Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Little Bluestem - Dropseed species Central Interior Calcareous Scrub & Grassland Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Central Interior Calcareous Scrub & Grassland
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This vegetation macrogroup includes open barrens (or prairie) vegetation of the east-central United States. Physiognomy is variable, with management or natural disturbance. These are plant communities with open canopies, ranging from herbaceous-dominated barrens (some of which are maintained today by mowing instead of fire and grazing) through savanna and woodland types. The variety of relatively open habitats that is present here includes open grassland areas, as well as savanna woodlands. Stands are dominated by grasses and forbs with scattered shrubby vegetation and, occasionally, trees. The primary dominant grasses include Andropogon gerardii (southward also Andropogon glomeratus, Andropogon gyrans, Andropogon ternarius), Panicum spp., Schizachyrium scoparium, Sorghastrum nutans, and Sporobolus spp. Some other typical species found in examples may include Helianthus mollis, Helianthus occidentalis, Helianthus silphioides, Panicum anceps, Silphium terebinthinaceum, and Silphium trifoliatum. The shrublands can be dominated by Cercis canadensis, Forestiera ligustrina, Hypericum spp., Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and Rhus aromatica. The scattered trees (under historical or current managed conditions) are primarily Quercus muehlenbergii, Quercus alba, and Quercus macrocarpa. Under current conditions, Acer rubrum, Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus coccinea, and Quercus falcata may be present, but these species are not characteristic. In the Appalachians, most examples are open woodlands with Pinus rigida, Pinus virginiana, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and/or Quercus alba, Quercus marilandica, and Quercus stellata in the often stunted canopy. Trees can include Fraxinus americana, Ulmus alata, and Cercis canadensis on basic soil examples. This vegetation was formerly more widespread, but is now found in relatively scattered and isolated remnants. Some proposed factors which have functioned to maintain the openness of these vegetation types include the droughty, gravelly soils and resulting stresses to vegetation, as well as fire and grazing.
Diagnostic Characteristics: These are open shrublands or grasslands on thin soils and outcrops of alkaline or circumneutral rock of sedimentary, meta-sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic origin. Schizachyrium scoparium is a common dominant perennial grass species; Sporobolus spp. are also important distinguishing grasses, along with Andropogon gerardii (southward also Andropogon glomeratus, Andropogon gyrans, Andropogon ternarius), Panicum anceps, and Sorghastrum nutans. Forbs include Helianthus mollis, Helianthus occidentalis, Helianthus silphioides, Silphium terebinthinaceum, and Silphium trifoliatum. Diagnostic shrubs include Cercis canadensis, Forestiera ligustrina, Hypericum spp., Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and Rhus aromatica. The scattered trees are primarily Quercus muehlenbergii, Quercus alba, and Quercus macrocarpa. In the Appalachians, most examples are open woodlands with Pinus rigida, Pinus virginiana, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and/or Quercus alba, Quercus marilandica, and Quercus stellata in the often stunted canopy. Trees can include Fraxinus americana, Ulmus alata, and Cercis canadensis.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: Schizachyrium scoparium is a common dominant perennial grass species, Sporobolus spp. are also important distinguishing grasses.
Classification Comments: Included here are open rock outcrops and related thin-soil annual and perennial grasslands and shrublands, from southern Ohio to Pennsylvania, southwest across the Interior Highlands of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, south to Georgia and west to Arkansas and Oklahoma. These are open shrublands or grasslands on thin soils and outcrops of alkaline or circumneutral rock of sedimentary, meta-sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic origin. Similar vegetation in the Great Lakes region (alvars) and in Connecticut and Massachusetts are included in Laurentian-Acadian Calcareous Scrub & Grassland Macrogroup (M507).
Similar NVC Types:
M506 Appalachian Rocky Felsic & Mafic Scrub & Grassland, note: is Appalachian and occurs predominantly on acidic soils and outcrops.
M507 Laurentian-Acadian Calcareous Scrub & Grassland, note: "occurs further north, in the Great Lakes region and in Connecticut and Massachusetts."
M509 Central Interior Acidic Scrub & Grassland, note: "occurs on acidic substrates, such as sandstone"
Physiognomy and Structure: This vegetation is primarily dominated by perennial grasses, but includes sparsely vegetated rock outcrops, annual and perennial grasslands, shrublands, and grasslands with very widely scattered trees.
Floristics: The primary dominant grasses include Schizachyrium scoparium and native warm season grasses. Thin soil areas may be dominated by include Sporobolus vaginiflorus, or Sporobolus neglectus. Other more mesic perennial grasses such as Andropogon gerardii, or Tripsacum dactyloides are found in deeper soil mesic and wet sites. Some typical graminoid species (varying with latitude and biogeography) include Andropogon gerardii, Andropogon glomeratus, Andropogon gyrans, Andropogon ternarius, Aristida purpurascens var. virgata, Calamagrostis coarctata (= Calamagrostis cinnoides), Chasmanthium laxum, Dichanthelium aciculare, Dichanthelium dichotomum, Dichanthelium scoparium, Dichanthelium sphaerocarpon var. isophyllum, Gymnopogon brevifolius, Panicum anceps, Panicum rigidulum, Panicum verrucosum, Panicum virgatum, and Sporobolus clandestinus. Other characteristic herbs may include Aletris farinosa, Coreopsis major, Coreopsis tripteris, Doellingeria umbellata, Eutrochium fistulosum, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Eupatorium pilosum, Eupatorium rotundifolium, Eurybia hemispherica, Helianthus angustifolius, Helianthus hirsutus, Helianthus mollis, Helianthus occidentalis, Helianthus silphioides, Lobelia puberula, Polytrichum commune, Potentilla simplex, Pteridium aquilinum, Sericocarpus linifolius, Silphium terebinthinaceum, Silphium trifoliatum, Solidago juncea, Solidago odora, Solidago rugosa, and Symphyotrichum dumosum. The scattered trees are primarily Quercus muehlenbergii, Quercus alba, and Quercus macrocarpa. In the Appalachians, most examples are open woodlands with Pinus rigida, Pinus virginiana, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, and/or Quercus alba, Quercus marilandica, and Quercus stellata in the often stunted canopy. Trees can include Fraxinus americana, Ulmus alata, and Cercis canadensis. Dominant or abundant Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana or other trees on these thin-soil areas is probably related to a lack of fire, grazing or drought conditions.
Dynamics: Due to the effects of periodic drought and winter frost-heaving, the thin rocky soils generally do not support forest vegetation. The perennial grasslands may accumulate fuel from dried drought-killed trees and may be prone to wildfire. Fires may play an important role in keeping the structure of the vegetation open and perennial grass- or shrub-dominated. Grazing and the harvesting of Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana trees also have played a role in keeping sites open, rather than forested (DeSelm 1994). The cessation of disturbances, such as grazing, harvesting of trees, and burning these habitats, has enabled many of the perennial grasslands to become completely dominated by Acer rubrum, Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana, Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus alba, Quercus falcata, Quercus stellata, and/or the invasive exotic shrubs Ligustrum sinense or Lonicera maackii.
Environmental Description: Site conditions and environment are characterized by thin soils over rock, usually with rock outcrops, and typically with higher pH. These areas are subject to extremes of temperature, and short-term drought can have extreme effects on the plants. In addition, wetness in the winter and frost-heaving can be pronounced. Climate: Humid warm temperate, humid cool temperate. Soil/substrate/hydrology: The substrate includes outcrops and thin soils (i.e., <20 cm soil depth) and outcrops of alkaline or circumneutral rock of sedimentary, meta-sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic origin. These can be flat as on limestone in the Nashville Basin or on slopes as in the dolomites and limestones of the Interior Highlands, in Southeast Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the Ozark and Ouachita mountains, the Western Valley of the Tennessee River, and the Ketona dolomite in central Alabama, or amphibolite, serpentine or shale of the Appalachians. Examples of this vegetation also occur on dry soils with limited moisture availability during the summer, such as occur over gravels or which have a fragipan. Generally the hydrology is dry upland, but there can be small saturated wetland inclusions which may support rare plant species.
Geographic Range: Included here are open rock outcrops and related dry-soil or thin-soil annual and perennial grasslands and shrublands of the Interior Highlands and Central Appalachian region, from southern Missouri to Ohio and Pennsylvania, south to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Georgia.
States/Provinces: AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, OH, OK, TN, VA, WV
|US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)|
Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Confident or certain
Southern Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau Section
Confident or certain
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Synonomy: >< Grass-Dominated Communities (DeSelm and Murdock 1993)
> Limestone Cedar Glades (Lawless et al. 2006)
> Rock Outcrop Communities: Limestone (Quarterman et al. 1993)
> Xeric Limestone Prairie (Lawless et al. 2006)
Concept Author(s): D. Faber-Langendoen, in Faber-Langendoen et al. (2014)
Author of Description: C.W. Nordman
Acknowledgements: The recent work of Lawless, Baskin and Baskin is gratefully acknowledged. Elsie Quarterman's 1950 Ecology paper, "Major plant communities of Tennessee cedar glades" remains a starting point for understanding these ecosystems and their plant communities. Her pioneering work is acknowledged.
Version Date: 15Oct2014
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