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Alliance Detail Report: A3431
Quercus stellata Interior Flatwoods Forest Alliance

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
These are flatwoods or clay barrens forests and woodlands found in the south-central United States and dominated by Quercus alba, Quercus bicolor, Quercus falcata, Quercus palustris, and Quercus stellata.
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Translated Name:Post Oak Interior Flatwoods Forest Alliance
Colloquial Name:Interior Post Oak Flatwoods Forest
This flatwoods or clay barrens forest and woodland alliance is found in the south-central United States. The canopy is typically strongly dominated by Quercus stellata, which is characteristic, but may also include Quercus alba, Quercus bicolor, Quercus falcata, Quercus marilandica, and, more rarely, Quercus palustris. In Illinois, the shrub and woody vine strata may contain Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Rosa carolina, Rubus allegheniensis, Rubus flagellaris, and Toxicodendron radicans. The herbaceous layer can be fairly disparate from one stand to the next. Some stands can be dominated by Cinna arundinacea, Chasmanthium latifolium, and Eleocharis tenuis var. verrucosa (= Eleocharis verrucosa). Plants more typical of dry and dry-mesic soil grow on slight rises, including Carex festucacea, Carex pensylvanica, Danthonia spicata, Helianthus divaricatus, and others. Stunted trees are often present due to unfavorable soil conditions. Examples of this alliance occur on level or nearly level soil with a well-developed hardpan or argilic clay layer. This hardpan is an impermeable or nearly impermeable layer of subsoil that causes a shallowly perched water table. The hardpan impedes water percolation and subsoil recharge (stops movement of water up to the dry surface soil from deeper, more moist soil) in the summer, resulting in droughty conditions, and also slows drainage during wet periods. Stands are dominated by trees, but canopy closure is variable and dependent on disturbances such as fire and native grazing. In southern Illinois, stands of this alliance occur in very poorly drained areas with Quercus stellata the only abundant tree species, creating a cathedral-like overstory. The height growth of Quercus stellata trees stops when the trees reach about 30 cm in diameter, creating a maximum tree height of 22-23 m. At some sites, stunted trees may be present due to unfavorable soil conditions.
The unusual ecological setting (flatwoods and clay barrens) as well as the dominance by Quercus stellata and other Quercus species are distinctive and noteworthy.
Quercus stellata is characteristic and may be the only abundant tree species present.
Vegetation Hierarchy
Name:Database Code:Classification Code:
Class 1 Forest & Woodland C01 1
Subclass 1.B Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland S15 1.B
Formation 1.B.3 Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest F026 1.B.3
Division 1.B.3.Na Eastern North American-Great Plains Flooded & Swamp Forest D011 1.B.3.Na
Macrogroup M503 Central Hardwood Swamp Forest M503 1.B.3.Na.2
Group G654 South-Central Flatwoods & Pond Forest G654 1.B.3.Na.2.b
Alliance A3431 Interior Post Oak Flatwoods Forest A3431
Association CEGL002405 Post Oak Flatwoods CEGL002405
Association CEGL005057 Post Oak Clay Barrens CEGL005057
See Campbell and Grubbs (1992) for description of a Kentucky occurrence in Hopkins County, possibly in the Arkansas River Valley. Description of CEGL002405 states: "...understory composition may vary widely (Taft et al. 1995). In Kentucky, this type is thought to be fire-suppressed; structure varies from forest to woodland (M. Evans pers. comm. 1999). The former is thought to represent the fire-suppressed condition, the latter the more natural state, remnants of which still exist in the Jackson Purchase area [see Hendricks et al. (1991)]. Many noteworthy herbaceous species are characteristic of prairie barrens. Compare also with other Kentucky "Flatwoods" types. In Missouri stands also may contain a large prairie flora [see Ladd and Heumann (1994)]. See Taft et al. (1995) for an excellent review of this type in Illinois.'"
Synonomy: ? Quercus stellata - Cinna arundinacea type (Fralish 1988b)
>< IA6c. Dry Post Oak - Blackjack Oak Forest (Allard 1990)
? Post Oak - Blackjack Oak: 40 (Eyre 1980) [clayey, heavy soil variant]
? T2A2bI. Juniperus virginiana - Quercus spp. (Foti et al. 1994)
? T2B4aI1b. Quercus stellata - Quercus marilandica - Carya texana (Foti et al. 1994)

Related Type Name:

Short Citation:
  • Aldrich and Homoya 1986
  • Allard 1990
  • Campbell and Grubbs 1992
  • Coates et al. 1992
  • Evans 1991
  • Evans, M. pers. comm.
  • Eyre 1980
  • Faber-Langendoen et al. 2017b
  • Foti 1994b
  • Foti et al. 1994
  • Fralish 1988a
  • Fralish 1988b
  • Hendricks et al. 1991
  • Ladd and Heumann 1994
  • Taft et al. 1995
  • White and Madany 1978
States/Provinces:AR, IL, IN, KY, MO
Nations:US
Range:Examples of this alliance are found in the Ozarks, Interior Low Plateau, and adjacent interior regions of the south-central United States from Arkansas and Missouri and east to Kentucky.
US Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name:Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Province Code:231   Occurrence Status:Possible
Section Name:Ozark Highlands Section
Section Code:222A     Occurrence Status:Possible
Stands are dominated by trees, but canopy closure is variable and dependent on disturbances such as fire and native grazing. Under current conditions, stands may be more closed due to a lack of disturbance. Loss of these natural processes often results in a shift toward a more closed canopy, an increase in successional woody species such as Juniperus spp., and a decrease in native grass cover. In southern Illinois, Quercus stellata is the only abundant tree species present, creating a cathedral-like overstory. The height growth of Quercus stellata trees stops when the trees reach about 30 cm in diameter, creating a maximum tree height of 22-23 m (Fralish 1988a). At some sites, stunted trees may be present due to unfavorable soil conditions.
The canopy of this flatwoods or clay barrens forest or woodland is typically strongly dominated by Quercus stellata, which is characteristic, but may also include Quercus alba, Quercus bicolor, Quercus falcata, Quercus marilandica, and, more rarely, Quercus palustris. In Illinois, the shrub and woody vine strata may contain Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Rosa carolina, Rubus allegheniensis, Rubus flagellaris, and Toxicodendron radicans (Taft et al. 1995). In Indiana, shrubs include Rhus copallinum and Hypericum prolificum. The herbaceous layer can be fairly disparate from one stand to the next. Some stands can be dominated by Cinna arundinacea, Chasmanthium latifolium, and Eleocharis tenuis var. verrucosa (= Eleocharis verrucosa). Plants more typical of dry and dry-mesic soil grow on slight rises, including Carex festucacea, Carex pensylvanica, Danthonia spicata, Helianthus divaricatus, and others (Aldrich and Homoya 1986, Taft et al. 1995). In the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky, Quercus velutina is important in the overstory (Hendricks et al. 1991). In Kentucky, the canopy may have Carya texana and Quercus alba. The herbaceous cover is sparse to moderate; leaf litter is the dominant ground cover. Local dominance in depressions is of wetland species (Juncus, etc.). Dry areas will have Croton willdenowii, Danthonia spicata, Manfreda virginica, Porteranthus stipulatus, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, and Prenanthes aspera (which is characteristic of open areas).
Stands of this alliance occur on level or nearly level soil with a well-developed hardpan. This hardpan is an impermeable or nearly impermeable layer of subsoil that causes a shallowly perched water table (White and Madany 1978). The hardpan stops movement of water up to the dry surface soil from deeper, more moist soil in the summer and slows drainage during wet periods. It also restricts rooting and burrowing depth. The soil moisture fluctuates widely throughout the growing season. Depressions often contain seasonal or ephemeral ponds. Vernal ponds are characteristic. Stands of this alliance usually are found over glacial till of Illinoisan age, but their distribution south of glacial deposits in Kentucky is uncertain. In southern Illinois, stands of this alliance occur in very poorly-drained areas (Fralish 1988a). In Kentucky, this community occurs on relatively high flat areas that are no longer flooded, such as ancient Quaternary or Tertiary post-glacial meltwater lakebeds and high terraces of the Upper Gulf Coastal Plain and Shawnee Hills. The stands grade downslope into bottomland hardwood forest and cypress swamp and upslope into mesic upland or dry oak-hickory forest.
Low
Canopy closure is variable and dependent on disturbances such as fire and native grazing that played a role in historically maintaining an open structure in this vegetation. Under current conditions, stands may be more closed due to a lack of disturbance. Loss of these natural processes often results in a shift toward a more closed canopy, an increase in successional woody species such as Juniperus spp., and a decrease in native grass cover. Edaphic factors and variability in climate are also factors. This community typically borders floodplain forests and may be associated with barrens.
Authors:
M. Pyne      Version Date: 07Jan2014


References:
  • Aldrich, J. R., and M. A. Homoya. 1986. Natural barrens and post oak flatwoods in Posey and Spencer counties, Indiana. Unpublished report. Indiana Natural Heritage Program.
  • Allard, D. J. 1990. Southeastern United States ecological community classification. Interim report, Version 1.2. The Nature Conservancy, Southeast Regional Office, Chapel Hill, NC. 96 pp.
  • Campbell, J. J. N., and J. Grubbs. 1992. Natural plant communities of Hopkins County, Kentucky. Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science 53:29-38.
  • Coates, D. T., K. J. Lyman, and J. E. Ebinger. 1992. Woody vegetation structure of a post oak flatwoods in Illinois. Castanea 57:196-201.
  • Evans, M. 1991. Kentucky ecological communities. Draft report to the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. 19 pp.
  • Evans, Marc. Personal communication. Ecologist. Kentucky Natural Heritage Program, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, Frankfort.
  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., J. Drake, M. Hall, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, L. Sneddon, K. Snow, and J. Teague. 2013-2017b. Screening alliances for induction into the U.S. National Vegetation Classification: Part 1 - Alliance concept review. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.
  • Foti, T., compiler. 1994b. Natural vegetation classification system of Arkansas, draft five. Unpublished document. Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Little Rock. 8 pp.
  • Foti, T., M. Blaney, X. Li, and K. G. Smith. 1994. A classification system for the natural vegetation of Arkansas. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 48:50-53.
  • Fralish, J. S. 1988a. Diameter-height-biomass relationships for Quercus and Carya in Posen Woods Nature Preserve. Transactions of the Illinois Academy of Science 81(1-2):31-38.
  • Fralish, J. S. 1988b. Predicting potential stand composition from site characteristics in the Shawnee Hills Forest of Illinois. The American Midland Naturalist 120(1):79-101.
  • Hendricks, W. D., L. E. McKinney, B. L. Palmer-Bell, Jr., and M. Evans. 1991. Biological inventory of the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky. Final report, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. 212 pp.
  • Ladd, D., and B. Heumann. 1994. Baseline ecological assessment of selected oak woodlands on the Houston-Rolla District, Mark Twain National Forest. Final report for USDA Forest Service Challenge Cost Share Agreement 05-09-119. 183 pp.
  • Taft, J. B., M. W. Schwartz, and L. R. Phillippe. 1995. Vegetation ecology of flatwoods on the Illinoian till plain. Journal of Vegetation Science 6:647-666.
  • White, J., and M. Madany. 1978. Classification of natural communities in Illinois. Pages 311-405 in: Natural Areas Inventory technical report: Volume I, survey methods and results. Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, Urbana, IL.


USNVC Credits: Detailed Description of the National Vegetation Classification Types

Date Accessed:

To cite a description:
Author(s). publicationYear. Description Title [last revised revisionDate]. United States National Vegetation Classification. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Washington, D.C.

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About this document
This document contains type descriptions at the Alliance level of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. These descriptions were primarily written by NatureServe ecologists in collaboration with Federal Geographic Data Committee Vegetation Subcommittee and a wide variety of state, federal and private partners as a part of the implementation of the National Vegetation Classification. Formation descriptions were written by the Hierarchy Revisions Working Group. The descriptions are based on consultation with natural resource professionals, published literature, and other vegetation classification systems. The Ecological Society of America's Panel on Vegetation Classification is responsible for managing the review and formal adoption of these types into the National Vegetation Classification. Partners involved in the implementation of the USNVC include:

U.S. Government
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of the Interior (USDI)
  • Forest Service (FS) - Chair
  • National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
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Non U.S. Government
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Disclaimer:
Given the dynamic nature of the standard, it is possible a type description is incomplete or in revision at the time of download; therefore, users of the data should track the date of access and read the revisions section of the USNVC.org website to understand the current status of the classification. While USNVC data have undergone substantial review prior to posting, it is possible that some errors or inaccuracies have remained undetected.

For information on the process used to develop these descriptions see:

Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, D. Tart, B. Hoagland, C. Josse, G. Navarro, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, A. Weakley, P. Comer. 2014. EcoVeg: A new approach to vegetation description and classification. Ecological Monographs 84:533-561 (erratum 85:473).

Franklin, S., D. Faber-Langendoen, M. Jennings, T. Keeler-Wolf, O. Loucks, A. McKerrow, R.K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2012. Building the United States National Vegetation Classification. Annali di Botanica 2: 1-9.

Jennings, M. D., D. Faber-Langendoen, O. L. Louckes, R. K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2009. Standards for associations and alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Ecological Monographs 79(2):173-199.

FGDC [Federal Geographic Data Committee]. 2008. Vegetation Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-005, Version 2. Washington, DC., USA. [http://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/vegetation/NVCS_V2_FINAL_2008-02.pdf]

For additional information contact:

  • Implementation of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard - Alexa McKerrow (amckerrow@usgs.gov)
  • NatureServe's Development of NVC Type Descriptions - Don Faber-Langendoen (don_faber- langendoen@natureserve.org)
  • Ecological Society of America's Review of the Type Descriptions Scott.Franklin@unco.edu
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee - Vegetation Subcommittee's Activities - Marianne Burke (mburke@fs.fed.us)
We thank the following for their contribution: Don Faber-Langendoen and Judy Teague