Chestnut Oak Forest (Central Appalachian-Northern Piedmont)

Chestnut Oak Forest is a hardy natural community of the central Appalachian Mountains and northern Piedmont. Its most common plants – chestnut oak and mountain laurel – are well-suited to the often rocky terrain of dry hilltops and steep slopes.

The Chestnut Oak Forest occurs at relatively low elevations (mostly under 3,000 feet/900 meters in elevation) in the Central Appalachians and northern Piedmont.

The range map shows the states in which this natural community has been documented.

More About This Natural Community

This forest has the look of a rugged survivor. Overall, the species diversity is fairly low. Chestnut oak trees dominate the forest canopy, and mountain laurel dominates the tall shrub layer—look for the shiny evergreen leaves and twisted trunks. Hillside blueberry, smaller in stature than the mountain laurel (only about knee high), may also be common. Other species you might see in the canopy include scarlet oak, northern red oak, and other dry-adapted oaks. Possible understory trees include red maple and blackgum. In the shrub layer, look for mapleleaf viburnum, pink azalea, blueberries and black huckleberry. The field layer (low plants) is generally sparse.

The Chestnut Oak Forest grows in dry, nutrient-poor soils on hilltops or middle and upper slopes. For a more in-depth look at this community, click on a link under “Where to Explore It.”

Look for It in These National Parks

  • Appalachian Trail (Central Appalachians)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Catoctin Mountain Park
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  • National Capital Parks – East
  • Rock Creek Park
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Conservation Status

How vulnerable is a natural community? Is it at risk of elimination? Learn about conservation status.

Global Conservation Status: 
G5 – Secure


Official names reduce confusion by providing a common language for talking about natural communities. Why so many names?

Common Name: 
Chestnut Oak Forest (Central Appalachian-Northern Piedmont)
Scientific Name Translated: 
Chestnut Oak - (Scarlet Oak, Northern Red Oak) / Mountain Laurel / Blue Ridge Blueberry Forest
Classification Code: