Back to Forests of the Central Appalachians |
Blister Run, a branch of the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, is bordered by a coniferous/deciduous swamp of great botanical interest. It is closely paralleled by US Route 250 in Randolph County, West Virginia and lies entirely within the Monongahela National Forest. Named for the "Blister Pine" or Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), it is, at a little above 38.5 degrees N, one of this speciesí southernmost stations on the planet. However it shares this distinction with another occurrence at almost the same latitude in Shenandoah National Park on Virginiaís Blue Ridge. The latter occurrence is however in a radically different plant community dominated by oaks. Blister Run swamp is part of an outstanding botanical area that includes Shavers Fork with its community of rare and disjunct species and one of the few surviving stands of old growth forest at the nearby Gaudineer Scenic Area. At elevations in the range of 3700 ft (1130 meters) asl and nestling beneath the cold slopes of Gaudineer Knob, Blister Run is subject to cold air drainage/accumulation which, combined with its elevation, favors a substantial number of boreal plants in addition to Balsam Fir. One of these is Canada Yew (Taxus canadensis), which, although much reduced by deer browsing and not seen on these inventories, was a prominent part of the community in the recent past.
Because of its unique character it was deemed desirable to inventory not only the Swamp itself but also the surrounding forest with which it merges in a series of springs and cool, moist slopes. While the bedrock in the vicinity has been identified as Hinton Formation, which is said to contain a diverse lithology, including limestone, the only rock observed by us was coarse, gray, sometimes conglomeratic, sandstone with little hint of more nutrient-rich associates.
Our survey of the area consisted of seven inventories or inventory traverses as follows:
1. An inventory of the immediate vicinity of the junction of Route 250 and Forest Road 27, both in the May and August visits.
2. A May traverse from the above junction northwest along the northeast side of the Run to a Beaver pond and nearby springs.
3. An August traverse from this junction, again northwest along the northeast side of the Run for about 1/4 mile (400 meters), but a greater distance than the previous traverse from the stream; then directly toward the stream into the swamp.
4. A May traverse from a point on Route 250 a little northwest of the same junction directly toward the Run.
5.A May traverse from a point on Route 250 about a half mile ( 0.8 km ) northwest of the same junction directly toward the Run
6. A May inventory of the upland forest along the southwest side of Route 250 near the starting point of traverse no. 5.
7. An August traverse toward the southwest from a point near the junction of Route 250 and Forest Road 27.
In what follows these inventories will be discussed in this order. As is conventional in this work, except for common woody plants, both common and scientific names of species will be given on first mention, but only common names thereafter. In a further exception for species with cumbersome or no well-known common names, the scientific name will be used.
The first area inventoried, that at the road junction, was somewhat degraded by human intervention, perhaps through contamination by lime from road gravel and chemicals as well as compaction of the soil. These conditions were probably reflected in the flora. The canopy here is dominated by young but mature Black Cherry, Yellow Birch, Red Maple, Beech and Red Spruce with minor White Ash and Cucumbertree. Balsam Fir occurred as small saplings and there were seedlings of Mountain Ash (Pyrus americana). Smooth Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), Striped Maple and Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) formed an understory and Mountain Holly (Ilex montana) a shrub layer. There was also a little Blackberry and Dewberry (Rubus spp). Common Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) was virtually the only vine but there was also a little Hispid Greenbrier (Smilax hispida), a species usually associated with rich soils, but which here may be related to contamination by lime.
Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) was in May the most conspicuous herb under the trees. Other species prominent in this environment were Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis), Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens), Spring Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) and/or Thyme-leaved Bluets ( H. serpyllifolia ), Creeping Five-leaf (Potentilla simplex), Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum), Intermediate Shield Fern (Dryopteris intermedia), Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), Tree Clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum). Common Clubmoss (L. clavatum), Ground Pine (L. flabelliforme), Carex laxiflora, C. gracillima, C. intumescens and White Grass (Leersia virgininica). Of these the Trillium and Bluets were in full bloom in May. Species less characteristic of this acid forest and concentrated near the road were Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica), Downy Wood Violet (Viola sororia), Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza sp), Cleavers (Galium aperine) also in bloom, Sweet-scented Bedstraw (G. triflorum), White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus), Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis), Hooked Crowfoot (Ranunculus recurvatus), the forest grass Brachyelytrum erectum, Clearweed (Pilea pumila), White Avens (Geum canadense) and Virginís Bower (Clematis virginica ). While native, a number of these may have owed their presence to road gravel. Less doubtful results of human disturbance were such aliens as Hedge Nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and Tall Buttercup (Ranunculus acris). However tall natives again prevailed in large moist openings, which had Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana), Millet Grass (Millium effusum), Drooping Wood Reed Grass (Cinna latifolia), the manna grass (Glyceria melicaria), Crooked-stem Aster (Aster prenanthoides) and a Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium sp.). Few birds but foraging American Robins ( Turdus migratorius )were seen here.
Our second inventory, conducted on a short late afternoon traverse in May, began in the forest near the described road junction and extended to a beaver pond and spring area. The canopy along most of this traverse is similar to the road junction area but has fewer large spruce and no White Ash was seen. Notable features and species successively encountered for the first time were Two-leaved Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla), a Trout Lily (probably Erythronium americanum), Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) then in bloom , and most surprisingly for this forest, a striking display of flowering Frasers Sedge (Cymophyllus fraseri) on an elevated bank of a streamlet. This Appalachian endemic is not often encountered and was erroneously thought by some to be associated with old growth forest. Continuing onward we noted Kidney-leaf Crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) and flushed a Woodcock (Philohela minor). We then entered an area in which the ground cover was dominated by Tree and Common Clubmosses and which extended to the beaver pond. At the pond edge these lycopods were replaced by a luxuriant growth of Stiff Clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum) which extended its stems above the water. Here also American Toads (Bufo americanus) were singing and Magnolia Warblers (Dendroica magnolia) were actively foraging in the branches of Speckled Alder (Alnus rugosa). After dozing a while in the pleasant afternoon sun in this secluded wild place we visited a nearby "bryophyte garden" that had been discovered by R. Hunsucker. This sylvan jewel consisted of a strong spring that issued from the base of Gaudineer Knob and a complex of fringing mosses, liverworts and other plants of various shades of green and other colors. Here were verdant lobes of Sphagnum and other mosses such as Hypnum curvifolium, H. pallescens, Brotherella recurvans and Tetraphis pellucida, the latter with conspicuous gemma cups, and representing liverworts, Scapania undulata, Bazzania trilobata, Ptilidium pulcherrimum and Calypogeia muelleriana. Lettuce Saxifrage (Saxifraga micranthidifolia) and Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum) were associated aquatic vascular plants, while manna grass (Glyceria sp.) and the fungus Mitrula paludesa grew on the fringes. Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) occupied a high bank where a beaver-cut Yellow Birch stump was host to a flamboyant slime mold. Additional plants observed in the general area of the springy head of Blister Run were the sedges Carex leptalia, C. digitalis and C. scabrata, ( identified generally from last seasonís remains), the northern manna grass Glyceria laxa (also from seed remains), Pennsylvania Bitter Cress (Cardamine pensylvanica), Filmy Angelica (Angelica triquinata), Interrupted Fern and at least three species of Sphagnum moss.
Although not all were observed on this inventory, birds tallied by R. Hunsucker in this general area on 5-12-97 were Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica fusca, D. virens and D. coronata), Brown Creeper (Certhia familiaris), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Rose-breasted Grossbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianis) and Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea).
Inventory three, on the morning of 8-9-97, again extended northwest from the road junction, but initially at a greater distance from the Run than Two. Successively noted under the previously-described canopy were Mountain Holly (here quite abundant), Carex debilis, Curtis Goldenrod (Solidago curtisii), Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda), calls of the Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), Mountain Aster (Aster acuminatus), Mountain Oat Grass (Danthonia compressa), then abruptly a great increase in clubmoss, specifically Tree Clubmoss, with some Leucobryum cushion moss and New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis ). These were followed by Brachyelytrum grass, a Cucumbertree, an increase in the abundance of Red Maple among Beech, Black Cherry and an understory of Red Spruce saplings; then from last seasonís remains, Beech Drops (Epifagus virginiana) and an isolated Spring Peeper (Hyla crucifer) hopping among the dead leaves of the forest floor. In keeping with the generally moist , acid substrate, Hypnum and Dicranum mosses were common, as was the liverwort Nowellia curvifolia on down boles. At this point an increase in Yellow Birch signaled the approach to a large seep or springbrook, which intersected our traverse and originated a little up-slope. A decision was made to turn southwest and follow the surface flow of this springbrook to the Swamp. Associated with its course was abundant Sphagnum and noted successively down slope were Autumn Bent (Agrostis perennans) grass, Carex stipata, C. baileyi, the manna grass Glyceria melicaria, abundant Yellow Birch, Red Spruce, Carex scabrata, New York Fern, Northern White Violet (Viola pallens), Mountain Laurel ( Kalmia latifolia ), Mountain Holly, Drooping Wood Reed Grass, Carex laxiflora, a Mycena fungus, species of Mnium and Atrichum mosses, an Inocybe fungus, Partridge Berry, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), a Lactarius fungus in Sphagnum, Russula and Galerina fungi and Common Clubmoss. At this point several relatively large (~1 ft/0.3 meter) dbh Balsam Fir marked the merging of the springbrook with Blister Run Swamp. On entering the Swamp we successively encountered the fungus Laccaria laccata in Sphagnum, Golden Saxifrage, Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureas), Stiff Clubmoss, Carex lurida, Black-capped Chickadees (Parus atricapillus), a patch of the northern sedge Carex trisperma, a 20 inch (0.5 meters) dbh Red Spruce, a large Balsam Fir, Yellow Birch, Red Maple, Sphagnum, more Carex trisperma, Clyceria melicaria, Intermediate Shield Fern, Mountain Laurel, tall clumps of Carex crinita, Bazzania, New York Fern, Northern White Violet, Tear Thumb (Polygonum sagittatum), Indian Cucumberroot (Medeola virginiana), Claytonís Bedstraw (Galium tinctorium), the rush Juncus subcaudatis and a single small unhealthy-appearing Canada Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Here it became very wet but abundant Northern Beech Fern ( Phegopteris connectilis ) grew on hummocks with Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) nearby. Here also we saw our first White Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana or O. acetosella). These were followed by Carex gynandra, abundant Sphagnum of undetermined species and a clump of 6 to 8 foot (1.8 - 2.4 meter) tall saplings of Balsam Fir accompanied by seedlings of the same. Here we also encountered swarms of a fly, dark in color, and resembling the House Fly, but of only mild annoyance, since they did not bite. Observed next were Carex echinata, the bullrush Scirpus cyperinus; then the only known alien of the traverse, a few plants of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). These were followed by Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and more seedlings and small saplings of Balsam Fir. Here we turned left and toward the Swamp edge again, seeing the while Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia), Purple-stem Aster (Aster puniceus), a Burreed (Sparganium chlorocarpon), abundant White Wood Sorrel, Canada Mayflower, Haircap Moss (Polytrichum sp.) on high hummocks and Jewelweed (Impatiens sp.). Then, amidst a tangle of uprooted trees, we saw a single bush of Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum). Next seen were the first Alpine Enchanters Nightshade (Circaea alpina), fungi including species of Cortinarius and Lactarius chrysorrheus followed by more Carex trisperma, Small Green Wood Orchid (Habenaria clavellata) in bloom and Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata). Also noted here was evident of heavy deer browsing on Cinnamon and Sensitive Ferns. Nearing the Swamp edge again there appeared the fungus Lactarius piperatus, a sapling of Mountain Ash and a picturesque spread of varicolored green and pink Sphagnum about the base of a Yellow Birch in a sort of boreal poster; then more Glyceria laxa and finally Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora). On ending our traverse in the upland forest we observed our first and only Pink Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule) growing in a continuum of Tree Clubmoss.
On our fourth inventory, during the morning of 5-24-97, we entered Blister Run Swamp at a point along Route 250 not far northwest of the road junction. Here springs emerged beneath the road bed and the forest was a chaos of uprooted trees, many of which were large spruce. The difficulty of negotiating these obstructions, which appeared to be the result of a blowdown, was increased by a heavy growth of Great Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) and sapling thickets. Included in the latter were apparently vigorous saplings of Spruce and Fir, many of which were in the height range of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and exhibited apparent vertical growth rates of a foot (0.3 meters) or more per season. Seedlings of these species were also common.
On penetrating the Swamp beyond these thickets we successively noted the following: Flat-top White Aster (Aster umbellatus), Wrinkled-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), Golden Saxifrage, a Pseudevernia lichen on fir twigs, Turtlehead, a Large Round-leaved Orchid (Habenaria orbiculata) just unfolding its leaves, Oswega Tea (Monarda didyma), Dicranum moss growing high on Yellow Birch, then Northern Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis), the liverwort Nowellia curvifolia on a down bole, Northern Beech Fern unfolding, a Meadowrue (Thalictruum sp.) and a cluster of bryophytes, including species of Thuidium, Polytrichum, Hypnum and Mnium mosses and the liverwort Bazzania triolobata. Here we experienced the high point of the traverse, namely a patch of six plants of Early Coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida) in full bloom. This orchid, near the southern limit of its range, is very rare in the Central Appalachians. Here it grew in acidic and organic soil with nearby Foam Flower, also in bloom, and a large Mnium, possibly Mnium punctatum, which is particularly suited to this habitat. A little beyond this discovery we saw our first Sphagnum moss of the traverse, followed by some large (greater than 1 ft / 0.3 meter dbh ) Fir with saplings of the same species nearby. Next observed was Larger Water Starwort (Callitriche heterophylla), more individuals of Early Coralroot Orchid, then Jewelweed (Impatiens sp.), just emerging, an unidentified manna grass, Speckled Alder, Bear scat, a Mycena fungus, Mountain Laurel and Tetraphis pellucida, an acidiphile moss at home in swamps such as this and but for gemma cups, resembling a Mnium.
Designed as a loop, our traverse again approached the swamp edge, revealing a Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dedroica caerulescens) and a single plant of Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), a familiar circumpolar species of the Appalachians. Our traverse ended by noting Leucobryum moss in a dryer area and a small flurry of birds, including Juncos (Junco hyemalis), a Black-throated Green Warbler and the melodious and varied call of a Rose-beaked Grossbeak ( Pheucticus ludovicianus ) secreted in the crowns above.
Our fifth inventory, on the afternoon of 5-23-97, consisted of a short traverse toward Blister Run from a point on Route 250 about a half mile (0.8 km) northwest of the junction with FR-27. Canopy species here were Yellow Birch, Red Maple, Beech, Red Spruce and small Balsam Fir. Tall Smooth Serviceberry, Striped Maple and a little Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum) formed an understory. Golden Ragwort was abundant in moist areas, although not in flower. Other herbs seen were Tree Clubmoss, Canada Mayflower, Yellow Clintonia, Painted Trillium, Hay-scented Fern, Hypnum and Dicranum mosses and fructicose lichens, with the last three mostly on tree roots. Not far from the road a Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) plantation with edging Mountain Laurel and Hawthorn substituted for the usual swampy terrain. Beneath the Pine, Intermediate Shield Fern and Ground Pine constituted almost the only ground cover while Red Spruce and Balsam Fir appeared to be invading the plantation in moist areas. Where openings occurred , White Hellebore ( Veratrum viride ) was conspicuous. Additional species noted on the traverse were Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucullata ), Northern White Violet and Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana), all in bloom. Associated with the last-named Species were Creeping Five-leaf, stunted May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) and Canada Mayflower with flower buds beginning to open. A phenological comparison of interest is the flowering of this species of Claytonia in this boreal habitat with the flowering of its congener C. virginica during late March in low elevation forests of the Valley and Ridge. As elsewhere in the Run area, the only visible rock appeared to be large blocks of coarse sandstone. Save for the distant songs of Hermit Thrushes, few signs of animal life were seen on this traverse.
A brief inventory was also done of the upland forest across Route 250 from the previous traverse. The aspect here is northeast and the forest floor consists of a jumble of large blocks of sandstone. The canopy is dominated by large Red Spruce with some trees exceeding 20 inches (0.5 meter)dbh. Yellow Birch, Beech and Red Maple are present in greater numbers. Understory consists mostly of Striped Maple and Smooth Serviceberry and it is worth mentioning that the fruit of the latter (as determined in later visits) at this locale is extraordinarily Sweet and palatable. In addition, one plant each of Fire Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)) and Hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium) were observed. By far the most abundant herbs in this forest was Intermediate Shield Fern, which exhibited unusually vigorous growth with many of the last seasonís fronds still green and fresh looking. Other common herbs were White Wood Sorrel, just emerging, and Canada Mayflower with particular concentrations on large flat rocks in the company of mosses. Far less abundant were Yellow Clintonia, Hay-scented Fern, Ground Pine, Partridge Berry, Painted Trillium and Filmy Angelica. A single plant of either twisted stalk (Streptopus sp.) or disporum was also seen. Bryophytes were abundant and diverse and dominated by species of Hypnum, Polytrichum, Dicranum and Bazzania, frequently as intergrowths on rocks and tree bases. In some places there were large patches of Mountain Fern Moss (Hylocomium splendens), albeit in a somewhat dessicated state.
While not a normal part of the upland forest, two species usually associated with better soils were seen along the road where they may have been favored by road bed nutrients. These were the native crabapple Malus coronaria and Smooth Gooseberry (Ribes rotundifolia), with the latter then in bloom. Perhaps significantly, no Black Cherry, Basswood or White Ash were recorded in this forest and many of the Beech were gnarly and had variously damaged bark, perhaps a consequence of insect and/or the Scale/Nectria Complex attacks. Additionally, here, as elsewhere in the vicinity of Blister Run and Shaver's Fork we observed not a single oak, hickory or representative of a number of other genra of trees that are common in large parts of the Central Appalachians. Certainly the abundance of rock here as well as the cold aspect rendered this forest environment one of the most severe of any observed for this elevation.
Our final traverse, executed during the afternoon of 8-9-97 under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, was toward the southwest from the now familiar road junction. Before leaving the latter however, we were attracted by a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) under attack by two Fritillaries, likely Silver-bordered (Bolaria selene myrina), in spectacular display of insect aggression. After witnessing this event we began our traverse directly up-slope but following an old woods road that seemed part stream bed with many rounded sandstone cobbles. Canopy species near Route 250 consisted of Red Maple, Beech, Yellow Birch, Black Cherry and Small Red Spruce with an understory of Striped Maple. The manna grasses Glyceria striata and G. melicaria, Autumn Bent grass, Carex baileyi, Juncus effusus, New York Fern, White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum), Golden Ragwort, Filmy Angelica and, in seepy places, American Water Pennywort (Hydrocotyle americana) constituted the observed ground cover. One small Balsam Fir was encountered about 200 ft (60 meters) from Route 250. A little beyond this Fir we saw our first Sugar Maple of the entire survey in the form of several saplings. Next recorded were Thyme-leaved Bluets , a high elevation Appalachian endemic frequently associated with boreal species, then the acid-soil sedge Carex intumescens with C. laxiflora, more Striped Maple and, a rarity for this forest type, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens). These were followed by Drooping Wood Reed Grass, Northern White and Sweet White Violets, the first Shining Clubmoss (Lycopodium lucidulum), Canada Mayflower, Partridge Berry, Interrupted Fern, more rounded sandstone cobbles, Ground Pine and a Mnium moss. The Canopy at this slope position was dominated by Red Maple, Beech and Black Cherry with few Yellow Birch and Red Spruce and consisted mostly of stump sprouts. Here also, as almost everywhere in this valley, great numbers of large sandstone blocks,gray in color, and with a pebble component, occupied the forest floor. However, continuing up the gentle slope we saw more Sugar Maple saplings, which are generally a sign of more available soil nutrients. Here also were Mountain Holly and a few small Spruce and, following in a semi-clearing rimmed by Dotted Thorn (Crataegus punctata), a large patch of Deer-tongue Grass (Panicum clandestinum), Wrinkled-leaf Goldenrod, Carex lurida, Scirpus atrovirens, Glyceria melicaria and a species of Native Thistle (Circium sp.).
We now entered an area immediately down-slope from a large power line clearing. Generally the same canopy as below was present here with an additional small component of Sugar Maple saplings and some Beech with nuts. Ground cover appeared to be dominated by New York Fern with some Carex tribuloides. Also present were Upright Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta) and on large sandstone blocks, Rock Fern (Polypodium virginianum), a lush growth of Hypnum and Dicranum mosses, Common Clubmoss and Cladina lichen.
Upslope from the power line opening (a desolate expanse of ferns between a jumble of large blocks of sandstone) we encountered the first Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Panicled Hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum), seedlings of Fraser Magnolia, Allegheny Fly-back grass, and Mottled Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum), but under a canopy much as below.
Several hundred feet (~100 meters) above the power line we turned northwest, roughly following a contour. Not far along this course we identified Cut-leaf Grape Fern (Botrychium dissectum), a few Red Spruce saplings near five inches (12 cm) dbh, Striped Maple, then a springbrook discharging a stream of surface water down-slope. Along this spring zone grew a large amount of Carex scabrata, patches of Carex trisperma, tiny red Hygrophorus fungi and a broad-leaved Habenaria orchid with flowers browsed away. A little beyond this spring we turned down-slope in a return traverse through forest with abundant Intermediate Shield Fern, some small Spruce, Hay-scented Fern, abundant Yellow Birch and, at the greatest observed distance from the Run and still above the power line, a single small Balsam Fir.
On reaching Route 250, we found growing in an adjacent ditch among Sphagnum an unfamiliar community consisting of Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa), a small Green Wood Orchid in bloom, Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) and Deer Berry (Vaccinium stamineum), thus terminating our survey.
The picture that emerges of Blister Run and the enveloping forest is one of an essentially northern hardwood ecosystem with many boreal and a few Appalachian components. Nutrient availability seems relatively low in this forest resulting in an acid-mesic character with a restricted number of canopy species, shrubs and even herbs, except as favored in springy and wetland areas. The apparent virtual absence of such demanding trees as Basswood and White Ash also seems pertinent as does the absence of the oaks and other species tolerant of dry conditions. From our observations this appears to be related at least in part to the prevailing siliceous rocks such as sandstones and cosequent acidic soils in the area as well as the moist boreal climate. While we found no evidence of the decline of Balsam Fir, and deer browsing of this species appears to be less than in other Central Appalachian occurrences, this issue requires much closer study than our brief study afforded. In any case, our failure to find any Yew indicates that browsing of this species is, or was,heavy here.
Balsam Fir/Red Spruce
near Blister Run 5-24-97
Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River,
near Blister Run
Blister Run 5-24-97
Blister Run 5-24-97
Source Walks: 5-23-97, 5-24-97, 5-25-97, 8-9-97 and 8-10-97
Shaverís Fork of the Cheat River occupies a high valley between Cheat and Shavers Mountains and heads at Bald Knob, the second highest elevation in West Virginia. In geologic terms this valley closely parallels the axis of the North Potomac Syncline, although the stream is part of the Ohio System. A raliroad right-of-way extends along the River and follows the right shoreline closely.
The inventories reported here were done during brief sojourns at a camp site located along the River, perhaps 1/4 mile (400 meters) northeast of US Route 250. The upland forest here is much like that in the vicinity of nearby Blister Run except that there is a component of large, perhaps old growth, Red Spruce. As at Blister Run, large, even huge, blocks of sandstone occur here and form, with the Spruce, a wild and stately scene. This upland forest is decidedly acid-mesic in character and although imposing, lacks diversity as a result. It discharges its acid spring water into Shavers Fork but is separated from it by a selvage of fertile alluvium. Shavers Fork has a watershed large enough upstream to access a variety of rocks which might contribute to this alluvium. Included among these is Mississippian Hinton Formation, which contains limestone and forms the channel bed immediately upstream. Thus it is likely that the alluvium counteracts the acid drainage from the forest and enriches the area near the River. This influence is manifested by the luxuriant and diverse cover of grasses, sedges, forbs and scattered shrubs in a zone perhaps a hundred feet (30 meters) in width along the shore.
At the camp site proper the canopy consists of Yellow Birch, Red Maple, Beech and large Red Spruce, one of which was measured at 39 inches (1 m) dbh. Great Rhododendron is the most abundant shrub and forms a zone bordering the river opening. Other shrubs noted were Speckled Alder (Alnus rugosa), Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), Blackberry (Rubus sp.) and the uncommon Appalachian endemic Long-stalked Holly ( Ilex ,or Nemopanthus collina ), which, on our August visit, bore green berries.
The weather on the initial visit, on the evening of 5-23-97, was cool but pleasant and buds were just beginning to open or swell at this elevation of near 3600 ft (1100 meters) asl. While herbs were similar to those at Blister Run, a new species, Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius ), was observed in bloom here and the woodland grass Poa alsodes had begun to extend its panicles. Calling attention to the fauna were Ravens (Corvus corax) creating a great uproar of shrieking calls as they flew erratically overhead, an accompaniment of biting Black Flies, the songs of distant Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) and during the evening and night, Lesser Gray Treefrogs ( Hyla chrysocetis ) and Spring Peepers (Hyla crucifer) singing. Shriekking Ravens again greeted the cool but not frosty morning of 5-24-97, while about camp a pair of Magnolia Warblers foraged low in bushes, giving a three note call. On our 8-9-97 visit to the campground Hermit Thrushes were still singing but a Veery (Catharus fuscesens) confined itself to its short "phew" call in the evening as well as in the mroning. Although a Red Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) called above the River, neither Owls nor Whip-poor-wills ( Caprimulgus vociferus )were heard on either of our visits.
Our inventory of the plant community of the open River Shoreline began the evening of 8-9-97 and concluded the next morning. During several hours time the following species were identified for a shore length of perhaps a hundred yards (100 meters):
The visually most conspicuous herbs were the tall grasses such as
Blue Joint (Calamagrostis canadensis), then well headed out
Riparian Wild Rye (Elymus riparius)
Woodland Muhly (Muhlenbergia sylvatica)
Fowl Bluegrass (Poa palustris), a species common in the high Alleghenies but rare in the Valley and Ridge
Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), among grasses an indicator of fertile soils
Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
Deer-tongue Grass ( Panicum clandestinum )
Tufted Hairgrass ( Deschampsia caespitosa ), a northern and Rocky Mountain species
Equally conspicuous were
Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)
Silverrod (S. bicolor), in bloom
Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)
Giant Sunflower (Helianthus geganteus) also in bloom
Field Thistle (Circium discolor)
Common Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma) in bloom
Turks Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) in an unusually abundant and colorful display.
Of greatest interest however were species generally uncommon and disjunct in the
These included such northerners as
Canadian Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis)
Low Rough Aster (Aster radula)
False Aspodel (Tofieldia glutinosa)
(all in bloom)
the Appalachian Long-Stemed Holly, already reported as present in the adjacent forest
Beaked Dodder (Cuscuta rostrata)
Smooth Azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)
Oceanorus (Zigadenus leimanthoides), a coastal plain disjunct also in bloom
Other more common and widespread herbs tallied were, in bloom:
Barbaraís Buttons (Marshallia grandiflora)
Panicled Phlox (Phlox paniculata),
Rough Bedstraw (Galium asperellum)
Blue Monkshood (Aconitum uncinatum)
Cowbane (Oxypolis rigidior)
Not in bloom:
Ground Nut (Apios americana)
Yellow Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi)
Dotted St. Johns-wort (Hypericum punctatum)
White Hellebore (Veratrum viride)
Hairy Panic Grass (Panicum lanuginosum)
Tasslerue (Trautvetteria caroliniensis)
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Tear-thumb (Polygonum sagittatum)
Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Tall Meadowrue (Thalictrum polygamum)
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Elliptic-leaf St. Johns-Wort (Hypericum ellipticum)
Thyme-leaved Bluet (Houstonia serphyllifolia)
Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata)
Tall Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Northern Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis)
Crooked-stem Aster (Aster prenanthoides)
Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)
J. tenuis var dudleyi
Wards Willow (Salix caroliniana)
an unknown Willow (Salix sp.)
Glade St. Johns-wort (Hypericum densiflorum)
Meadowsweet or Pipestem (Spiraea alba)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Sensitive Fern (Onaclea sensibilis)
New York Fern (Theylpteris noveboracensis)
Only one alien species, Common St. Johns-wort (Hypericum perferatum) was seen.
Eleven of these species are markedly northern in distribution,while four are Appalachian endemics and several are usually confirmed to coastal areas. While the fertility of this alluvial zone is a likely basis for the floral diversity, the River valley as such is hardly a unique explanation for the occurrence of disjuncts here since all also occur in other more isolated habitats in the Central Appalachians.
Return to Shaver's Fork
Source Walks: 8-14-98, 8-15-98 and 8-16-98
Our return visit to Shaver's Fork in mid-August of 1998 was under the conditions of an El Nino summer, during which the growing season had been effectively lengthened. Additionally our visit was a week later than that of 1997. As a consequence many species were more advanced in development than in 1997.
Besides our observations about camp, which was at the same location as in 1997, inventories were conducted in three areas in the vicinity. The first of these inventories extended along the road with identification of species at the road- upland forest interface. The second inventory again covered the alluvial flat ( flood plain ) along the River, while the third was of the upland ( slope ) forest immediately southeast of the camp.
Weather throughout the trip was generally rainy and mild. Barred Owls ( Strix varia )were heard each night, and were on one occasion accompanied by the call of a Pickerel Frog ( Rana palustris ). On the first day the most exciting event was the sighting of a Cooper's Hawk ( Accipiter cooperii ). This hawk crossed the road from dense cover, perched on a low limb and turned to face the observer at a distance of 150 feet ( 46 m ). The size of a Crow, and thus likely a female, the bird appeared to have a reddish speckled breast. Also, as during our 1997 visit, we frequently heard the short "phew" call of Veeries in the flood plain forest.
Our inventory along the road was conducted on the morning of 8-15-98 and extended perhaps 1/4 mile ( 0.4 km ) to the northeast. By and large it was confined to plants growing on the elevated bank at the forest edge, which was the locus of seeps from the forest, and thus largely avoided the influence of road gravel. Noted for the first time was the abundance of Mountain Maple ( Acer spicatum ) in the adjacent lowland forest. Shrubs along the road included Silky Willow ( Salix sericea ) and Thornless Blackberry and ferns Hay-scented, Interrupted and Northern Beech. Reflecting the generally wet, seepy conditions, Common and Stiff Clubmosses here replaced the Tree and Shining Clubmosses of the dryer slope forest. A common grass was Glyceria melicaria and to a lesser degree G. striata, Drooping Wood Reed Grass, Autumn Bent and Brachyelytrum erectum, while sedges included Carex baileyi, C. lurida, C. laevivaginata, C. scabrata, C. straminea, C. gynandra, C. debilis, Scirpus atrovirens, S. polyphyllus, S. cyperinus and Eleocharis acicularis. Representing the rushes was Juncus acuminatus.
Many of the flowering plants were in bloom. Among these were Turtlehead, Flat-top White Aster, Spotted Jewelweed, Wide-leaved Joe-pye Weed, Daisy Fleabane ( Erigeron annuus ) and Purple-leaved Willowherb ( Epilobium coloratum ) . Other herbs seen were Small Green Wood Orchid, White Snakeroot, Carrion Flower, Dotted St. Johns-wort, Golden Ragwort Foam Flower, Tall Meadowrue and closer to the road, Indian Tobacco . Observed fauna were Chickadees ( likely Black-capped ), Swallowtail butterflies and a large gold-colored slug on a rotting stump.
Our inventory along the Shaver's Fork alluvial flat was done on the afternoon of 8-15- 98 under skies threatening rain . It consisted of two short traverses, one to the southwest of the camp and a shorter one to the northeast. The first of these traverses was entirely in the zone of deep, rich alluvium with a dense cover of the tall herbs as discussed in our report on the 1997 visit. Here we noted for the first time Black Elderberry ( Sambucus canadensis ) and Heart-leaf Willow ( Salix rigida ). Of the previously recorded species Canadian Burnet, Spotted Jewelweed, Oswego Tea, Field Thistle and Rough Bedstraw were in bloom, as was the newly- discovered Ox-eye ( Heliopsis helianthoides ) and Upright Yellow Wood Sorrel ( Oxalis stricta ). Just beginning to bloom were Boneset ( Eupatorium perfoliatum ) and Silverrod. Forming seeds, were False Asphodel, Oceanorus and Low Rough Aster, while Barbara's Buttons was seen only in the vegetative state. Other species seen for the first time were White-haired Panic Grass ( Panicum villosissimum ), Hairgrass ( Agrostis hyemalis ), Creeping Five-leaf ( Potentilla simplex ), Enchanter's Nightshade ( Circaea quadrisulcata ) and possible Lowland Loosestrife ( Lysimachia hybrida ).
It was also noted that the Smooth Azalea was practically confined to the steep cut-bank at the River's edge, where it formed a line of short, dense shrubs.
Near the end of this traverse a number of fungi were noted in association with Beech and Yellow Birch at the forest edge. Seen here were the Hoof Fungus ( Fomes fomentarius ), Inocybe taquamenonensis and the medicinal fungus Inonotus obliquus. Also seen here was the moss Neckera pennata.
On our traverse along the shore to the northeast we encountered a lower area of flood plain, where evidently a springbrook emerging from the forest had removed much of the thick deposit of alluvium. Here, in keeping with the acid character of the springbrook there was a large patch of Polytrichum moss, an only sparse growth of herbs and ,in a still-flooded section, an extensive growth of sedges and rushes. The sedges appeared to be dominated by Carex emoryi and the rushes by Juncus marginatus, J. subcaudatus and J. brevicaudatus. Other species seen here were Coppery St. Johns-wort ( Hypericum denticulatum ) and in the stream, a Fontinalis moss. A pH measurement of River water yielded a value in the range of 5.5, perhaps reflecting to a degree recent rain-enhanced forest run-off. Finally, large polywogs were seen in a springbrook ponded by the railroad embankment in the vicinity.
Our inventory of the upland ( slope ) forest was divided between the afternoon of 8-14-98 and the morning of 8-16-98. While large Red Spruce are the most conspicuous elements of this forest, it is generally dominated by Yellow Birch. A number of the oldest of these Birch have both large diameters and widely-spreading crowns, indicating that they originated early after the forest was cut over. Beech appears to be second in abundance, but smaller on average than Spruce and Yellow Birch. Beech also appears to dominate the sapling layer in many places and some of these saplings showed signs of the Scale/Nectria Complex. Red and Sugar Maples taken together appear to be about as abundant as Beech. As is the case with Yellow Birch, a number of maple are large with spreading crowns, and thus also imply an early origin after logging. By contrast Black Cherry has only a scattered presence and, while large, was not as well-formed as is usual for this tree in the Alleghenies. Although both Cucumber and Fraser Magnolias were present, no White Ash ,Basswood, oaks or many other deciduous tree species common to the Central Appalachians were seen, and only a single small Hemlock was noted in this forest.
The following diameters at breast height in inches ( meters ) were measured:
Spruce: 20 ( 0. 50 ), 25 ( 0. 63 ), 24 ( 0.61 ), 18 ( 0.46 ), 24 ( 0.61 ), 26 ( 0.66 ), 22 ( 0.56 ), 28 ( 0.71 )
Yellow Birch: 16 ( 0.41 ), 13 ( 0.28 ), 16 ( 0.41 ), 18 ( 0.46 ), 25 ( 0.63 )
Beech: 11 ( 0.28 ), 10 ( 0.25 )
Sugar Maple: 26 ( 0.66 )
Tiny ( ~ one cm ) Spruce seedlings were common, indicting good reproduction.
The only understory species recorded by us in the slope forest was Mountain Holly, as distinguished from the Long-stalked Holly prevalent on the lowland. No shrubs were seen, with the exception of a single bush of Southern Mountain Cranberry, which bore dark red fruits. The ground flora was dominated by Intermediate Shield Fern with common White Wood Sorrel, Partridge Berry, Canada Mayflower, Mountain Aster in seepy areas, a little Northern Beech Fern, Beech Drops, Sweet White Violet and Tree and Shining Clubmosses. Mosses included unidentified species of Hypnum and Dicranum and Thuidium delicatulum in association with the liverwort Bazzania trilobata on rocks and down wood. Undetermined species of Brachythecium, Anomodon, Mnium, Dicranum and Thuidium adhered to a dead snag and a few patches of a Polytrichum on soil were also seen. The coral fungus Clavaria cristata was common. Because of the prevalence of Birch and maple, a leaf mat was practically non-existent.
Additional fungi identified from this forest by R. Hunsucker are as follows:
Hypomyces sp ( or Leccinum )
Russula spp ( 5 )