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Sugar Maple Forest

Scientific Name: Semi-rich Northern Hardwood Forest; State Rank: S4

This is a new community type in Maine, differentiated from Northern Hardwoods Forest and intermediate between that and Enriched Northern Hardwoods Forest. Photos and maps will come soon!

Community Description: The canopy is dominated by sugar maple, with white ash a frequent associate in southern or central Maine. Other associated hardwood species include yellow birch and striped maple. Beech may be present but is less abundant than in Beech - Birch - Maple Forests. Conifers are usually sparse. The closed-canopy forest has little to moderate shrub cover, moderate to dense herb cover, and may have local carpets of sugar maple seedlings. Characteristic shrubs include alternate-leaved dogwood and red-elderberry. Typical herbs of this type, which are scarce or absent from beech-birch-maple forests, include jack-in-the-pulpit, doll's eyes, round-leaved violet, grape fern, zig-zag goldenrod, spikenard, false Solomon's seal, and long-stalked sedge. Back to top.

Soil and Site Characteristics: These northern hardwood forests occur at moderate elevations on slightly enriched, moderately drained soils -- often silt loams derived from pelite or other subacidic bedrock. They may occur as inclusions within typical northern hardwood forests or, in northern Maine, they may occur over larger areas (hundreds of acres) and be the locally dominant northern hardwood forest. Back to top.

Diagnostics: Sugar maple is dominant or co-dominant (>50% cover) with yellow birch or white ash. Conifers and beech each form less than 25% cover. The herbaceous layer includes at least several species indicative of moderate soil enrichment, as noted above, but lacks richer site species characteristic of Maple - Basswood - Ash Forest. Back to top.

Similar Types: These forests are intermediate in nutrient regime and composition between Enriched Northern Hardwoods Forests and Northern Hardwoods Forests. Enriched Northern Hardwoods Forests are typically small-patch types in ravines or coves, with more restrictive rich-soil indicators such as basswood, maidenhair fern, blue cohosh, broad-leaved sedge, plantain-leaved sedge, and Braun's holly fern. Northern Hardwoods Forests typically contain as much if not more beech than sugar maple and lack the diversity and abundance of rich site indicators. Northern Hardwoods Forests often occur on drier sites (i.e., ridgetops) and/or more acidic soils (e.g., granitic types in Downeast Maine). Back to top.

Conservation, Wildlife and Management Considerations: This forest type has been extensively harvested and managed in northern Maine. Most management techniques diverge from the natural gap pattern, which is at the scale of single trees or small groups of trees. Large (>100 acres) examples reflecting only natural disturbance are scarce statewide, and intact examples in central and southern Maine tend to be smaller and more isolated.

This type provides nesting habitat for a large number of passerine bird species, such as the Black-throated green warbler, pose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager, and ovenbird, and a large proportion of the global population of black-throated blue warblers.Back to top.

Distribution: New England - Adirondack Province and Laurentian Mixed Forest Province. Extends east, west, and north from Maine. Landscape Pattern: Small to Large Patch. Back to top.

Characteristic Plants: These plants are frequently found in this community type. Those with an asterisk are often diagnostic of this community.

  • Canopy
    • American beech*
    • Sugar maple*
    • White ash*
    • Yellow birch*
  • Sapling/Shrub
    • Alternate-leaved dogwood
    • Red Elderberry
    • Striped maple*
    • Sugar maple*
    • Yellow birch
  • Herb
    • Christmas fern
    • Doll's eyes*
    • Jack in the pulpit
    • Round-leaved violet
    • Sarsaparilla
    • Shining clubmoss*
    • Spikenard*
    • Sugar maple

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Associated Rare Plants

Associated Rare Animals

  • Early hairstreak

Examples on Conservation Lands You Can Visit

Example County
Deboullie Ponds Public Lands Aroostook Co.
Squa Pan Public Lands Aroostook Co.
White Mountain National Forest Oxford Co.

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