Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seep

Rare and Protected

The Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seep is a critically imperiled type of small-patch wooded wetland found in Floyd County, VA. It is described and classified in Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s system of Ecological Groups and Community Types as a type of Mafic Fens and Seeps.

This rare ecosystem is found in only a few places in the world, including at Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County and The Glades in Grayson County, VA both in the Southern Blue Ridge. It is also found at Big Meadows, Madison County, VA in the Northern Blue Ridge. Pinus strobus Eastern White Pine co-dominates the canopy with Acer rubrum Red Maple “in seepage areas on mineral soil weathered from amphibolite and ultramafic rocks of the Southern Blue Ridge. Occurrences are generally linear, following braided, rocky drainages with internal hummocks of organic-rich soil.” (NatureServe)

The felt sense when visiting these intact ecosystems is often described as harmony or beauty by unscientific nature lover types.

Floyd Native Plants

Diagnostic Species

Diagnostic species for Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seeps, identified by the USNVC scientific name, are Acer rubrum Red Maple, Pinus strobus Eastern White Pine, Alnus serrulata Smooth Alder, Physocarpus opulifolius Ninebark, Solidago patula Rough-leaved Goldenrod and Parnassia grandifolia Bigleaf Grass-of-Parnassus. The last three are not present at every single site.

Companion Species

100% Constancy

The following additional species are found in every Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seep: Kalmia latifolia Mountain Laurel, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum Cinnamon Fern, Viola cucullata Marsh Blue Violet, Oxypolis rigidior Cowbane, Dichanthelium dichotomum Small-fruited Panic Grass, Quercus alba White Oak.

80% Constancy

The following additional species are found in four out of five surveyed Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seeps: Liriodendron tulipifera Tulip Poplar, Lindera benzoin Spicebush, Magnolia acuminata Cucumber Magnolia, Osmunda spectabilis Royal Fern, Dioscorea quaternata Wild Yam, Eurybia divaricata White Wood Aster, Rudbeckia laciniata Cut-Leaf Coneflower, Potentilla simplex Common Cinquefoil.

60% Constancy

The following species are found in three out of five surveyed Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seeps: Betula lenta var. lenta Sweet Birch, Hamamelis virginiana var. virginiana Witch Hazel, Thalictrum clavatum Lady-Rue or Mountain Meadow-Rue, Carex leptalea Bristly-stalk Sedge, Ilex verticillata Winterberry, Aconitum uncinatum Blue Monkshood, Nyssa sylvatica Black Gum, Scirpus polyphyllus Leafy Bulrush, Packera aurea Golden Ragwort, Glyceria striata var. striata Fowl Mannagrass, Thelypteris palustris var. pubescens Marsh Fern, Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia, Galax urceolata Galax, Mitchella repens Partridge-berry, Rubus hispidus Bristly Dewberry or Swamp Dewberry, Arisaema triphyllum Common Jack-in-the-pulpit, Platanthera clavellata Small Green Wood Orchid, Eutrochium purpureum var. purpureum Sweet-scented Joe-pye-weed, Sweet Joe-pye-weed, Purple Joe-pye-weed, Medeola virginiana Indian Cucumber-root.

40% Constancy

The following species are found in two out of five surveyed Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seeps:

Quercus rubra – Northern Red Oak
Doellingeria umbellata var. umbellata – Tall Flat-topped White Aster
Carex baileyi – Shortbeak Sedge, Fescue Sedge
Carex intumescens var. intumescens – Bladder Sedge
Collinsonia canadensis – Richweed, Canada Horsebalm
Endotropis alnifolia – Alder-leaved Buckthorn, American Alder-Buckthorn
Rhododendron periclymenoides – Wild Azalea, Pinxterflower, Pinxterbloom Azalea
Cornus florida – Flowering Dogwood
Rhododendron maximum – Great Rhododendron
Rosa palustris – Swamp Rose
Houstonia caerulea – Common Bluets, Azur Bluets, Quaker Ladies
Lycopodioides apodum – Meadow Spikemoss
Viburnum cassinoides – Northern Wild Raisin, Withe-rod
Brachyelytrum erectum – Bearded Shorthusk, Common Shorthusk
Symplocarpus foetidus – Skunk Cabbage
Amelanchier arborea – Downy Serviceberry
Chelone glabra – White Turtlehead
Clintonia umbellulata – Speckled Wood Lily, White Clintonia
Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia-creeper
Smilax rotundifolia – Common Greenbrier, Bullbrier, Horsebrier
Solidago rugosa – Rough-stemmed Goldenrod, Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – New England Aster
Chamaelirium luteum – Devil’s-bit
Symphyotrichum lateriflorum – Calico Aster, Starved Aster
Gillenia trifoliata – Bowman’s-root, Mountain Indian-physic

20% Constancy

To see the more than 60 other species associated with Southern Blue Ridge Mafic Woodland Seeps, visit Mafic Fens and Seeps at Virginia DCR, download the spreadsheet of survey data, and go to the CEGL004994 tab. The balance of species have a 20% constancy value, meaning they were found at one out of five locations surveyed.


Fleming, Gary P. and Karen D. Patterson 2021. Natural Communities of Virginia: Ecological Groups and Community Types: a listing with conservation status ranks. Natural Heritage Technical Report 21-15. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, Virginia. 31 pages.

Fleming, G.P., K.D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2021. The Natural Communities of Virginia: a Classification of Ecological Community Groups and Community Types. Third approximation. Version 3.3. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. [Accessed: 26-12-2023]

NatureServe. 2023. NatureServe Network Biodiversity Location Data accessed through NatureServe Explorer [web application]. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available [Accessed: December 26, 2023].

United States Natural Vegetation Classification. 2023. Natural Vegetation Classification. [Accessed: 26-12-2023]

Katy Morikawa
Katy Morikawa