Habitats of North Carolina
Habitat Group:
Habitat Type:
Members of Early Succesional and Semi-Natural Habitats:
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Early Succesional and Semi-Natural Habitats
General Successional Fields and Forblands
General Description This habitat is composed of open, forb-dominated fields that invade lands opened up by disturbances; in our area, these fields follow clearing of forests, or the abandonment of cultivated fields which themselves occupy lands once covered with forests. If left to natural processes, these habitats are transitory and will eventually be replaced by the return of forests. This habitat includes the most generalized examples, with its species occurring in at least two of the state's physiographic provinces. Soils typically have some loammy content; fields growing on sandy substrates are treated separately. Both upland and lowland examples are included.

The Determining Plant Species of this habitat type mainly consist of dicot forbs and vines; the grasses that typically occur in successional fields are treated separately in the General Successional and Semi-Natural Grasslands habitat, which strongly intersects the one considered here but has a somewhat different ecological trajectory. Similarly, the trees associated with successional or semi-natural grasslands are covered in the Forest-Field Ecotones and Groves habitat.

Animal members of this habitat group are in some cases obligate herbivores on the plant members of the group but most are associated more generally with areas of dense herbaceous vegetation. Like the plant species, these animals are well-adapted for dispersal, allowing them to keep up with a constantly changing environment. Several of the insects belonging to this group -- especially the butterflies -- lead a nomadic, migratory lifestyle, reproducing opportunistically whenever they find suitable populations of their host plants.

Although now associated with human-disturbed landscapes, the native species that we include as members of this habitat were originally adapted to rapidly colonizing lands where forest cover was destroyed by floods, fire, or storms. Some are found in other, more persistent types of open habitats but the majority of the occurrences of these species are believed to associated with sites undergoing succession back to forest. Under natural conditions, these habitats are fairly ephemeral, with the species needing to be well-adapted to dispersal in order to keep up with shifting landscape conditions.

Following conversion of much of the former forest lands in eastern North America to croplands, these species became much more common and widespread than their original condition. They are now so associated with abandoned farm lands that they are now described as "old field" species. Although many exotic "weeds" are now major components of successional habitats, these are left out of consideration in determining the conservation needs of this habitat.

Abiotic Factors Geographic Regions: Lower Coastal Plain to High Mountains. USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-8. Landform: ridges, slopes, bottomlands, and wet flats. Slope Aspect: occurs on all slopes aspects as well as on ridges and flats. Soil Moisture: Dry to wet. Soil texture: sandy to loamy to alluvial. Soil pH: circumneutral to acidic. Soil Nutrient Content: rich to poor. Microclimate: Warm to cool; humid to dry. Hydrological Features: surface waters are common to scarce. Flood Frequency: varies from occasionally to never flooded. Flood Duration: nonexistent to transitory. Fire Frequency: common to rare. Drought Frequency: frequent to rare. Insolation: full sun

Biotic Structure Vegetation Type: open forblands, including those associated with natural succession and those consisting of native forbs that are maintained by mowing or fire. Strata: only the herb layer is well-developed in these habitats, although both trees and shrubs soon invade. Organic Shelter, Foraging, and Nesting Structures: the herb layer provides virtually all of the shelter, foraging, and nesting sites within this habitat; viney tangles created by Rubus species are particularly important as shelter for many species of birds and mammals.

Co-evolved Species Groups Phagic and Competitory Symbioses:
Ambrosia species // Chionodes mediofuscella-Ponometia candefacta-Ponometia erastrioides-Schinia rivulosa-Schinia thoreaui-Spragueia leo
Apiaceae species // Papilio polyxenes
Asteraceae species // Astrotischeria heliopsisella-Condica sutor-Condica videns-Dichomeris flavocostella-Leuconycta diphteroides-Ogdoconta cinereola-Perigea xanthioides-Vanessa virginiensis
Bidens species // Cirrhophanus triangulifer
Brassicaceae species // Pontia protodice
Chamaecrista species // Abaeis nicippe-Phoebis sennae-Pyrisitia lisa
Eupatorium species // Schinia trifascia
Helianthus species // Mesamia nigridorsum
Polygonaceae species // Timandra amaturaria
Rubus species // Coptotriche aenea
Rumex species // Lycaena phlaeas
Solanum carolinense // Synanthedon rileyana
Solidago species // Astrotischeria solidagonifoliella-Epiblema scudderiana-Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis-Limotettix anthracinus-Pelochrista similiana-Schinia nundina

Determining Species
Melissodes comptoidesS2S30.01230
Lasioglossum imitatumS50.00000
Lanius ludovicianusLoggerhead ShrikeG4S3S30.00407
Icteria virensYellow-breasted ChatG5S5S50.00000
Passerina caeruleaBlue GrosbeakG5S5S50.00000
Passerina cyaneaIndigo BuntingG5S5S50.00000
Spizella pusillaField SparrowG5S5S50.00000
Argynnis cybeleGreat Spangled Fritillary
Lycaena phlaeasAmerican CopperG5S3S4S3S40.00132
Euptoieta claudiaVariegated FritillaryG5S5S50.00000
Junonia coeniaCommon BuckeyeG5S5S50.00000
Papilio polyxenesBlack SwallowtailG5S5S50.00000
Vanessa virginiensisAmerican LadyG5S5S50.00000
Sceptridium lunarioidesWinter GrapefernG4SHSHS1
Eupatorium pubescensHairy BonesetG5S1S10.33330
Krigia cespitosaCommon Dwarf-dandelionG5S3S30.00407
Antennaria parliniia pussytoesG5S4S40.00041
Krigia dandelionPotato DandelionG5S4S40.00041
Achillea borealisG5S5S50.00000
Agalinis purpureaLarge-purple False-foxglove, Large-purple GerardiaG5S5S50.00000
Ambrosia artemisiifoliaAnnual RagweedG5S5S50.00000
Ambrosia trifidaGreat RagweedG5S5S50.00000
Chamaecrista fasciculataPrairie SennaG5S5S50.00000
Chamaecrista nictitansCommon Sensitive-plantG5S5S50.00000
Chenopodium albumWhite GoosefootG5S5S50.00000
Coreopsis lanceolataSand CoreopsisG5S5S50.00000
Erigeron canadensisCommon HorseweedG5S5S50.00000
Eupatorium capillifoliumSmall Dog-fennel, ThoroughwortG5S5S50.00000
Eupatorium hyssopifoliumHyssopleaf ThoroughwortG5S5S50.00000
Euphorbia nutansEyebane, Upright Spotted SpurgeG5S5S50.00000
Gamochaeta argyrineaSilvery EverlastingGNRSNRS50.00000
Hypericum gentianoidesOrange-grass St. John's-wortG5S5S50.00000
Hypericum punctatum Common St. John's-wortG5S5S50.00000
Ipomoea coccineaRed Morning-gloryGNRS5S50.00000
Ipomoea hederaceaMorning GloryG5S5S50.00000
Krigia virginica Dwarf DandelionG5S5S50.00000
Lactuca canadensisCanada LettuceG5S5S50.00000
Oenothera biennisCommon Evening-primroseG5S5S50.00000
Oenothera laciniataCut-leaved Evening-primroseG5S5S50.00000
Oxalis strictaUpright Yellow Wood-sorrelG5S5S50.00000
Passiflora incarnataPurple Passion-flower, MaypopsG5S5S50.00000
Persicaria pensylvanica Pinkweed, Common Smartweed, Pennsylvania SmartweedG5S5S50.00000
Plantago heterophyllaSlender PlantainG5S5S50.00000
Polypremum procumbensJuniper-leafG5S5S50.00000
Pseudognaphalium obtusifoliumFragrant Rabbit TobaccoG5S5S50.00000
Rudbeckia hirtaBlack-eyed SusanG5S5S50.00000
Solidago altissimaTall GoldenrodG5S5S50.00000
Solidago erectaShowy GoldenrodG5S5S50.00000
Solidago giganteaSmooth GoldenrodG5S5S50.00000
Symphyotrichum dumosumBushy AsterG5S5S50.00000
Symphyotrichum pilosumFrost AsterG5S5S50.00000
Campylenchia latipesSNR
Limotettix anthracinusSNR
Mesamia nigridorsumSNR
Pissonotus brunneusSNR
Publilia reticulataSNR
Ophisaurus attenuatusEastern Slender Glass LizardG5S2S20.03699
Cryptotis parvaLeast ShrewG5S5S4S50.00010
Azenia obtusaObtuse Yellow
Epipagis fenestralisOrange Epipagis Moth
Pyrrharctia isabellaBlackened Bear, Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginisGoldenrod Gall Moth, Solidago stem gallGNRSUS2S30.01230
Lycomorpha pholusBlack-and-yellow Lichen MothG5SUS2S30.01230
Astrotischeria solidagonifoliellaGNRSUS2S40.00407
Cirrhophanus trianguliferGoldenrod StowawayG4SUS3S40.00132
Cremastobombycia solidaginisGNRSUS3S40.00132
Dichomeris aglaiaa twirler mothGNRS3S4S3S40.00132
Frumenta nundinellaa twirler mothGNRSUS3S40.00132
Ponometia erastrioidesSmall Bird-dropping MothG5S3S4S3S40.00132
Schinia thoreauiThoreau's Flower MothG5S3S4S3S40.00132
Timandra amaturariaCross-lined Wave MothG5S3S4S3S40.00132
Tornos scolopacinariaDimorphic GrayG4S3S4S3S40.00132
Dichomeris flavocostellaCream-bordered DichomerisGNRS3S5S3S50.00041
Pelochrista similianaGNRS3S5S3S50.00041
Caenurgina crassiusculaClover LooperG5S4S40.00041
Ctenoplusia oxygrammaSharp-stigma Looper MothG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Epiblema otiosanaBidens Borer MothGNRS4S5S4S50.00010
Epiblema scudderianaGoldenrod Gall MothGNRS4S5S4S50.00010
Lesmone detrahensDetracted OwletG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Lobocleta ossulariaDrab Brown WaveG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Schinia nundinaGoldenrod Flower MothG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Schinia trifasciaThree-lined Flower MothG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Synanthedon rileyanaRiley's Clearwing Moth, Horsenettle BorerGNRS4S5S4S50.00010
Trichordestra legitimaStriped Garden CaterpillarG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Caenurgia chlorophaVetch Looper MothG5S5S50.00000
Chlorochlamys chloroleucariaBlackberry LooperG5S5S50.00000
Condica mobilisMobile Groundling MothG5S5S50.00000
Condica sutorCobbler MothG5S5S50.00000
Condica vecorsDusky GroundlingG5S5S50.00000
Condica vidensWhite-dotted GroundlingG5S5S50.00000
Disclisioprocta stellataSomber CarpetG5S5S50.00000
Eublemma minimaEverlasting Bud MothG5S5S50.00000
Hyles lineataWhite-lined SphinxG5S5S50.00000
Idaea demissariaRed-bordered WaveG5S5S50.00000
Ogdoconta cinereolaCommon PinkbandG5S5S50.00000
Ponometia candefactaOlive-shaded Bird-dropping MothG5S5S50.00000
Schinia arcigeraArcigera Flower MothG5S5S50.00000
Schinia rivulosaRagweed Flower MothG5S5S50.00000
Synchlora aerataWavy-lined EmeraldG5S5S50.00000
Synchlora frondariaSouthern Emerald MothG5S5S50.00000
Melanoplus propinquusSouthern Red-legged MelanoplusG5SUS3S40.00132
Scudderia cuneataSoutheastern Bush-katydidGNRS3S4S3S40.00132
Scudderia curvicaudaCurve-tailed Bush KatydidG5S3S4S3S40.00132
Neoconocephalus retususRound-tipped ConeheadS4S50.00010
Oecanthus latipennisBroadwinged Tree CricketGNRS4S5S4S50.00010
Orchelimum vulgareCommon Meadow KatydidG5S4S5S4S50.00010
Scudderia texensisTexas Bush KatydidGNRS4S5S4S50.00010
Conocephalus brevipennisShort-winged Meadow KatydidG5S5S50.00000
Conocephalus fasciatusSlender Meadow KatydidG5S5S50.00000
Melanoplus differentialisDifferential GrasshopperG5S5S50.00000
Melanoplus femurrubrumRedlegged GrasshopperG5S5S50.00000
Melanoplus sanguinipes atlanisLesser Migratory LocustS50.00000
Melanoplus scudderiScudder's Short-winged GrasshopperG5S5S50.00000
Oecanthus quadripunctatus Four-spotted Tree CricketG5S5S50.00000
Scudderia furcataFork-tailed Bush KatydidG5S5S50.00000
Rubus trivialisSouthern DewberryG5S3S30.00407
Rubus occidentalisBlack RaspberryG5S4S40.00041
Rubus flagellarisNorthern DewberryG5S5S50.00000
Rubus pensilvanicusPennsylvania Blackberry, Eastern BlackberryG5S5S50.00000
Nr = Number of Ranked Species = 110
Ner = Number of Extant, Ranked Species = 109
Nv = Number of Historic and Extirpated Species = 0
Nar = Number of Species at Risk of Extirpation (State rank > S5) = 41
Nss = Number of Secure Species (State Rank = S5) = 68
Pss = Proportion of Secure Species (Nss/Ner) = 0.62385
ENE = Expected Number of Extirpations (Sum of PE) = 0.44317
Average PE (ENE/Ner) = 0.00407
Habitat Risk Index = (Nar+Nv) x Average PE = 41 x 0.00407 = 0.16687

Estimated Risk to the Determining Species
Estimated Risk to the Co-evolved Species Groups
Estimated Security of the Habitat
Index of Habitat Imperilment
Identified Risks
Observed Trends This habitat massively expanded during Colonial times, when European settlers cleared vast areas of previously forested lands to create farm lands. Traditional farming practices that involved letting fields go fallow periodically allowed natural old-field succession to take place, at least as a patchy, shifting mosaic similar to other disturbance-maintained habitats. Decline of this habitat began in the 1930's, due to the widespread soil erosion and loss of farming population due to the Great Depression; much former farmlands were restored to forests during that period. In the Post-war Period, increased use of mechanized farm equipment and agricultural chemicals greatly transformed the nature of farming, as did the replacement of small, family farms with vast expanses of industrialized farms owned by big agribusinesses. Extensive use of pesticides, including both herbicides and insecticides, along with "clean farming" practices -- removing hedgerows, shade trees, and any other obstacles to mechanized farm equipment -- have led to a great decline in the old-field successional habitats that were once a natural, although artificially expanded occurrence across much of the country.

Distribution Map
Major Conservation Reserves
Priority Areas for Surveys and Conservation Protection
Stewardship and Management Recommendations
References Oosting, H.J., 1942. An ecological analysis of the plant communities of Piedmont, North Carolina. American Midland Naturalist 28:1-126.

Sharpe, T., 2010. Idle-Area Management. In: Tarheel wildlife-A guide for managing wildlife on private lands in North Carolilna. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Raleigh, North Carolina. Available online at: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Hunting/Documents/Tarheel_Wildlife.pdf
Updated on 2022-02-06 12:33:36