Associated Forest Cover
Because of its broad distribution and varying ecological site characteristics, the Black Spruce forest cover type (Society of American Foresters Type 12, eastern, and 204, western) (11) has been divided into six subtypes: (a) black spruce-feathermoss, most common in the southern and central boreal forest; (b) black spruce-lichen, most abundant near the northern limit of the boreal forest; (c) black spruce-dwarf shrub, in the southern and central portions of the boreal forest; (d) black spruce-sphagnum, on wet soils; (e) black spruce-speckled alder (Alnus rugosa), on waterlogged soils with standing or slowly flowing water; and (f) black spruce-sedge, on peatlands with minerally enriched moving water. Black spruce is also a major component of cover types Black Spruce-Tamarack (Type 13); Black Spruce-White Spruce (Type 253); and Black Spruce-Paper Birch (Type 254).
One of the most conspicuous aspects of many black spruce stands is a nearly continuous ground cover of feathermosses (Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, and Ptilium crista-castrensis) and sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.). On some sites, the moss layer is replaced by nearly continuous mats of lichens, primarily species of Cladonia; this is especially typical of open stands in northern areas where the open lichen woodland is a common vegetation type.
The shrubs associated with black spruce change gradually from east to west. Dominant shrubs in the eastern range include mountain maple (Acer spicatum), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta), speckled alder, red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), and red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) on better sites; and low birch (Betula pumila), bog birch (B. glandulosa), bog-rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), lambkill (Kalmia angustifolia), Labrador-tea (Ledum groenlandicum), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), and bog-laurel (Kalmia polifolia) on the less productive peatlands. In the western part of the range, littletree willow (Salix arbusculoides), grayleaf willow (S. glauca), Bebb willow (S. bebbiana), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), American green alder (Alnus crispa), Labrador-tea, bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), and mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are the most important shrubs. The most important herbs, found over most of the range, are panicle bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), one-sided pyrola (Pyrola secunda), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense), starflower (Trientalis borealis), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), and sheathed cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum).
- Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods. Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm
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