Beech-Mixed Hardwoods Communities: A Topo-edaphic Climax on the North Carolina Coastal Plain


Guy L. Nesom

Additional Authors:

Miklos Treiber


June – 1977


Beech, Hardwood, North Carolina, Coastal, Adiantum, pedatum, Eupatorium, rigosum, Calycanthus, floridus, Stellaria, pubera, Carex, laxiculmis

Characteristic beech-mixed hardwoods communities are found in moist, well-drained ravines and on moist slopes and bluffs on the northern Coastal Plain Province of North Carolina. These communities appear to be a unique topoedaphic climax rather than part of the Southern Mixed Hardwoods Forest, a proposed generalized climatic vegetational climax for the coastal plain. The species composition of these slope communities, and other similar ones reported in the literature, relates them closely to mixed mesophytic assemblages more characteristic of the adjacent Piedmont or Mountain Provinces, and the suggestion is made that, rather than being composed of “advance disjuncts,” they may be more or less floristically depleted relicts remaining since the post-glacial period. Of a total of 193 plant species collected within the beech-mixed hardwoods community study sites in Martin and Halifax counties, N.C., 85 species (44%) have distributions primarily in the Mountain and/or Piedmont Province of North Carolina; 65 (34%) are distributed essentially throughout the three Provinces; and only 43 species (22%) are found primarily in the Piedmont and/or Coastal Plain Province. Several apparent long range disjunctions are reported for <em>Adiantum pedatum</em>, <em>Eupatorium rugosum</em>, <em>Calycanthus floridus</em> var. <em>floridus</em>, <em>Stellaria pubera</em>, and <em>Carex laxiculmis</em>; numerous eastward range extensions were also discovered.