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Tags: Monadnock Mountain, Red Spruce Heath Cinquefoil Rocky Ridge, Monadnock Vegetation, Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire Vegetation, Monadnock Trails, New Hampshire Hiking, Jaffrey, NH

Search: Monadnock Vegetation and Vegetation Communities



Red Spruce Rocky Ridge
Above: Monadnock Red Spruce Rocky Ridge Community on
Great Pasture Trail on Monte Rosa

Red Spruce-Heath-Rocky Ridge

Red Spruce-Heath-Rocky Ridge vegetation communities on Mount Monadnock occur between 2100 and 3000 feet in elevation. This vegetation zone is noted for red spruce, open ridges, open rocky outcroppings or even open glades in the spruce forest. Low examples of this zone are dappled all over the mountain particularly on the south side including; the Cliffs of the Cliff Walk (2100-2600 ft), Great Pasture Trail to Monte Rosa(2400 ft-2500 ft), as well as the Pumpelly Trail Halfway view (2400 feet), Marlboro Ridge (2200 feet). Touring many of these beauty spots with views can be an enjoyable way to hike over the mountain. Continuous areas of this community occur within a narrow band around the mountain at 2900 ft. This vegetation zone is also located at 2800 ft (White Arrow Trail), up to 2900 ft (on the Marlboro Trail), and 2600 ft-2900 ft (White Dot Trail). The communities ranged in structure from sparsely treed rock outcrops to semi-open woodlands. Lining the open sunny outcrops are usually thick spruce bush and saplings then gives way to a shady spruce forest further down or away. The dominant trees are red spruce and heart-leaved paper birch and include some mountain ash saplings.

Mountain Holly in Red Spruce Heath Rocky Ridge community

Mountain Holly

Red Spruce - Heath - Cinquefoil Rocky Ridge is the most common of the four rocky ridge communities in mountainous regions of central and northern New Hampshire. This dry, conifer woodland community occurs between 1,700 and 3,000 feet elevation in New Hampshire. Soils are thin, dry, and acidic. Most examples occur on bedrock that yields acidic soil conditions. It is characterized by red spruce, three-toothed cinquefoil, dense low heath shrubs, a sparse herb layer, and lichens. It lacks most plant species found in the oak - pine zone at lower elevations in southern New Hampshire as well as plants found in alpine and subalpine habitats at higher elevations. Northern wild raisin is also in this community.

I refer to this zone as the Red Spruce-Heath-Rocky Ridge vegetation community because three toothed cinquefoil is rare on Mount Monadnock and can be found higher up in the Subalpine Rocky Bald and Heath Krummholz zones.

The tree canopy is moderately short (10-30 ft. tall), and ranges from a woodland structure (25-60% cover) with small glade-like openings and sparsely-treed rock outcrops (generally 25-50% rock cover) to larger open barrens of several acres or more with extensive outcrops. In the absence of fire, soils accumulate and this community can succeed to forests over time. It transitions to oak - pine rocky ridge woodlands at lower elevations and heath - krummholz communities at higher elevations.

The dominant tree in this community, red spruce, is restricted to the Appalachian region, in contrast to the more boreal distributions of both jack and red pine. It is not tolerant of fire, but readily colonizes the thin soils of rocky ridges. Red spruce mixes and competes with red oak at elevations below 2,000 feet. Fire has been speculated to be a factor that there is so much spruce in the highest areas of thin soil on the mountain.

Mountain Ash Red Berries

Above: Mountain Ash red berries in September

The red spruce-heath- rocky ridge community is more prominent on the north side of the mountain where it occurs in continuous bands with relatively little interspersion and a more distinct transition to the high elevation spruce-fir forest below. On the south side, however, this community occurs more so dappled in patches and exhibits a high rate of interspersion with the high elevation spruce-fir forest below, ranging lower in elevation. It seems likely that this distribution is highly influenced by the abundance of rocky outcrops and ridges in this area, likely due to glaciers scaping the west and east sides and plucking cliffs on the south side. The White Dot Trail for 0.7 miles, from the Old Ski Trail up the Chute, and along the Plateau past the White Cross junction to above Paradise Valley is largely a Red Spruce Rocky Ridge vegetation community.  Ancient fires are a significant factor in this zone of thin soils and ledge visible along the White Dot Trail.

Some of the vegetation that may be found: The tree canopy is dominated by red spruce (Picea rubens). Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is rare on Monadnock. Other tree species that may be present include paper birch (Betula papyrifera), heartleaf birch (B. papyrifera var. cordifolia), white pine (Pinus strobes) is rare, and mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) is sporadic. Red oak (Quercus rubra) is occasional only at lower elevation transitions to other communities.

Heath shrubs such as low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), black chokeberry (Pyrus melanocarpa (Michx.)) and mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata) are found in the rocky ridge communities. Herbs are relatively sparse, though they can be locally abundant, and may include common hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa), three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata), bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida), poverty oatgrass (Danthonia spicata), and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). The herb layer includes various species that grow well in crevices. Lichens and mosses are common, including an abundance of reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) and areas of haircap mosses (Polytrichum spp.).

Below: Monadnock Red Spruce-Heath-Rocky Ridge on Pumpelly Trail

Monadnock Red Spruce Heath Cinquefoil Rocky Ridge

The pages on the vegetation communities launched this spring has been revised and updated as of August 2011 to more accurately describe Mount Monadnock's unique vegetation.
Fred Pitcher has had 1325+ varied hikes of Mount Monadnock and has spent years researching Monadnock.  All images by Fred Pitcher
"Monadnock Guide", Henry I. Baldwin, ©1970, 1rst edition, published by SPNHF
researched online sources such as "Wikipedia", "Google Images"
"National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England", by Peter Alden and Brian Cassie, 1998 edition, 2005 printing
"A.M.C. Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits", by Nancy G. Slack and Allison W. Bell, distributed by Globe Pequot Press ©1995
"The Description and Distribution of Natural Communities on Mount Monadnock, NH: Implication in the Face of Climate Change". MS thesis. Antioch University New England, Keene, NH. by David Mallard, 2008
"North Woods, An Inside Look at the Nature of Forests in the Northeast", by Peter J. Marchand, ©1987, distributed by Globe Pequot Press
"New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands/about forests and lands" website

Search: Monadnock Vegetation and Vegetation Communities




Monadnock Trails website: Author, Creator, and photos by Frederick Pitcher 2015
Use of the information on this site is the sole risk of the user.  The author is not responsible for the trails or anyone's ability to follow them.  In addition to the trails there are certain places in this website described that are off trail.  Anyone exploring Monadnock does so at their own risk.


Tags: Monadnock Mountain, Red Spruce Heath Cinquefoil Rocky Ridge, Monadnock Trails, Monadnock Vegetation, Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire Vegetation, Monadnock Trails, New Hampshire Hiking, Jaffrey, NH

Jaffrey Weather Forecast, NH

The weather above is for the base of the mountain.