Basic Mesic Forests
Dominant trees include the species of Rich Cove and Slope Forests, as well as chinkapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii), black maple (Acer nigrum), southern sugar maple (Acer barbatum), 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 paw-paw (Asimina triloba), painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica), twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa), lowland brittle fern (Cystopteris protrusa), and toadshade (Trillium sessile). Widespread herbs include species such as maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), hog-peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemaleArisaema triphyllum ssp. triphyllum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense var. canadense), black bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa), large yellow lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens), silvery spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides), squirrel-corn (Dicentra canadensis), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), showy orchid (Galearis spectabilis), round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana), green violet (Hybanthus concolor), Virginia pennywort (Obolaria virginica), aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis), broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera), may-apple (Podophyllum peltatum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), small-flower baby-blue-eyes (Nemophila aphylla), and foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia var. collina).
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).
Click on the images below to open a larger image in a separate window.
|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 (Diplazium pycnocarpon) and silvery spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides) dominate the herb layer. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.|
|Southern sugar maple (Acer barbatum) and may-apple (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.|
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