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Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Plants

The general forest type is mixed-oak with mixed-mesophytic pockets. This is divided into an upland community on the plateau and a ravine community. The upland vegetation types range from Red maple-dominated stands on poorly-drained flats to Virginia pine-dominated stands on dry ridges and cliff edges. On the broad flats and gentle slopes are the mixed oaks with hickory. Ravine communities are generally dominated by more mesic species-Beech, Sugar Maple, and Yellow Birch-with oaks on the middle and lower slopes. Hemlock is prominent in the narrow gorges and along streams. River birch and Sycamore typify the floodplains. A wide variety of specialized habitats exists on the floodplains, in protected coves and ravines, on moist north-facing slopes, and on the sandstone caprock with dry, shallow soils.

The rugged topography and moist, moderate climate combine to produce a great variety of microclimatic influences due to slope, orientation, and exposure. Because of logging in the early-to-mid-20th century, most of the forest areas are 2nd or 3rd growth. As a result, mature forests and groves of particular scenic interest are rare. Due to inaccessibility, several small areas containing impressive examples of 2nd growth floodplain, mixed-mesic, and hemlock forests still exist, mostly in the more northern coves of the National Area.

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