Texas Piney Woods III

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Forest Range Types of Eastern North America
 

The fundamental and practical distinction between coniferous and deciduous forests is useful (and was used herein), but precise, non-arbitrary "lines" are impossible when presenting and discussing forest range types in the eastern half of the continent. This is especially the case when climax or potential natural vegetation is used as the basis for forest types (ie. when cover types, or the more specific management cover types, are discussed as being more or less synonymous with permanent forest types). As discussed in detail below, the epic work of Lucy Braun (1950) is still the definitive basis for the ecological discussion and classification of those North American forests which extend from the Atlantic Coast to slightly beyond the Missouri and Mississippi River drainages. Braun (1950) included all the coniferous forests (forest types, regions, etc.)-- the generic "southeastern pine region"--as part of her one Deciduous Forest Formation. 

The forest range types included in the following section include coniferous, deciduous, and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. This is confusing but unavoidable given the nature of the vegetation and the standard understanding (the Braun interpretation) of ecological relations and classification of  this forest vegetation. Most of the southeastern pine types presented are management cover types maintained silviculturally as more economically valuable coniferous forests rather than as the climax mixed hardwood-pine forest types. In other words, efforts were made to fit the Society of American Foresters (1980) cover types with the climax types of Braun (1950) and the potential natural vegetation units of Kuchler (1966).      

The major forest communities or forest zones of eastern North America are broad or wide in their spatial patterns unlike the narrow zonation characteristic of the forests of western North America. The “young” mountains of the western part of the continent are taller (in fact, still getting taller) and as a result have more elevation-based zonation of vegetation than do the geologically older and more eroded (lower) eastern mountains such as the Applachians or Ozarks. So too, are the soils of the Atlantic Coast more zonal (ie. major soil units are larger or broader in spational dimension like those of the vast continental interior whereas soils of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Slope ranges are more of the intrazonal spatial scale. See for illustration the national soil map of dominant soil orders and suborders (Soil Survey Staff, 1998).

 Vankat (1979, p. 137) wrote that relief within the eastern deciduous forest “is quite variable” yet earlier Vankat (1979, p. 41) had also correctly noted that “low hills “ were characteristic of much of this deciduous forest region. Again, contrast this with the extreme physiography of the Rockys or Sierra Nevada-Cascade Ranges.

The classic and still-definitive work on forests of eastern North America (approximately east of the 98th meridian) is the life’s work of Dr. Lucy Barun (1950). Braun interpreted this entire vegetation as one great forest formation existing as a mosaic of forest regions which in turn were made up of community units that she labeled variously as belts, areas, districts, sections, divisions, etc.    

“The Deciduous Forest Formation of eastern North America is a complex vegetation unit most conspicuously characterized by the prevalence of the deciduous habit of most of its woody constituents. This gives to it a certain uniformity of phsiognomy, with alternating summer green and winter leafless aspects. Evergreen species, both broad-leaved and needle-leaved, occur in the arboreal and shrub layers, patticularly in seral stages  and in marginal and transitional areas. They are not, however, entirely lacking even in some centrally loocated climax communities” (Braun, 1950, p. 31). “The Deciduous Forest Formation is made up of a number of climax associations differing from one another in floristic compositon, in physiogonomy, and in genesis or historical origin. While the delimitation of associations may be made on a basis of dominant species, and it is from these that the climax is named, dominants alone fo not suffice for the recognition of these units. … Although the delimitation in space of an association is difficult, if not impossible, it is entirely possible to recognize and to map forest regions which are characterized by the prevalence of specific climax types, or by mosaics of types. These regions are natural entities, generally with readily observable natural boundaries based on vegetational features. … Forest regions must not be confused with climax associations. Even though a region is named for the climax association normally developing within it, it should not be assumed that the region is coextensive with the area where that climax can develop. Each of the several climaxes, although characterizing a specific region, nevertheless occurs in other regions.” (Braun, 1950, p. 33-34). Braun (1950, ps. 35-37) listed nine forest regions making up the Deciduous Forest Formation of eastern North America:

                1. Mixed Mesophytic Forest Region,

                2. Western Mesophytic Forest Region,

                3. Oak-Hickory Forest Region,

                4. Oak-Chestnut Forest Region,

                5. Oak Pine Forest Region,

                6. Southeastern Evergreen Forest Region,

                7. Beech-Maple Forest Region,

                8. Maple-Basswood Forest Region, and

                9. Eastern Hemlock-Eastern White Pine-Northern Hardwoods Region.

 Braun (1950, ps. 11-12) interpreted these same combinations of species as forest communities at the scale (both spatial, mostly, and, also, temporal) of climax association  from which, as quoted immediately above, Braun derived the names of forest regions. Braun (1950, ps. 11-12) distinguished between the association-abstract and the association-concrete, a distinction discussed in the review of the derivation of vegetation cover type from the concept of plant association. The Braun association is the association of F.E. Clements. Indeed the entire ecological paradigm on which Braun (1950, ps. 10-15) based her monographic treatment of the North American Deciduous Formation is Clementisan except allowance for and inclusion of edaphic and physiographic climaxes of Cowles, Tansley, etc.  Vankat (1979, ps. 137-150) and Delcourt and Delcourt in Barbour and Billings (2000, ps. 365-378) described eastern deciduous forest vegetation under the Braun (1950) associations of the Clementsian model.

It is important to bear in mind that the Braun associations can occur in more than the one forest region bearing the name of the association (eg. the Oak-Pine Association commonly occurs and the Maple-Basswood Association infrequently occurs in parts of the Oak-Hickory Forest Region).

Several of the species combinations that delineate deciduous forest regions and associations were also used as forest cover types by the Society of American Foresters (Eyre, 1980) as for example White Pine-Hemlock (SAF 22), White Pine-Northern Red Oak-Red Maple (SAF 20), Sugar Maple-Basswood (SAF 26), and Beech-Sugar Maple (SAF 60). The Society of American Foresters emphasized that it’s forest cover types were “based on existing tree cover” (… forest as they are today…”) and that some types may be climax while others are “transitory” (ie. seral stages leading to another climax).

Braun (1950, p. xiii) specified: “Some of the communities for which composition is given are readily referable to ‘forest cover types’ as defined by the Society of American Foresters”. She then added, “However, an attempt to classsify all communities as to ‘cover types’ would be artificial” and often impossible. Undoubtedly this was due to the differences in classification by Braun’s climax basis (with seral communities clearly specified) versus the existing or present-day forest communities basis of the SAF.

 The Society for Range Management (Shiflet, 1994, p. xi) also specified the criterion of “existing vegetation” and that some rangeland cover types are climax and others are seral. The author of this collection of photographs and descriptions repeatedly reminded readers of this situation, but specified that most of the rangeland and forest cover types included herein were climax vegetation. That criterion exist for forest range types of the Eastern Deciduous forest Formation with most photographs being of either old-growth or second-growth forest with climax species composition as described in the classic literature such as Braun (1950) or Shelford (1963, ps. 17-119).

The nine forest regions of Braun (1950, ps. 35-37) were retained with little modification as series in the fairly comprehensive suystem of vegetation (primarily, climax; secondly, disclimax or subclimax) used in A Classification of North American Biotic Communities by Brown et al. (1998). Their organization of the Eastern Deciduous Forest Formation was: Oak-Hickory Series, Oak-Chestnut Series, Beech-Maple Series, Oak-Pine Series, Maple-Basswood Series, and Hemlock-white Pine-Mixed Hardwood Series within the Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community and Mixed Mesophytic Series and Pine Series within the Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community. The Brown et al. (1998) series were included following SAF and/or SRM cover type designations. Additional designations as for forest wetlands were shown as required.

 
Historical Footnote and Editorial
 
The consistent and persistent use of the eastern deciduous forest associations of Braun (1950) by the foremost contemporary ecologists provides the beginning student of Ecology with a textbook example of the necessity of learning the fundamental concepts— and the language(s) thereof —that are the foundation of his selected field of Biology. No ecological monograph, including those of John E. Weaver or Victor E. Shelford, ever used Clementsian concepts and terminology any more consistently or with any more practical application than did Braun (1950). All three of these (and there were others besides these) patriarchal ecologists of North American vegetation left future generations with not only the seminal but also the definitive treatises of the communities to which they devoted their professional lives

Their like, their genre of comprehensive, panaramic, descriptive, first-hand accounts of vegetation on this grand scale, will not likely appear again before icicles hang in Hell. The contemporary research world is hung up on numbers, even generated or simulated (vs. real data) numbers often for numbers-sake alone, and especially numbers of publications. This has gone beyond Lord Kelvin’s admonition to “express it in numbers”,  (indeed Kelvin used actual numbers derived from physical experiments) to the point that quantity is everything and quality (always subsidary to quantity) itself is based on numbers. Not only is there little room for Descriptive Ecology, but there is hardly more for descriptive analysis of experiments and observations because the gold-standard of refereed publications has descended, has been perverted, to the quantitative entity of LPU (Lowest Publishable Unit). A natural length paper based on objectives of the study is split into as many LPUs as possible to extend the author’s bibliography. This procedure does not allow enough results to be included in any one paper to allow a discussion of  findings from a comprehensive perspective. Besides the experimental procedure (complete with lots of numbers and split-nine-ways-to-Sunday replications) is the most important part according to anonymous peer-reviewers.  

In an institutional culture where “Publish or Perish” has become prostituted to a realm of pot-boiler papers written from predictable-outcome, piss-ant projects the next generation of Brauns, Weavers, Shelfords are “dead meat” if they devote (ie. sacrifice) their careers to document for eternity the kind of knowledge their “takes a lifetime “ research produced. Such incredible work is left to not only the fully vested or tenured but the tenured full professor of independent financial means at career’s end (and then there is not enough time left to do the work). A key factor in the creative genius and amazing productivity of Frederic E.Clements was that he was able to spend most of his career working for the rich Carnegie Foundation which freed him from the routine of classroom teaching and daily chores of academia thereby enabling him the luxury of a self-proclaimed “escaped professor” (Brewer, 1988, p. 503).  Alternatively, the most lasting and useful research is the province of the academic martyr to whom pursuit of knowledge or satisfaction of curiosity are of higher utility than organizational rank and its financial renumeration.

 Thus the Ecology student is left with the classical works of those “giants in the earth” who reigned when knowledge was the domain of a more leisurely, honest, genteel, and collegial time and culture.

The scholar of biblical texts cannot read just the several English translations of the Holy Bible. He must also understand the native tongues of Hebrew, Arabic, or Greek in which Holy Writ was written. So too with the “scripture” of Ecology. And the language of vegetation, at least North American vegetation, is Clementsian. The serious student of vegetation must be knowledgable and conversant in this language given that so much of the all-encompassing vegetation literature was written predominately from the view of Clementsian Ecology (and vocabulary). These original, monographic works remain the basis, however distant, of current investigations or even classifications of vegetation. The basic ecological concepts in such natural resource fields as Range Management and Forestry remain Clementsian at root (eg. the Clementsian association is the basis of the forest and range cover types as used in North America).

Any who would refuse to familarize themselves with Clementsian Ecology because there are exceptions to and alternative models for some of its general, long temporal-large spatial scales traverse the terrain of ecological literature half blind. In their zeal to reform the basic vegetation paradigm to include, justifiably, the exceptions they end up “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

 
For the Record
 

Though the designation of Texas Piney Woods (usually written as one word, Pineywoods) clearly indicated a geopolitical unit this was not the most important reason for the specifiction or distinction. (And it was certainly not intended as a prideful or chauvistic usage.) Rather there were ecological, historical, and logistical justifictions for the inclusion of the state name as a specifying noun. Obviously that part of the eastern deciduous forest formation (Braun, 1950; see above) historically known as Pineywoods includes portions of other states including conterminous parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Ecologically, the Texas segment of the Pineywoods is, in biologically important aspects, unique and distinct from those parts of Pineywoods in other states. This is due largely to history and politics whereby the natural boundaries formed by rivers (Red and Sabine) were used as state lines. For example, slash pine (Pinus elliotii), which extends from the Atlantic Ocean on across the Gulf Coast, does extend west of the Sabine River (ie. slash pine does not cross the state line from Louisiana into Texas). In other words, the Texas portion of the Southeastern Pineywoods lacks one of the four major native yellow pines of southeastern (Gulf Coastal) North America. Likewise, those parts of the traditional Pineywoods that extend across the Red River into southeastern Oklahoma and beyond the surveyor-drawn state line into Arkansas do not include longleaf pine (P. palustris) as a native species. The Pineywoods of Arkansas and Oklahoma include only two of the four major species of pines native to the Southeastern Pineywoods. Likewise, the extensions of Pineywoods into these states to the north include no forest communities that even faintly resemblethe Big Thicket part of the Texas Pineywoods.

Logistically, the author as a state employee of Texas had personal, cultural, and political connections to parts of the Texas Pineywoods while he lacked equivalent contacts in neighboring states (even though he was an Okie and as much Arkansawyer as Texan). So again, the designation of Texas Pineywoods was a meaningful distinction.

The above specifics notwithstanding, this chapter on the Texas Pineywoods included examples of forest range vegetation from neighboring states that were equivalent to or the same as those to their south or west. For example, Oklahoma has (for various reasons, including shorter time of occupation by white man) forests that are generally in substantially higher successional status than those of the older Lone Star State.

 
The Texas Big Thicket- A General Tour
 

The following series of photographs were taken along portions of the Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve (Hardin County, Texas). These scenes extended from 1) upland pine-mixed hardwoods form or what would be the regional climax forest if viewed from the monoclimax perspective (theory) down through 2) bottomland forests that were mostly swamps or, at least, seasonal forest wetlands ) and in coming back to upland climax forest 3) bay gall or titi scrub forests. Taken together these three forest cover types comprise the vast bulk of the Texas' Big Thicket form of Pineywoods.

Grazing/browsing in this protected area by ungulates was limited to native white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and occasional free roaming feral hogs (Sus scrofa).

A more inclusive (though far from comprehensive) treatment of the Pineywoods was presented in parts I and II of the Texas Pineywoods and Longleaf Pine.

 

1. Exterior of typical Big Thicket woods- Physiogonomy and structure of the climax upland mixed hardwood-pine forest of the Big Thicket form of Pineywoods. Ajilvsgi (1979, ps. 20-21) described this vegetational expression of climax Big Thicket forest as the Beech-Magnolia-Loblolly Slopes. Tree species in these two views of the same stand included American beech (Fagus grandifolia), sougthern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), white oak (Quercus alba), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), American holly (Ilex opaca), yaupon (I. vomitoria). The first five of these species have been interpreted as the major climax trees of the upland big Thicket. Sweetgum is a pioneer species that persist into subclimax or, sometimes, into the climax forest community. American holly is a climax associate species and yaupon is generally the dominant of the general shrub layer which can consist of three or even four layers or shrub strata. An herbaceous component--at least as a distinct layer or zone was lacking, owing in large part of a combination of 1) very limited light reaching the forest floor and 2) heavy litter layer of tree leaves. There were widely scattered (and not very robust) individuals of longleaf woodoats (Uniola sessifolia).

This was a second-growth forest, but one with the species composition and general structure of old-growth minus many large decaying snags. There were various age classes (from seedling through senescing to standing dead) of beech, southern magnolia, and loblolly pine, the three dominant tree species. For example the decaying trunk in center was senescing magnolia. The tree with yellow paint spot (right foreground) was sweetgum.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

2. Typical Big Thicket mix- Example of species composition of climax upland forest of the Big Thicket: 1) southern magnolia (two foremost trees), 2) loblolly pine (left background), 3) sweetgum (center; bent trunk), 4) American beecch (right foremost bigger tree at right in second photograph), 5) yaupon (the everywhere shrub), and 6) dense leaf mulch for the ground layer and, thus, 7) absence of herbaceous layer. Good sample of the Beech-Magnolia-Loblolly Slopes described by Ajilvsgi (1979, ps. 20-21).

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

3. Two views of the dominant hardwoods- In the first of this pair of shots American beech (foreground) and southern magnolia (left midground) produced such a dense canopy and mulch of leaves that only shade-adapted shrubs could survive in lower layers of forest vegetation. The most conspicuous of these shrubs was Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Note regeneration of both dominants. These are generally clasxsified as Very Tolerant.

The second photograph showed an even deeper leaf layer that effectively mulched any herbaceous species that might have found a microsite that got frequent periods of light. Foreground tree was American beech. Three loblolly pine with a white oak 'snuggled" in amongst the pines. Southern magnolia repreented by seedlings and saplings (center and right foreground).

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

4. The Big Thicket blend- The characteristic mixture of loblolly pine and mixed hardwoods was represented by this photograph. Two large American beech (leftmost trees) with three straight boles of white oak to rear of beech and a mature loblolly pine to right of the white oaks. A sapling of beech and a seedling of American holly were to front of the pine (right mid- to foreground).

Once again the dense canopy and thick, mulching layer of leaves precluded development of any herbaceous species.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

5. A taste of the Big Thicket recipe- Two approaching-maturity American beech (foremost trees). Loblolly pines to right-rear of beech. Saplings and seedlings of southern magnolia. Yaupon, the overall dominant shrub, all around.

Mulching effect of heavy leaf layer on ground combined with characteristic dense shade precluded development of an herbaceous layer. In other range feed was largely limited to mast, mostly beechnuts in this photoplot.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

6. Was this reproduction with or without sex?- Two large trees of southern magnolia with regenerated shoots all around them. Some of these (in both examples) were undoubtedly basal sprouts (= offshoots or clonal shoots) from the mature parent tree. Perhaps there were also some distinctly different genetotypes (genetic plants) produced from seed. Leaf-bearing branches of American beech were present in both slides: at right and at left in first and second photograph, respectively. Titi or swamp cyrilla (Cyrilla racemifolia) was at base of magnolia shown in first photograph.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 

7. Local stand- Local group of loblolly pine represented by three approaching-maturity adults. While loblolly pine dominated this local stand the climax hardwood dominants, American beech and southern magnolia were present as saplings and seedlings (far left margin, especially second photograph) indicating that these two species were in the successional ascendency. Also present was water oak (Quercus nigra) ranging from stages of senescence (represented by the broken-off stag in center background) to seedling (center midground). Yaupon was the main shrub species.

In other words, even though loblolly pine dominated this Big Thicket forest stand the assemblage was not a single-species stand. By contrast, plantations of loblolly pine grown intensively for pulp, poles, or saw timber are silvicultural monocultures. Such cropping systems are strictly speaking more like tree farming than actual forestry per se. Loblolly pine plantations are a range cover type because there is a grazable/browsable understorey of mostly native/naturalized plant species, but such grazable tree-dominated pasture is a "far cry) from the natural forest community as seen here and presented throughout this section of Range Types of North America. (Loblolly pine plantations were treated in previous parts of the Pineywoods portion.)

This "photoplot" of Pineywoods presented an example of the natural vegetation of a community of loblolly pine-mixed hardwood forest. This included the typical sparcity to near absence of an herbaceous layer in the forest understorey. Plant communities of loblolly pine plantations typically do have herbaceous layer(s) so as to provide more of an herbage (and perhaps also a browse) feed component. Range feed in native or natural Pineywoods forest, especially the upland forms at climax, is limited mostly to mast such as beechnuts and acorns.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

8. Contrast in regeneration- Two "photoquadrants" in which showing differences in regeneration of loblolly pine. In the first of these two slides looblolly pine was still in the runnin' with a pine sapling beside adult pine. Yet, loblolly pine was being replaced on this sere by American holly (the small sapling to the left-rear of the pine sapling. In the second slide there was no reproduction of loblolly. Instead small saplings of American holly and seedlings of southern magnolia were growing beneath the crown and close to the trunk of a young adult pine. A pole-sized white oak at the left margin added to this near-textbook composition of upland Pineywoods forest. In neither of these "photo-samples" was loblolly pine regenerating as successfully as the more shade-tolerant hardwoods.

The exact successional status of loblolly pine in upland forests remains somewhat uncertain to forest ecologists. In relict stands of climax forest (and there are few relict stands of old-growth Pineywoods to study) loblolly pine is almost always present. In many such samples of this potential natural vegetation loblolly pine appears to be preent as a persistent pioneering or, at least, early seral species. With progression of Pineywoods upland forests toward old-growth status shade-tolerant hardwoods such as American beech, southern magnolia, and various shrub species comprise progressively greater proportions of the forest canopy (species composition).

These two samples showed that loblolly pine does continue to reproduce, albeit in much more limited quantities, in upland forests having the climax species composition.

Viewers should note again the very limited cover of herbaceous most of which was longleaf woodoats.

.Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

9. Summary shots of upland Pineywoods- Two views of the loblolly pine-mixed hardwood forest in Texas Big Thicket. First slide: loblolly pine (big trunk, center midground), white oak (two trees to immediate left of big loblolly pine), southern magnolia (large seedlings and small sapling in right-center foreground), and American holly (foremost sapling as trunk only). Second slide: white oak (with leaves in immediate center foreground), southern magnolia (eg. large seedling or small sapling in center foreground), loblolly pine , and pignut or bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) as represented by straight bole at left margin.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

10. Gap in the woods- Range vegetation at edge of small opening with American beech (right background and left margin) sharing dominance with American holly (left foregrond). With this much light longleaf woodoats, generally the major or most common grass in understorey of Pineywoods forest in higher states of succession, were abundant ((as in left foreground). A couple of shortleaf pine seedlings had also established in this local patch of a clearing. Unfortunately, the photographer in his haste on a guided tour, missed a lot of the show. Some monocot forb failed to catch the attention of this hurried author only to show up conspicuously in the developed photograph. Any suggestions from viewers?

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

11. A thicket in the Big Thicket- Local depression on the Beech-Magnolia-Loblolly Slope (Ajilvsgi, 1979, ps. 20-21) forest community was a more mesic habitat that produced a more diverse and better developed shrub layer dominated by yaupon and titi or swamp cyrilla (Cyrilla racemifolia) plus woody vines such as grape (Vitis sp. ) and green-briar (Smilax sp.). There was regeneration of loblolly pine present as small seedlings (lower right corner first photograph). Speces mix was more obvious in second photograph showing American beech (complete with leaves at upper left), southern magnolia, loblolly pine, and white oak. Red maple (Acer rubra) was present in smaller proportions in rear.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

12. White titi or swqmp cyrilla- Flowering leader of Cyrilla racemifolia, one the major shrubs (sometimes a small tree) of typically wet forest environments in the pine-mixed hardwoods and, especially, wetland forests such as cypress-tupelo sloughs. Titi is one of several shrub species that gave this part of the Pineywoods the descriptive title of Big Thicket.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 
13. A Very Tolerant shrub- Caprinus caroliniana--known variously as American hornbeam, blue or water beech, musclewood, or ironwood--was growing at edge of a local moist depression (a seasonally ponded habitat) in the loblolly pine-mixed hardwood upland forest of Texas' Big Thicket. This species has been regarded as one of the most shade, competition, etc.- tolerant of all shrubs in the eastern deciduous forest. this fine specimen shared its water-rich, yet well-drained soil environment with numerous seedlings and saplings of American holly, another Very Tolerant species (Wenger, 1984).
 

14. A wetter thicket in the Big Thicket- Another low-lying and seasonally ponded local relief in the loblolly pine-mixed hardwoods upland forest produced a slightly different local forest range plant community than those presented above. Yaupon was present (as almost always) along with titi or swamp cyrilla. American holly (eg. blotched trunk center foreground) was also abundant, but water oak (eg. biggest trunk in photograph and those at far right) was the local dominant tree from standpoint of crown cover and regeneration.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

15. Edge of a loblolly- Outermost margin of contact between a ponded habitat with loblolly pine, southern magnolia, plus some sweetbay or swamp magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and a slough dominated by bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and water tupelo or tupelo-gum (Nyssa aquatica).These two slides presented the loblolly pine-magnolia wet forest. Slides of the cypress-tupelo-dominated slough were shown and described below.

Forest vegetation in the first of these two photographs had developed on the somewhat less mesic habitat that was farther from the bald cypress-tupelo slough. This local forest community had a shrub understorey dominated by yaupon and with some Vitis species as well as a few sweetgum seedlings. Vegetation in the second photograph (a plant community closer to the slough) was at edge of a canebrake of native giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea) and also supported a lot of cnain fern (Woodwardia areolata). Titi or swamp cyrilla was about as abundant as yaupon. Big trees in this second (more mesic) "photoplot" were loblolly pine (leaning trunk at left) and water oak (right). Sapling in left foreground was swamp or sweetbay magnolia).

Loblolly pine derived this common name from its frequent occurrence in localized, water-holding lowlands, especially those with ponded features, that in the American backwoods frontier were known as loblollies. (See Harlow et al. [1979, p, 93] for derivation of "loblolly".) Loblolly pine is adapted to a variety of soils and soil water contents (including former cropland or old fields), but it generally does best on wetter forest sites (Harlow et al., 1979; Burns and Honkala, 1990).

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

16. Scarred parent and offspring escorted by woody grass- Center stage was a fire-scarred American beech with a sapling that was most likely a sexually produced offspring, but with beech it is hard to distinguish sexual from asexual shoots because this species produces plentiful root sprouts or suckers (Burns and Honkala, 1990). Fire could have initiated such root suchering. The rather stunted shoots of giant cane, the only species of bamboo native in the Pineywoods, were asexual progeny from a nearby canebrake.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 
There are also bottomland forests within the Big Thicket in addition to the larger areas of upland forests. Some of these lowland forests are wetlands, especially swamps and bayous which often cover rather extensive areas. Other lowland forests develop on local depressions, natural ponds, or similar areas that hold water, at least on a seasonal or ephemeral basis (ie. during wet weather). These depressions that are usually local or small in scale are traditionally known by locals as "sloughs". The next two sets of paired photographs followed by two single-slide sets showed two local sloughs the first of which was dominated by bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) with water tupelo or tupelo-gum (Nyssa aquatica) as the associate speceis and with giant cane as the herbaceous (understorey) dominant. The second slough was a consociation of bald cypress with water elm (Planera aquatica) comprising a shrub component and an herbaceous layer absent. The two single photogrphs were of forest range vegetation at the edge of this second slough so that Intolerant and pioneer plant species were also present on this vegetational margin.
 

17. Big Thicket slough- Local slough with bald cypress the dominant tree species and tupelo-gum or water tupelo as associate arborous species with a sporadic or interrupted understorey of giant cane. A continuous layer of canebrake with American beech, southern magnolia, sweetbay or swamp mangolia, and loblolly pine surrounded this slough. The first of these two slides presented a general view of this local climax forest range while the second photograph revealed greater detail (with restricted spatial perspective).

In the first slide the three trees with smoother bark were water tupelo; rest (included big tree at left margin) were bald cypress. Giant cane, the native bamboo of the Pineywoods, was conspicuous as the main component of the herbaceous undestorey. In the second of these paired slides leaves and panicles of broadleaf woodoats (Uniola latifolia) were visible at left foreground with giant cane. Leaves of American holly were visible in upper left corner of this second slide as were numerous "knees" (pneumatophores) of bald cypress. These "knees" are assumed to aid bald cypress trees growing in ponded water (roots are in water-logged soil) to obtain adequate oxygen. Bald cypress does, however, typically grow pneumatophores even on well-drained soils not subject to ponding. All tree trunks in second slide were bald cypress.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One form or variant of SAF 102 (Baldcypress-Tupelo). Tupelo-Cypress Series (223.11) in Southeastern Swamp and Riparian Forest biotic community (223.1) of Brown et al. (1998). South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

18. Cypress slough- Bald cypress dominated this depression that ponds water on a seasonal/ephemeral basis. This was another "neck of the woods" just "around the bend" from the local slough shown in the preceding two photographs. In this second slough water tupelo was absent and instead four trees of bald cypress, overall community dominant, were featured. The second photograph presented a vertical view of this stand and included only the two left-most bald cypress. The surub-sized, leaning tree in background of both slides was water-elm or planertree (Planera aquatica), a common associate with cypress and tupelo. The nearly prostrate saplings in immediate foreground of both slides was American beech which illustrated the Very Tolerant status of this species and its ability to grow toward light even in very dense shade. .

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One form or variant of SAF 101 (Baldcypress). Tupelo-Cypress Series (223.11) in Southeastern Swamp and Riparian Forest biotic community (223.1) of Brown et al. (1998). South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

19. Grandma and the young 'uns- Stand, a consociation, of adult bald cypress including a decaying adult in a slough. On the edge of this bald cypress stand there were two saplings of American beech (front left margin and one behind it) and a large seedling of sweetgum (lower left corner) along with good cover of giant cane and broadleaf woodoats. Also present was a species of Ribes as well as a large seedling of the alien (and highly invasive) Chinese tallowtree (Sapium sebiferum). Chinese tallowtree is relatively tolerant of shade, but it is mostly a pioneer of old fields and fresh clearcuts and does not typically survive in dense shade. The example shown here would probably not survive for much longer; at very least it will have to resprout following partial uprooting by this photographer as soon as the Nikon FM had snapped this instructive shot.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One form or variant of SAF 101 (Baldcypress). Tupelo-Cypress Series (223.11) in Southeastern Swamp and Riparian Forest biotic community (223.1) of Brown et al. (1998). South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

20. Dominants of two botanical worlds- At edge of a slough that was home to a grove of immense bald cypress numerous seedlings of American beech were growing in the nearly bare soil of this seasonal wetland. Will some of these seedlings of this Very Tolerant species survive to adulthood so as to develop into a stand of one of the climax hardwood dominants? Or will beech drown out so that bald cypress remains as an edaphic or edaphotopographic climax?

The present stand of bald cypress was a consociation of that species with water elm or planertree (the large shrub to left of the massive bald cypress) as the associate species, a common relationship of forest vegetation in sloughs. The woody vine growing of the immense old-growth bald cypress was trumpet creeper. Far in background on slightly higher ground a stand of large sweetgum formed another local forest community.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One form or variant of SAF 101 (Baldcypress). Tupelo-Cypress Series (223.11) in Southeastern Swamp and Riparian Forest biotic community (223.1) of Brown et al. (1998). South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

21. Just above the slough- At the outer edge of the bald cypress slough shown immediately above (the preceding two sets of single photographs and one set of paired photographs) at slightly higher elevation and less moist soil a smaller depression in the land surface supported a forest range community with an herbaceaous understorey dominated by beaked panicgrass (Panicum aanceps subsp. rhizomatum) and with giant cane and broadleaf woodoats as associate species. This subspecies of beaked panicgrass which has longer, more narrow rhizomes can form extensive colonies on favorable habitats such as the mesic environment of this depression. Also growing in this shallow natural "pond" (land depression) was some Vitis species, titi or swamp cyrilla, and the ever-present yaupon.

Tree species included rather massive and very straight boles ("mast pole"-type trunks) of bald cypress in middle background (edge of the cypress slough), but with water oak (midground), sweetgum (foremost adult tree in right foreground), and loblolly pine (trunks of two adults in left background). There were various age classes (seedling through sapling to adult) of the latter three species.

This forest range vegetation was an ecotone between bald cypress-water tupelo wetland (slough) forest and the regional climax of loblolly pine-mixed hardwood upland forest.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

22. Climax trees and grass in the Big Thicket- Three views of a canebrake (of Arundinaria gigantea) understorey in a loblolly pine mixed hardwood forest that developed at the margin of the bald cypress-water tupelo and bald cypress sloughs presented above. This composite range vegetation was at confluence of local and varied wetland and upland forests. The canebrake understorey, though discontinuous or patchy in its presence, had developed consistently throughtout the variants of forest vegetation.

The first of these three slides showed giant cane, the understorey dominant, with some (sporadic cover) broadleaf woodoats in front of two large bald cypress at edge of a slough while leaves of southern magnolia "framed" this "photoplot" at upper right and center. The second slide was of forest range vegetation farther away from the slough. This second "photoplot" also featured giant cane, but tree species were sweetgum (eg. leaves at far upper left corner, trunk and leaves ar right margin), American beech, southern magnolia, loblolly pine and American holly (this latter represented by the sapling in center midground). Third "photoplot" showed giant cane along with an adult loblolly pine, juvenile American holly, and (at middle of right margin) an individual of Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana).

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (1213.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented . South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

23. Baygall- Range vegetation of a local (small) baygall in a dry autumn. Baygalls are one of the more unique range plant communities in the Texas Pineywoods. They are especially common in the Big Thicket portion of the Pineywoods. Baygalls are a unique kind or type of wetland. A baygall is basically a bog ecosystem consisting of a series of mounds and intermounds that create local variations in microrelief. Poorly drained soils in addition to seepages and accumulations of water are primarily responsible for this microtopography and the distinctive range vegetation that developed on it. While trees, including loblolly pine (one of the regional dominants), frequently grow on baygalls it is primarily shrubs and smaller tree species that are responsible for a form of woody vegetation that commonly forms a nearly impenetrable “tangle" or dense thicket that mightbe at least part of the basis for the colorful term "Big Thicket".

The example of a small or restricted baygall presented here was somewhat different from a larger and more typical expression of this Big Thicket ecosystem. (An example of this form of baygall was given in Texas Pineywoods II above.) Dominant plant species (all woody) of this Pineywoods baygall varied among sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), black titi or swamp cyrilla (Cyrilla racemiflora), and red bay (Persea boronia). Gallberry holly (Ilex coriacea) was absent from these two snapshots of a Pineywoods baygall. According to Ajilvsgi (1979, p. 16) the term baygall was derived from the common names of sweet bay and gallberry holly, generally the two dominant species of this unique forest vegetatio of the Big Thicket. Among locals a baygall is also often refered to as a titi, undoubtedly a reference to abundance or black titi or swamp cyrilla in this vegetation, the forms of which can range from forest to shrubland (scrub) wetlands.The latter form was more descriptive of the range plant community viewed here.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). No SAF. One variant form of Mixed Hardwood Series (223.13) of Southeastern Swamp and Riparian Forest biotic community (223.1) of Brown et al. (1998). South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

24. Back on the drier uplant slopes- Parting shots of the climax beech-magnolia-loblolly pine slopes community of Texas' Big Thicket. Two final "photoquadrants" of the regional climax (= monoclimax) forest of the Big Thicket phase of the Pineywoods. In the first photograph a fine specimen of a mature southern magnolia (foremost tree at left-center ) and a loblolly pine along with an uprooted American beech (lowere right corner) along with the always-there yaupon represented the climax Beech-Magnolia-Loblolly Slopes (Ajilvsgi, 1979, ps. 20-21) form or subtype of Big Thicket Pineywoods.Some herbaceous species were present in this more open local forest community. These included narrowleaf woodoats along with an indentified species of Carex and another of Cyperus (inflorescences were absent from both species).

The second photograph presented an all-in-one representation of the dominant species of the loblolly pine-mixed hardwoods upland forest. In addition to two adult loblolly pine ((center midground) there was almost every imaginable age class of southern magnolia ranging from aged adult (largest tree; immediate left foreground) to seedlings, saplings, and poles plus many immature age classes of American beech. Both yaupon and American holly were present. As all so typical, however, an herbaceous component was "conspicuous by its absence" on this deep leaf layer-covered forest floor.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October. FRES No. 16 (Oak-Gum-Cypress Ecosystem). One of several variants of SAF 82 (Loblolly Pine-Hardwood). Oak-Pine Series (122.14) in Northeastern Deciduous Forest biotic community (122.1) even though in southeastern part of continent; an Oak-Pine Series or, perhaps, the Mixed Mesophytic Series (123.11) for Southeastern Deciduous and Evergreen Forest biotic community [123.1] of Brown et al. (1998) would seem warrented .South Central Plains- Flatwoods Ecoregion, 35f (Griffith et al., 2004).

 

25. Fungal fellows of the Big Thicket- These two species of fungi on the floor of a loblolly pine-American beech-Southern magnolia upland Pineywoods forest. Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis crisp= S. radicata), left, and Dyer's polypore (Phaeolus schwainitizii), right, were right at home growing in the moist humus formed from decomposing leaves, twigs, and other detritis of this climax forest.

Both of these species are in th order, Aphyllophorales (the older designation) or Polyporales (newer name for the order) whose members are, in general, wood decomposers. This order is especially interesting because it is polyphyletic being interpreted as in both the Basidiomycetes and Hymenomycetes. Basidiomycetes are filamentous fungi made up of hyphae (as well as fruiting bodies) that undergo sexual reproduction by producing basidia, club-shaped end cells. Hymenocycetes are fungi whose fruiting bodies bear hymenophores where hymenium refers to the tissue layer in which cells develop into basidia or asci, the spore-producing structures.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 

26.Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis crisp= S. radicata)- Closer-in view of the specimen seen immediately above.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 

27. Dyer's polypore (Phaeolus schwainitizii)- Detailed shot of the individual fruiting body introduced above.

Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket National Preserve, Hardin County, Texas. Early October.

 
 

 

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