Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest

About This Natural Community

This common and wide-ranging natural community is peacefully pleasing to the eye, with its rolling landscape, open feel, soaring tuliptrees, smooth-trunked American beech trees, and occasional Christmas fern. White oak and northern red oak are also common; other canopy trees may include sweetgum, red maple, blackgum, scarlet oak, southern red oak, and black oak. Understory trees may include flowering dogwood, American hornbeam, sassafras, and American holly (particularly in the Coastal Plain). The shrub layer varies from very sparse to well-developed and often includes pawpaw, mapleleaf viburnum, and American strawberry-bush (hearts-a-bustin’). Vines are common, including Virginia creeper, greenbriers, and eastern poison-ivy. The field layer (low plants) consists of ferns such as Christmas fern and southern lady fern, and wildflowers such as smooth Solomon’s seal, Solomon’s plume, beechdrops, cranefly orchid, white wood-aster, and Jack-in-the-pulpit.

Soils in the Mixed Mesic Hardwood Forest are well-drained and mesic, which means not too wet and not too dry. For a more in-depth look at this community, click on a link under “Where To Explore It.”

Where It's Found

This forest occurs in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of Virginia and Maryland, extending north on the Coastal Plain to New Jersey and Long Island, New York. It also occurs occasionally at low elevations of the Blue Ridge and adjacent Ridge and Valley in Virginia and Maryland.

Places Where It's Known

  • Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
  • Colonial National Historical Park
  • Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway
  • Monocacy National Battlefield
  • National Capital Parks – East
  • Petersburg National Battlefield
  • Prince William Forest Park
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park
  • Rock Creek Park
  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
  • Thomas Stone National Historic Site
  • Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Conservation Status

Learn about conservation status

Global Conservation Status: Secure
Abbreviated Common Name: Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest
Common Name: Mid-Atlantic Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest
Scientific Name Translated: American Beech – (White Oak, Northern Red Oak) – Tuliptree / (American Holly) / Christmas Fern Forest
Natural Community Code: CEGL006075

Photo credits  Banner Image: Emerging beech leaves and white oak leaves – Matt Jones; Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest – Erin Jones