Basic Mesic Forests
Dominant trees include the species of Rich Cove and Slope Forests, as well as chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), black maple (Acer nigrum), southern sugar maple (Acer floridanum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), and black walnut (Juglans nigra). Shrub and herb layers contain a number of species that are atypical of mountain slopes, such as pawpaw (Asimina triloba), painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica), twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa), lowland bladder fern (Cystopteris protrusa), and toadshade (Trillium sessile). Widespread herbs include species such as northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), hog-peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale), common jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ssp. triphyllum), common wild ginger (Asarum canadense), common black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), large yellow lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens), silvery spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides), squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis), round-lobed hepatica (Anemone americana), green violet (Hybanthus concolor), pennywort (Obolaria virginica), aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis), broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), small-flower baby-blue-eyes (Nemophila aphylla), and heart-leaved foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia).
Five community types classified to date are segregated by geography and associated substrates. Slopes subtending streams cutting through limestone and other calcium-rich substrates of the mountain valleys and Piedmont support a distinctive community type characterized by lush growth of twinleaf, dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne), broad-leaved waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense), and other spring ephemerals. Coastal Plain ravines that have downcut into Tertiary shell deposits in James City and York Counties and the City of Suffolk support an endemic community type with abundant southern sugar maple and many noteworthy mountain disjuncts.
Basic Mesic Forests are the low-elevation analogues of Rich Cove and Slope Forests. Excepting stands in the northwestern Virginia mountain valleys, they occur in non-montane settings and contain a substantial number of species that are confined to low elevations in Virginia. The extent and viability of basic mesic forests has been much reduced by repeated logging and invasive introduced weeds.
References: Fleming (1999), Fleming (2002a), Fleming (2002b), Fleming et al. (2007), Fleming and Coulling (2001), Fleming and Patterson (2004), Rawinski et al. (1996), Vanderhorst (2000), Walton et al. (2001), Ware and Ware (1992).
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Toad-shade (Trillium sessile) and squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis) carpet the floor of a basic mesic forest on bluffs bordering the Potomac River in Fairfax County (Scotts Run Nature Preserve). Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
Basic Mesic Forest on a fertile slope bordering the Potomac River in Turkey Run Park, Fairfax County. Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) are abundant in the herb layer. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
Basic Mesic Forest in a northern Coastal Plain ravine that has down-cut into calcareous limesands near Accokeek Creek, Stafford County. Glade fern (Homalosorus pycnocarpos) and silvery spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides) dominate the herb layer. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
Southern sugar maple (Acer floridanum) and mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) dominate a basic mesic forest in the southern Virginia Piedmont. Hogan Creek Wildlife Management Area (John H. Kerr Reservoir), Charlotte County. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.