Appalachian Shale Barrens

The hot, dry and rocky shale barrens are a distinctive ecological system of the Central Appalachians from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. Occurring at low to mid elevations, the substrate includes areas of solid rock as well as shale scree, usually steeply sloped. The exposure, steep slopes, unstable shale scree, and lack of soil create extreme conditions for plant growth. The barrens are usually a mosaic of woodlands and large open areas of sparse vegetation. Dominant trees are primarily chestnut oak and Virginia pine, although on more alkaline substrates the common trees include red-cedar and white ash. Shale barren endemics (plants specially adapted to be able to survive the harsh conditions) are diagnostic in the herb layer, and these habitats support many rare species. For more information, see NatureServe Explorer.

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