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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

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Carolina Hemlock Forests

Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana), a southern Appalachian endemic with a very limited range, dominates or co-dominates the forests of this group. These forests are found only in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, scattered in the southern Blue Ridge and occasionally in adjacent provinces. In Virginia, this vegetation occupies a few local areas on xeric mountain slopes of the Blue Ridge and Ridge and Valley in the southwestern part of state, south of the James River. A single stand is known from a river bluff in the southern Piedmont (Pittsylvania County). Sites are typically very steep and rocky, with shallow, nutrient-poor soils. Common associates are chestnut oak (Quercus montana, = Quercus prinus), white oak (Quercus alba), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), pines (Pinus spp.), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), and various ericaceous shrubs. Stand physiognomy varies from closed-canopy to very open, approaching a woodland structure. These communities often occur in patch-mosaics with fire-influenced oak/heath and pine-oak/heath vegetation. Fire may be an important factor that has limited Carolina hemlock, evidently a fire-intolerant species, to rocky areas and bluffs that are somewhat protected from burning. Currently, the introduced insect pest, hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), poses a major threat to the viability of Carolina hemlock stands. Community types in this group are generally considered globally rare.

References: Fleming and Coulling (2001), Rentch et al . (2000), Stevens (1971).

Data have been collected from three stands of this naturally rare group in Virginia (map), resulting in the classification of a single community type that corresponds reasonably well to stands described from further south. It is unlikely that additional sampling will result in major changes to the characterization of this unit, or the identification of additional Carolina hemlock types. Click on any highlighted CEGL code below to view the global USNVC description provided by NatureServe Explorer.
  • Tsuga caroliniana / Kalmia latifolia - Rhododendron catawbiense Forest
    Carolina Hemlock Forest
    USNVC: = CEGL007139
    Global/State Ranks: G2/S1

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