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Most common in the Piedmont and Fall Line in our region. Expect to see dominant White Oak canopy, potentially with other oaks like Northern Red Oak, and upland hickory species like Pignut or Mockernut, and potentially dense patches of seedlings thereof after mast years. Flowering Dogwood should be present in the understory, but deer browse and exclusion from Anthracnose may have thinned these stands. Expect an open-structured herbaceous layer with plenty of exposed leaf-litter between stands. The topography is that of various slopes and hilltops (transitioning to other communities downslope into stream valleys or floodplains). Because of fire-exclusion for many decades, fire-intolerant (and somewhat more deer-resistant) species like American Beech or American Holly may be increasingly present in the understory, representing succession towards a different plant community as conditions change. 


In a garden context, think about these species as good options for buffering dry forest edges, or reestablishing a more natural context around an existing specimen white or red oak, or hickory in a well-drained space. For more help with plant selection, you can return to our Compendium here.

Indicator Species: Quercus alba (White Oak), Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood), Vaccinium stamineum (Deerberry), Quercus rubra (Northern Red Oak), Hylodesmum nudiflorum (Naked Ticktrefoil), and Carya tomentosa (Mockernut Hickory)

High constancy and high cover.

These species are both common in this community and because of their size and spread or frequency with which they pop up, they make up the bulk of the plants on site.

          Acer rubrum                                         Cornus florida                          Quercus rubra

         Carpinus caroliniana                             Liriodendron tulipifera              Quercus velutina

         Carya ovalis                                          Nyssa sylvatica                        Viburnum acerifolium

         Carya tomentosa                                  Quercus alba                            Parthenocissus quinquefolia

High constancy, but low cover.

These species occur frequently but may only pop up here and there across the site. Another good set of species to get on site once you’ve covered the fundamental components above, but don’t go overboard.

Polystichum acrostichoides                 Danthonia spicata                     Prunus serotina

Maianthemum racemosum                  Diospyros virginiana                 Rhododendron periclymenoides

Polygonatum biflorum                          Euonymus americanus            Sassafras albidum

Solidago caesia                                   Juniperus virginiana                  Viburnum prunifolium


Low constancy, but high cover.

These species pop up less frequently but when they do, they tend to be relatively major components of the landscape either because of their size (in the case of trees and large shrubs), because they form large stands, or because they do well exploiting a certain niche on site.


Ostrya virginiana

Quercus coccinea

Quercus montana

Quercus phellos

Low constancy and low cover.

These species are less common and tend to form smaller stands or be fewer individuals scattered around a site.

Actaea racemosa                                 Potentilla canadensis               Carya cordiformis

Ageratina altissima                              Potentilla simplex                      Celtis occidentalis

Antennaria plantaginifolia                    Symphyotrichum lateriflorum    Cercis canadensis   

Cunila origanoides                               Symphyotrichum undulatum     Chionanthus virginicus 

Desmodium paniculatum                     Viola sororia                              Ilex opaca    

Eurybia divaricata                                Brachyelytrum erectum            Lindera benzoin

Geum virginianum                               Carex laxiculmis                        Pinus virginiana

Geranium maculatum                          Carex rosea                              Rosa carolina

Houstonia purpurea                             Asimina triloba                          Viburnum dentatum

Acidic Oak – Hickory Forests

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