Fluvial Terrace Woodlands
This is a somewhat enigmatic group of communities occurring on flat, sandy terraces and islands along Coastal Plain rivers in eastern Virginia. These habitats are elevated well above the level of adjacent swamps and are characterized by xeric, sandy soils and open forest or woodland vegetation. Single occurrences have been documented along the Nottoway River (Sussex County), Chickahominy River (New Kent County), Dragon Swamp (Middlesex County), and Mattaponi River (Caroline County). At all four sites, hickories (Carya pallida and Carya tomentosa) are the dominant trees, with drought-tolerant oaks (Quercus falcata, Quercus nigra, Quercus marilandica var. marilandica, Quercus alba) and pines (Pinus taeda, Pinus virginiana) present in smaller numbers. Shrubs occurring at all or most sites include sand post oak (Quercus margarettae ), common sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria), American holly (Ilex opaca var. opaca), and eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana var. virginiana). Typical herbs include sedges (Carex physorhyncha, Carex pensylvanica, and Carex tonsa), Canada frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense), butterfly pea (Clitoria mariana var. mariana), sandhill goldenrod (Solidago tarda), and prickly-pear (Opuntia humifusa var. humifusa). The Dragon Run site is anomalous in the presence (despite low soil pH and base status) of several calciphiles such as eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis var. canadensis), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), smooth rock cress (Boechera laevigata), robin's-plantain (Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus), and elm-leaved goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia). A full understanding of the status and compositional relationships of this group will require additional inventory and assessment.
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Eastern needlegrass (Piptochaetium avenaceum) and prickly-pear (Opuntia humifusa) in a Fluvial Terrace Woodland along the Chickahominy River in New Kent County (Game Farm Marsh Wildlife Management Area).Photo © Gary P. Fleming.