Basic Oak-Hickory + Piedmont Basic Woodland
This basic oak-hickory woodland is located on a south-facing slope west of the newly shaped peninsula and immediately south of the new bridge. These boulder and outcrop-strewn woodlands span from the ridge top to about half way down the slope, transitioning to a mesic ravine setting with preponderance of tuliptree near the base of the slope. The plant community type is present so long as the slope is facing due south (+/- 10 degrees). Great variation is present due to scattered but extensive flat, convex, and round outcrops. The spaces in between contain more tree and herbaceous growth variety, and the woodlands are dominated by hickory species closer to, and upon, the rocks.
Dominating the upper canopy of this vibrant habitat are mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), and white oak (Quercus alba). The middle canopy is sparse, containing only six trees. Interestingly, there are 1 each of 6 species, with mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) having the most robust canopy. The other five species were common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), and chestnut oak (Quercus montana). A sparse lower canopy is again dominated by mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), with secondary species being red hickory (Carya ovalis) and white oak (Quercus alba).
The shrub layer is a little more complex than that seen in other ecosystems at RMNA. 13 species are present. Despite this variety, the density in native species is quite low. Wineberry (Rubus phoenocolasius) is the dominant cover, with an estimated 40 cane clusters being present. Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) and tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) seedlings come in a distant second. Though low in numbers, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) does generate a significant coverage.
Herbaceous Layer. Despite the apparent site disturbance, the soil seed bank remains intact. Herbaceous flora variety at this site is extremely high, with base-loving species being ever-present, including yellow passionvine (Passiflora lutea), enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea Canadensis), and Virginia snakeroot (Endodeca serpentaria). Many species found here occur nowhere else at RMNA, including the woody species gooseberry (Ribes sp.) and a hawthorn (Crataegus pp.). Old field and cultural species remain including dandelion, Siberian crabapple, pokeweed, and Chinese holly. Many interesting natives lurk here and give us a Basic Woodland classification bent, including Spanish needles (Bidens bipinnata), blunt-lobed woodsia (Woodsia obtusa), woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), upland boneset (Eupatorium sessilifolia), rock muhly (Muhlenbergia sobolifera), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Carolina rose (Rosa Carolina), and a suspected fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) seedling. At the margins of the test plot, and filling deeper base-rich soil pockets, are extensive colonies of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa). A large grouping of false Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum) cascades down a rock at the west end. Many unidentified species that occur nowhere else at RMNA warrant further research, including a woodland goldenrod and milkweed. Wood violet (Viola palmata) forms lovely colonies nearer the ridgeline. Moss and fungi variety are very high in this ecosystem and animal activity appeared to exceed that of all the other ecosystem types we sampled.
Dragonflies and damselflies were very active, as were woodland butterfly species. Insects of great variety were spread throughout and gray tree frogs, yellow-rumped warblers, and wood thrushes provided song for the day. A giant black rat snake visited our datum on its way through the site and a large northern watersnake was observed at the far west margin. Five-lined skinks and six-spotted tiger beetles were actively darting about in search of prey. A lone coyote found its final resting place on an outcrop ledge in this ecosystem, possibly after being struck by a vehicle on I-64 (its jaw was crushed). Within the span of the survey it was reduced to a pile of scattered bones by various scavengers that remain undocumented.