Plant communities are highly correlated with the underlying bedrock (Anderson & Vankat 1979; Braun 1928; Minney 2000; Roberts 1982). Minney (2000) provides detailed descriptions of plant communities that occur in the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System. His plant community descriptions follow Natureserves’ national classification (NatureServe 2001). Plant communities described by Minney (2000) as well as Anderson (1982) are “crosswalked” with the communities described in this study. In addition to natural plant communities we also include anthropogenic communities. The plant communities described in this section are used in the vascular plant list for habitats where species were found in the preserve system.
Forest & Woodland Communities:
Cedar-hardwood forests (sugar maple-chinquapin oak/red bud forest (Minney 2000)) - This community occurs only on dolomite and is a later succession of dolomite and/or cedar barrens. Hardwoods such as Quercus muhlenbergii, Quercus alba, Fraxinus americana, Fraxinus quadrangulata, and Acer saccharum are frequent and can make up to ¾+ of the canopy. Buzzardroost Rock, Cedar Falls, Hanging Prairie, Lynx Prairie, and The Wilderness have examples of this plant community.
Cedar Woodlands - This is a late successional cedar barrens with red cedar nearly 100% cover with scattered deciduous trees primarily in the understory/subcanopy and later succeed the red cedars. Pinus virginiana may also be present and can make up a substantial portion of the canopy trees. Prairie species are rare or absent. Mosses and lichens carpet the ground with scattered vascular plants. Abner Hollow, Rieveschl, and The Wilderness have examples of this plant community.
Dry Upland Forests (including chestnut oak-(white oak, scarlet oak, black oak)/maple-leaf viburnum-(mt. laurel)- forest (Minney 2000); chestnut oak/greenbriar species forest (Minney 2000); black oak-white oak-(pignut hickory, shagbark hickory) forest (Minney, 2000); oak-hickory forest (Anderson 1982); Appalachian oak forest (Anderson 1982); oak-pine forest (Anderson 1982)) - Forests occur primarily on south and west facing slopes as well as ridgetops.
Flood-plain Forests (silver maple-American elm,(eastern cottonwood) forest (Minney, 2000); maple-cottonwood-sycamore flood-plain forest (Anderson 1982)) - The dominant canopy species are Acer negundo, Platanus occidentalis, Populus deltoides, and Acer saccharinum. These areas are frequently to infrequently flooded and occur along large to medium-size streams such as Ohio Brush Creek. Ohio Brush Creek Swirl and Rieveschl have good examples of this community.
Successional Woods – This community is young woods, approxiamately 20-40 years old, reverting from either agriculture or a clear or selective cut. Sassafras albidum and Populus grandidentata may be local dominants. This community occurs on dry to mesic slopes and ridgetops on various soil types.
Mesic Upland Forests (including beech-sugar maple-tuliptree unglaciated forest (Minney, 2000); red oak-sugar maple-white oak-American elm/choke cherry forest (Minney 2000); tuliptree-Appalachian basswood-yellow buckeye-sugar maple/umbrella magnolia forest (Minney 2000); northern white cedar/bristleleaf sedge-purple cliffbrake woodland (Minney 2000); mixed mesophytic forest (Anderson 1982); beech-sugar maple forest (Anderson 1982); arbor vitae-mixed wood forest (Anderson 1982) - These forests occur primarily on north and east facing slopes, broad ridgetops, ravines and sometimes sandstone ridgetops. Cedar Falls, Rieveschl, and The Wilderness have the best examples of this community.
Pine Woodlands – This is a late-successional barren/old field community that has become dominated by Pinus virginiana. Although the bedrock may be calcareous, the understory is typically acidic soil species because of a deep layer of pine needles on the ground. Lynx Prairie and The Wilderness preserves have best examples of this plant community.
Barren, Promontory & Prairie Communities:
Bottomland Prairies – This community is secondary and it occurs on level ground near small streams, on deep, moist soils. Species richness is lower than dolomite barrens but vegetation is vigorous because of the deep, rich soils. Cave Hollow and Lynx Prairie preserves have examples of this plant community.
Cedar Barrens - This community is a later successional community of Estill Shale barrens, dolomite barrens, and upland prairies. It is dominated by Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar) forming a nearly closed canopy with numerous small openings where prairie plants persist. Hardwood trees are scattered and are usually present in the understory.
Estill Shale Barrens (including blackjack oak-(red cedar)/little bluestem-N. oatgrass wooded vegetation & big bluestem-Indian grass herbaceous vegetation (Minney 2000)) - These barrens are all secondary plant communities developed from clearing of the original sugar maple forests. The thin soils over the shale washed away leaving poor soils. These open habitats persist because of the poor soils. Steep gullies form from flash flooding. Species richness is lower than dolomite barrens. Abner Hollow, Ohio Brush Creek Swirl, and Rieveschl preserves have good examples of this plant community.
Dolomite Barrens (including eastern red-cedar/little bluestem-smooth prairie dock-cedar sedge-Indian paintbrush wooded vegetation & Chinquapin oak-eastern red-cedar/little bluestem-sideouts grama wooded herbaceous vegetation, (Minney 2000))- A diverse community varying in cover of oaks and cedars but very consistent in species composition. This community may be primary or secondary. The soils are thin and most have exposed bedrock. Braun (1928) called these communities xeric prairies and describes the communities in more detail. Buzzardroost Rock, Hanging Prairie, and Lynx Prairie preserves have good examples of this community. Limestone and dolomite barrens have been studied in other states, see Bartgis (1993), Baskin and Baskin (2000), Baskin et al. (1994), Cranfill (1991), DeSelm (1990, 1994), Heikens and Robertson (1995), Homoya (1994), and Ludwig (1999).
Promontories - All rock promontories are dolomite rock exposures. Species composition is very similar to dolomite barrens but differ in having species adapted to growing on exposed dolomite. Buzzardroost Rock, Red Rock, and The Wilderness preserves have good examples of this plant community.
Upland Prairies – This community is secondary or possibly primary prairies reverting from conversion to farm fields. Upland prairies occur on deeper soils than barrens and typically occur on broad ridgetops or gentle sloping hillsides. Cedar Falls Preserve has examples of this plant community.
Acidic Seeps – This community occurs on Ohio Black shale soils. Scirpus spp., Carex lurida, Polygonum spp., and Salix spp. are the dominant vegetation. The Wilderness Preserve has examples of this plant community.
Bottomland Swamps (mixed swamp (Anderson 1982)) – Cephalanthus occidentalis is the dominant shrub with Carex lupulina, Bidens spp. and Juncus spp. dominant herbaceous species. Ohio Brush Creek Swirl Preserve has the only example of this community.
Calcareous Seeps (sallow sedge-little bog sedge-largeleaf grass-of-parnassus-marl rush herbaceous vegetation (Minney 2000)) – This community occurs on dolomite or Estill Shale soils and are associated with barrens. The Estill Shale seeps are frequently visited by deer for salt. Species found in fens (i.e. Carex sterilis) occur in this plant community. This community is likely the most frequent seep community in the preserve system. Hanging Praire and Lynx Prairie preserves have examples of this plant community.
Water-willow Riverine (common water-willow herbaceous vegetation (Minney 2000); water-willow riverine (Anderson 1982)) – This community occurs in permanent shallow water and on gravel bars along major streams. Justicia americana (water-willow) is the dominant plant with some Bidens spp. and Cuscuta spp.
Wet Meadows – This community occurs on bottomlands and on stream terraces. Ohio Brush Creek Swirl and Lynx Prairie preserves have examples of this plant community.
Woodland Seeps - This community is on dolomite or Estill Shale soils but are in forest communities. Vegetation is scarce but Carex spp. and Glyceria striata often occur in these seeps. Abner Hollow and Rieveschl Preserves have examples of this plant community.
Other Natural Communities:
Creek Banks – Open to partially shaded zone between creek bottom and flood-plain forest.
Dolomite (limestone) Rocks (limestone/dolostone moist/dry cliff sparse vegetation (Minney 2000); calcareous cliff (Anderson 1982)) - Isolated dolomite (limestone) rocks or cliffs in full shade, rarely in full sunlight. Herbaceous vegetation is dominant with some woody species including Lonicera reticulata and Hydrangea arborescens. Abner Hollow, Lynx Prairie, and Rieveschl preserves have examples of this plant community.
Gravel Bars (including willow species/big bluestem-Indiangrass gravel wash herbaceous vegetation, (Minney 2000)) – This is the scoured creek bottoms and gravel bars along major streams (Ohio Brush Creek). Willows and various herbaceous species including prairie plants occur in the community.
Stream Terraces – These are lowland areas along small streams, typically wooded but can have an open canopy.
Thickets – These are areas of dense herbaceous/woody growth reverting from disturbances.
Woodland Borders – The ecotone between open communities and woodlands.
Cultivated Fields – These are fields currently being used to raise crops or recently left fallow but have bare soils.
Disturbed Ground - These are areas recently disturbed by human activity that will quickly succeed back to its former condition (e.g. soils disturbed for the waterlines, telephone cables, gaslines).
Gravel Drives/parking lots – These are former homesite driveways or currently used gravel drives or parking lots.
Old Fields - Former farm fields and pastures that have been left fallow or rarely baled for hay. These fields are often invaded by prairie plants and red cedars. Old fields grade into prairies if dominated by prairie species.
Old Homesites - This is the area around former farm dwellings that are in an early to mid successional stage. Species introduced to the area are persisting and may be locally escaping.
Pastures – Fields currently managed for cow pastures.
Ponds - There are a few man-made farm ponds in the preserve system. These ponds vary in deepness and size.
Roadsides - This is the area right along the berm of the road and adjacent open ground, corridor along roads.
Waste Places - Areas of trash dumps typically located near roads and old homesites.