How to Recognize It
This natural community has a distinctive look with evergreen mountain laurel shrubs under a canopy of oaks and American beech. Look for the Oak - Beech / Heath Forest at Rock Creek Park on steep, convex slopes and bluffs above streams. You may see patches of moss on the thin, highly acidic soils. Outcrops of metamorphic bedrock jut out of the steep hillsides, along with the occasional white quartz vein. Because of the steepness, rainwater runs off quickly and soils do not accumulate easily.
Can you find this combination of key features?
Identifying This Natural Community
- Smooth-barked American beech trees in canopy and understory (tan leaves remain on branches in winter)
- Old-age chestnut oak or white oak trees (and other dry-site oaks)
- Twisted, dark stems of evergreen mountain laurel in the understory (look for their pink blooms in early summer)
- Pink azalea, hillside blueberry, or black huckleberry
- Rock protruding from the hillside here and there
- Patches of green moss on the ground
- A location on a steep slope
If so, welcome to Rock Creek Park’s Oak – Beech / Heath Forest.
Not sure? Check out the Compare Natural Communities tool.