Open Uplands Key

This is a dichotomous key to open uptland natural communities

Dichotomous keys work by making one of two choices. Start at number 1, and determine which of the descriptions best suits what you are looking at. Then click on the link under the "go to" column to take you to the next choice, and ultimately to the natural community description.

Number Description Go To
1 Vegetation along rivershores, lakeshores, or the immediate Atlantic coast 2
1 Vegetation not associated with shores, most often on mountains, lower summits and rocky slopes 8
2 Vegetation along the immediate Atlantic coast, subject to salt spray or occasional storm tides 3
2 Inland vegetation 7
3 Sandy or gravelly beach vegetation, either sparse or grass-dominated 4
3 Vegetation on shoreline bedrock, or with >25% shrub cover 5
4 Sparse forb-dominated vegetation on loose sand, gravel or cobble near and above the high tide line; sea-kale and beach-pea characteristic Beach Strand
4 Grass-dominated dune and tidal-edge vegetation on sand, dominated by beach grass or (Downeast) Virginia wild rye Dune Grassland
5 Sparse herb-dominated vegetation in bedrock crevices and depressions; seaside goldenrod and goosetongue typical Seaside Goldenrod - Goosetongue Open Headland
5 Cover more extensive, with shrubs or dwarf shrubs >25% cover 6
6 Mats of dwarf shrubs, such as crowberry, lowbush blueberry, velvet-leaf blueberry and cranberries punctuated by sparse taller shrubs and forbs; more common Downeast Crowberry - Bayberry Headland
6 Mat-forming shrubs limited, most shrubs 1 m or so tall (or taller); bayberry and roses most characteristic; coastwide Rose - Bayberry Maritime Shrubland
7 Lakeshore with broad bands of vegetation zones, sometimes associated with sandy or gravelly berms Lakeshore Sand/Cobble Beach
7 Shoreline rock outcrops, mostly along rivers, with sparse forb-dominated vegetation; bluebell, three-toothed cinquefoil, tufted hairgrass characteristic; substrate typically vertically fissured slaty or shaly rock (Note: for steep cliff faces, along streams and gorges, see couplet #22, these are usually on granitic rock as compared to vertically fissured slate) Bluebell - Balsam Ragwort Shoreline Outcrop
8 Open talus slopes (talus slopes with tree cover will key here, as well as in Wooded Uplands key) 9
8 Substrate not talus 13
9 Vegetation dominated by carpets of heath shrubs, such as Labrador tea, sheep laurel, pale laurel, over Sphagnum mosses and/or reindeer lichens, with scattered conifers 10
9 Vegetation sparse, conditions more xeric 11
10 Vegetation cover nearly continuous over the talus, with Sphagnum dominating the bryoid layer; wetland vegetation in an upland subalpine setting, near treeline Heath - Lichen Subalpine Slope Bog
10 Vegetation very patchy, much exposed talus; bryoid layer has reindeer lichens more extensive than Sphagnum cover; usually at lower elevations, though in cool microsites (type may be partially forested, primarily with spruce, or open) Labrador Tea Talus Dwarf-shrubland
11 Sparsely vegetated patches in partially forested talus, trees primarily coniferous Spruce Talus Woodland
11 Sparsely vegetated patches in partially forested talus, trees primarily broad-leaved 12
12 Ironwood, sugar maple, and/or basswood present in the tree layer; open spots with enriched site indicators e.g. round-leaved dogwood, herb Robert, hepatica, columbine, blue-stem goldenrod, wide-leaved sedge Ironwood - Oak - Ash Woodland
12 Paper birch, yellow birch, and/or red oak are the major trees; enriched site indicators absent or very incidental Birch - Oak Talus Woodland
13 Substrate sandy outwash; flat or rolling plains with lowbush blueberry and/or velvet-leaf blueberry among the dominant plants 14
13 Substrate rocky; mountains or hills 15
14 Blueberry (mostly lowbush blueberry) growing with little bluestem, other grasses, forbs, and occasional pitch pine; southern Maine Little Bluestem - Blueberry Sandplain Grassland
14 Blueberry (mostly lowbush blueberry) growing among extensive carpets of reindeer lichens; pitch pine absent; spruces, red pine, or white pine may be scattered; Downeast and extreme northwestern Maine Blueberry - Lichen Barren
15 Alpine areas: rocky summits and slopes near or above treeline, usually >3500' elevation; if tree species present, then less than 2 m tall; vegetation may be patchy or more continuous 16
15 Open areas with patchy vegetation on hills or low mountains, below treeline; scattered trees often present 22
16 Vegetation dense masses or patches of stunted conifers, mostly 1 - 2 meters tall, forming a band between treeline and more open summit areas Spruce - Fir - Birch Krummholz
16 Vegetation not krummholz 17
17 Vegetation dominated by deciduous non-heath shrubs >0.5 m tall; shrublands on subalpine tablelands or somewhat protected slopes between treeline and the dwarf - heath alpine zone, sometimes around subalpine pondshores; dominants include mountain alder, bush-honeysuckle and meadowsweet Mountain Alder - Bush-honeysuckle Subalpine Meadow
17 Vegetation mixed dwarf shrubs and herbs; shrubs mostly <0.5 m tall, often <0.2 m tall, forming low mats, and primarily heath shrub species subalpine to alpine elevations 18
18 Alpine bilberry and crowberry common, highland rush often present, strictly alpine species (see list in next half of couplet) absent; patches of vegetation over bare rock, usually below or near treeline, but may extend higher Crowberry - Bilberry Summit Bald
18 One or more strictly alpine species present (not necessarily dominant): diapensia, boreal bentgrass, Bigelow's sedge, alpine bearberry, Lapland rosebay, bearberry willow, tundra dwarf birch, moss plant, mountain heath, star saxifrage or alpine bistort 19
19 Herb-dominated cliffs and narrow benches on steep slopes (typically cirque walls), with constant seepage; rare alpine/boreal plants such as star saxifrage, alpine bistort, hairy arnica, and/or northern painted cup typically present though not abundant Alpine Cliff
19 Vegetation primarily dwarf shrubs; not on seepy cirque walls 20
20 Protected areas where snow lingers, such as at summit edge, upper slopes, or base of cliffs; alpine bilberry typically dominant and mountain-heath, tundra dwarf birch, or moss-plant characteristic Bilberry - Mountain-heath Alpine Snowbank
20 More exposed areas; alpine bilberry may be prominent but mountain-heath, tundra dwarf birch, and moss-plant absent 21
21 Cushions of diapensia dominate vegetation (>30% cover, or >40% relative cover), with alpine bilberry; herbs <10% cover Diapensia Alpine Ridge
21 Diapensia if present is not dominant; vegetation a variable mixture of dwarf evergreen shrubs and herbs, with graminoid cover (especially Bigelow's sedge) locally extensive Dwarf Heath - Graminoid Alpine Ridge
22 Sparsely vegetated, nearly vertical rock faces 23
22 Summits or upper slopes, more extensive and not cliffs 24
23 Sparsely vegetated circumneutral rock faces, usually small in area; composition variable but includes some species indicative of higher pH, such as shrubby cinquefoil, ebony sedge, rock whitlow-cress, lance-leaved draba, bird's-eye primrose, smooth woodsia, etc. Boreal Circumneutral Open Outcrop
23 Cliff faces with sparse vegetation and without circumneutral indicator species; granitic or other acidic bedrock Acidic Cliff - Gorge
24 Vegetation a mosaic of tree or tall shrub islands within the predominant heath shrub cover; tree cover 5-25%; tall shrub and stunted tree patches form 10% - 70% cover and typically include mountain holly; at moderate elevations (usually >2000') inland, or at lower elevations near the coast Rocky Summit Heath
24 Patches of heath shrubs and herbs over bare rock, almost all under 0.5 m tall, with shrub and tree cover (>1 m tall) <10% 25
25 Bald summits or upper slopes of inland hills or mountains, >1800', with patchy vegetation dominated by crowberry and/or alpine bilberry; herbs, other than three-toothed cinquefoil, are subalpine species such as highland rush, mountain sandwort or dwarf rattlesnake root Crowberry - Bilberry Summit Bald
25 Bald summits, mostly near the coast, without crowberry and bilberry (broom-crowberry may be present); a mixture of dwarf shrubs and herbs, including lower-elevation species such as common hairgrass, Rand's goldenrod, pinweed, orange-grass, or smooth sandwort Three-toothed Cinquefoil - Blueberry Low Summit Bald


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