen et al. (2014)
Author of Description: M. Pyne, D. Faber-Langendoen, and S.C. Gawler
Acknowledgements: We have incorporated significant descriptive information previously compiled by D. Faber-Langendoen and S.C. Gawler.
Version Date: 15Oct2014
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