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The Natural Communities of Virginia
Classification of Ecological Community Groups

Second Approximation (Version 2.7)
Information current as of February, 2016

Table of Contents Table of Contents

Appalachian Bogs

Like seepage swamps, communities of this group occupy flat to gently sloping zones of groundwater discharge along valley floors and headwaters streams in the mountain region of Virginia. Stand physiognomy, however, is more open and characterized by saturated woodland, shrubland, and herbaceous vegetation with a dense graminoid component. Appalachian Bogs are scattered in the Central and Southern Appalachians, from Pennsylvania and western Maryland, south to Georgia and west into Kentucky. In Virginia, habitats supporting bogs are usually less than 0.4 ha (1 ac) in size, but rarely range up to 4 ha (10 ac) in the southern Blue Ridge (Mount Rogers area) and southwest Ridge and Valley region. Fewer than twenty occurrences have been documented in the state. Soils, which vary from wholly mineral in composition to superficial or deep peat, are extremely acidic and support thick growths of Sphagnum and other mosses. The term "bog," as applied to these wetlands, is a technical misnomer, since not all of these habitats are true peatlands and none is an ombrotrophic system. This term, however, is now so widely used in the southeastern United States as a descriptor for open, acidic seepage wetlands (particularly those with abundant Sphagnum. that we have adopted it here for consistency (see Weakley and Schafale (1994) for additional discussion). The ecological dynamics of these naturally rare communities are not well understood, and many examples are currently suffering from shrub and tree invasions. Factors that may have been responsible for creating and maintaining open bogs include fire, grazing, beavers, and deep deposition of unstable soils.

Bog vegetation is frequently a mosaic of tree or shrub patches and herbaceous openings. Several compositional variants associated with geography and elevation have been documented in Virginia. Species common to most variants include great rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense), silky willow (Salix sericea), smooth alder (Alnus serrulata), cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum var. cinnamomeum), tawny cottongrass (Eriophorum virginicum), prickly bog sedge (Carex atlantica), Fraser's marsh St. Johns-wort (Hypericum fraseri) , and brownish beaksedge (Rhynchospora capitellata). Species more restricted to low-elevation (below 900 m [3000 ft]) bogs of the Ridge and Valley and Cumberland Mountains include pitch pine (Pinus rigida), round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia), bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus var. glomeratus), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), tuberous grass-pink (Calopogon tuberosus), yellow fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris), and Nuttall's reed-grass (Calamagrostis cinnoides). Species more restricted to higher-elevation (mostly above 900 m [3000 ft]) bogs of the southern Blue Ridge, Allegheny Mountains, and/or the highest mountains of the Ridge and Valley include stunted red spruce (Picea rubens), long-stalked holly (Ilex collina), northern wild raisin (Viburnum cassinioides), Carolina laurel (Kalmia carolina), cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), rough-leaved goldenrod (Solidago patula var. patula), Cuthbert's turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii), bog goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa var. uliginosa), star sedge (Carex echinata ssp. echinata), narrow-leaf bur-reed (Sparganium emersum), bog willow-herb (Epilobium leptophyllum), narrow-panicled rush (Juncus brevicaudatus), three-seeded sedge (Carex trisperma), Ruth's sedge (Carex ruthii), and thyme-leaf bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia).

References: Chappell (1972), Fleming and Coulling (2001), Musselman (1970), Ogle (1982), Fleming and Moorhead (1996).

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Central Appalachian Pitch Pine Bog along North Fork of Stony Creek near Kire, Giles County (George Washington and Jefferson National Forests). Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
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Tawny cottongrass (Eriophorum virginicum) fruiting in a high-elevation, Southern Appalachian shrub bog. Headwaters of Big Wilson Creek, Grayson County (Grayson Highlands State Park). Photo: Gary Fleming.
This link opens a new browser window to display a larger photo High-elevation bog at the headwaters of Buck Run on Allegheny Mountain in Highland County (George Washington and Jefferson National Forests). Dominants include northern lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), three-seeded sedge (Carex trisperma), and bog goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa var. uliginosa, flowering). Photo: Gary Fleming.

Six community types are recognized in this group, supported by analysis of data from 20 plots (map). All known Virginia sites for four of the types have been plot-sampled. Because of the natural rarity and conservation value of Appalachian Bogs, this group is a priority for future work, but it may be difficult to collect substantial additional data unless new sites can be found . Click on any highlighted CEGL code below to view the global USNVC description provided by NatureServe Explorer.

  • Pinus rigida / Osmundastrum cinnamomeum - Carex stricta - Eriophorum virginicum Woodland
    Central Appalachian Pitch Pine Bog
    USNVC: = CEGL007056
    Global/State Ranks: G1/S1

  • Carex echinata - Solidago uliginosa / Sphagnum spp. Herbaceous Vegetation
    Central Appalachian / High Allegheny Seepage Bog
    USNVC: = CEGL008534
    Global/State Ranks: G2?/S1

  • Rhododendron (catawbiense, maximum) - Vaccinium simulatum / Carex trisperma - Eriophorum virginicum - Juncus subcaudatus Shrubland
    Southern Appalachian High-Elevation Shrub Bog
    USNVC: = CEGL003913
    Global/State Ranks: G1/S1

  • Sparganium americanum - (Sparganium emersum) - Epilobium leptophyllum Herbaceous Vegetation
    Southern Appalachian / High Allegheny Beaver Marsh
    USNVC: = CEGL004510
    Global/State Ranks: G3?/SU

  • Carex gynandra - Scirpus cyperinus - Eriophorum virginicum - Osmundastrum cinnamomeum Herbaceous Vegetation
    Cumberland Mountains Streamside Bog
    USNVC: = CEGL007771
    Global/State Ranks: G2/S1?

  • Vaccinium macrocarpon / Pogonia ophioglossoides Dwarf-Shrubland
    Cranberry Peatland Bog
    USNVC: = CEGL007856
    Global/State Ranks: G2/S1

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