Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is dioecious. This means that some trees are female and some trees are male. The male trees have pollen-producing flowers and the female trees produce the familiar light blue "juniper berries." These "berries" are technically cones with fleshy blue scales and a white waxy cover, giving the them an overall sky-blue color. They are a favorite food of cedar waxwings and other birds, which disperse the seeds to other locations.
There are several hundred occurrences statewide. A few documented occurrences have good viability and several are protected on public land or private conservation land. This community has a somewhat limited statewide distribution (correlated to circumnuetral to high pH bedrock geology). Most examples are relatively small and disturbed. This community has probably declined substantially from historical numbers and nearly all of the currently documented occurrences contain invasive plants and are threatened by fire suppression.
The number and acreage of red cedar rocky summits in New York have probably declined slightly in recent decades due to fire suppression, antenna tower construction, recreational disturbances, and invasive species.
The number and acreage of red cedar rocky summits in New York have probably declined moderately from historical numbers as a result of fire suppression, summit clearing for development, and mining of mineral resources.
Red cedar rocky summits are threatened by development (especially plans for cellular telephone and radio towers, wind farms, and similar structures) and trampling by recreational visitors (e.g., hikers). Given the stunted and gnarly growth form of summit trees, the community is only minimally threatened for timber resources. Summits on unprotected land may targeted for mining of mineral resources. Natural fire regimes (e.g., fires started through lightning strikes) may be suppressed in some areas. Clearing in the adjacent forest may be a threat that provides corridors for invasive plants. Invasive plants are a threat at several red cedar rocky summits.
Management activities should include the development and implementation of prescribed burn plans at appropriate sites. Fragmenting features such as roads, abandoned tower clearings, and unnecessary trails should be reduced or minimized, and high-impact activities such as mountain biking and hang-gliding should be restricted to trails and least sensitive areas. Prevent the dumping of trash and off-trail trampling at heavily visited summits.
Soils are very thin within and around this community, and the effect of clearing and construction on soil retention and erosion must be considered prior to any development activities. The open structure of this community is maintained by fire and presents a fire hazard to existing and proposed development. Unprotected structures located within or near this community are more susceptible to damage from fire.
Survey for occurrences statewide to advance documentation and classification of red cedar rocky summits. A statewide review of red cedar rocky summits is desirable. Continue searching for large sites in good condition (A- to AB-ranked).
Research the composition of red cedar rocky summits statewide in order to characterize variations and to clearly separate this community from calcareous red cedar barrens successional red cedar woodland. Collect sufficient plot data to support the recognition of several distinct red cedar rocky summits based on geology and ecoregions (e.g., limestone vs. non-limestone types, Adirondacks vs. Hudson Valley).
This community is scattered but widespread throughout upstate New York, north of the North Atlantic Coast Ecoregion, where the bedrock is circumneutral to calcareous. More common in the southern and eastern parts of this range. Probably represented by different regional variants. Concentrated in the Lower New England Ecoregion and peripheral at the southeast and eastern fringe of the Northern Appalachian Ecoregion and the Adirondack Mountains. Probably sparse in the western part of the state and likely absent from the Great Lakes Ecoregion.
The range of this community is suspected to span northeast to southern Maine, west to Ohio and Kentucky, south to Tennessee, and southeast to New Jersey.
A community that occurs on warm, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is calcareous (such as limestone or dolomite, but also marble, amphibolite, and calcsilicate rock), and the soils are more or less calcareous. The vegetation may be sparse or patchy, with numerous lichen-covered rock outcrops. This community is often surrounded by Appalachian oak-hickory forest. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a characteristic tree. In many examples, dead or dying red cedars may be evident, which is often associated with the severe heat stress characteristic of this community (Edinger et al. 2014).
Red cedar rocky summits are characterized by a sparse to moderate woodland located on a rocky outcrop, ridge, or summit, featuring canopy species such as eastern red cedar, red oak (Quercus rubra), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), eastern hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), and serviceberry (Amelanchier spp). A large variety of shrub and herbaceous species may comprise the understory, including lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum, V. angustifolium), scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), downy arrowood (Viburnum rafinesquianum), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa), rockcresses (Arabis spp.), and maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes). Characteristic nonvascular species include lichens such as Cladonia spp., and bryophytes such as Polytrichum spp.
Known examples of this community have been found at elevations between 40 feet and 1,600 feet.
During mid to late summer, the herbaceous layer of this community, which is often diverse, comes into seasonal maturity. Ferns, sedges, asters, and other herbs that are adapted for growth on thin soils and exposed bedrock can be observed at this time. Throughout the year whenever snow is absent, an array of lichens can be observed.
This New York natural community encompasses all or part of the concept of the following International Vegetation Classification (IVC) natural community associations. These are often described at finer resolution than New York's natural communities. The IVC is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
This New York natural community falls into the following ecological system(s). Ecological systems are often described at a coarser resolution than New York's natural communities and tend to represent clusters of associations found in similar environments. The ecological systems project is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam, ironwood)
Quercus montana (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (northern red oak)
Antennaria plantaginifolia (plantain-leaved pussy-toes)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
Danthonia spicata (poverty grass)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal wood fern)
This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Red Cedar Rocky Summit. Each bar represents the amount of "coverage" for all the species growing at that height. Because layers overlap (shrubs may grow under trees, for example), the shaded regions can add up to more than 100%.
Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero (editors). 2014. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke’s Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. https://www.nynhp.org/ecological-communities/
Edinger, Gregory J. 2003. Nellie Hill: A calcareous red cedar barrens. Assessment and classification of the red cedar communities at Nellie Hill, Dutchess County, NY. A report prepared for the Eastern New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 40 pp. plus appendices.
Edinger, Gregory J., D.J. Evans, Shane Gebauer, Timothy G. Howard, David M. Hunt, and Adele M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's Ecological Communities of New York State. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 136 pp.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
Information for this guide was last updated on: November 15, 2021
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2022. Online Conservation Guide for Red cedar rocky summit. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/red-cedar-rocky-summit/. Accessed September 29, 2022.