Vascular Flora and Ecological Community Assessment of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Loudoun County, Virginia


Elizabeth McMurchie

Additional Authors:

Andrea Weeks


January 2020


Blue Ridge physiographic province, checklist, management, vascular plants, vegetation analysis

A floristic survey and analysis of community composition were conducted at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES) in Loudoun County, Virginia during 2017 and 2018. BRCES comprises 392 hectares of open and forested upland and wetland habitat between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill Mountain in the Northern Blue Ridge physiographic province. In 2014, the majority of BRCES was transferred to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to be developed into the county’s first state park. This study provides the first comprehensive inventory of its vascular flora. In total, 515 vascular plant species belonging to 328 genera and 105 families were identified. Forty-four species and seven varieties and subspecies identified were new records for Loudoun County. Pycnanthemum torreyi and Platanthera peramoena, which are considered rare at the state level under the Virginia Natural Heritage Resources designations S2 (imperiled) and S1 (critically imperiled), were recorded. Eleven 20 m × 20 m forest vegetation plots were used to determine community types as defined by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program. Forested habitat comprised five distinct community types belonging to terrestrial and palustrine systems: Inner Piedmont/Lower Blue Ridge Basic Oak-Hickory Forest, Piedmont/Central Appalachian Rich Floodplain Forest, Northern Piedmont Small-Stream Floodplain Forest, Inner Piedmont/Lower Blue Ridge Basic Mesic Forest, and Piedmont/Central Appalachian Mixed Oak/ Heath Forest