Basic Mesic Forests are among the richest settings in the entirety of the Piedmont (Georgia to New York) and are the low elevation correlate of Rich Cove and Slope Forests. Despite their richness they are scattered broadly and have been reduced in their function and size by a long history of logging, agricultural land-use, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. One may only imagine the density and variety in plants they once held. Standing in several of the deep ravines at RMNA, this imagining is made easier. A cathedral of old trees shelters a rich layer of herbs, holding rarities in such quantities that baffles even the botanists’ mind. Teaming with dusky salamanders, clean and rocky streams cool the air as they meander gently through a glen of ferns and flowering ephemerals. Crevices in stream banks and forks in the lower canopy trees offer nesting sites to the Louisiana Waterthrushes and Woodthrushes. They fill the woods with song, one a maginificent flute-like tune, and the other a series of whistles that decends much like the rocky stream that leaves the hollow. Their song, the whispering waters, the calm cool air, and a 135’ canopy over a glen of rare ferns cast all thoughts from the mind that one is near a city.

The upper canopy is dominated by tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The upper-middle canopy sees the addition of bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). Beneath this we find white ash (Fraxinus americana), with occasional black walnut (Juglans nigra), red maple (Acer rubrum), American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sweet birch (Betula lenta), and American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana).

The shrub layer is dominated by spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Other shrubs commonly occurring are saplings of white ash (Fraxinus americana), redbud (Cercis canadensis), dogwood (Cornus florida), red maple Acer rubrum), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), and bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis). Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), and black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) also make appearances in the shrub layer.

Moving down to the herbaceous layer of the Basic Mesic Forest we find the botanists’ dream. Dominant species, and those that also indicate the high base cation saturation, are hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea canadensis ssp. canadensis), and silvery spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides). Subdominant species, sometimes occurring in dense colonies, include log fern (Dryopteris celsa), glade fern (Homalosorus pycnocarpos), lady fern (Athyrium asplenioides), broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera), maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), richweed (Collinsonia canadensis), jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ssp. triphyllum), showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis), pennywort (Obolaria virginica), and perfoliated bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata).

All told, around 150 species of flora were documented in the Basic Mesic Forests of RMNA.