Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in spring
Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in spring
Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in autumn
Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in autumn
Snowy Albany Pine Bush landscape from 1968
This photo of the Albany Pine Bush was taken in 1968
Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in winter
Winter in the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens
Ecological Communities

Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Barrens

The pitch pine-scrub oak barrens is the iconic ecological community of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. It is also the rarest and most in need of conservation. Unlike a closed canopy forest, a pitch pine-scrub oak barrens has an open canopy of pitch pine trees (Pinus rigida) spaced widely enough to allow sunlight to reach the ground.  Beneath the open canopy of pines, is a grassy shrubland dominated by scrub oaks (Quercus illicifolia and Quercus prinoides), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata). Prairie grasses and wildflowers fill the remaining space.


A pitch pine-scrub oak barrens may transition into a pitch pine-scrub oak thicket or pitch pine-scrub oak forest depending on the frequency and history of fire. If fire is removed altogether, this rare natural community will gradually be replaced with plants more common to the northeast, and its unique ecology will be lost. 

Other common plants of the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens include:
Black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. pallidum), sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), prairie willows (Salix humilis, S. h. tristis) and eastern dwarf cherry (Prunus pumila var. susquehanae). Grasses include big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schyizachyrium scoparium), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). Common herbaceous species include round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), and, in some areas, wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis).

Characteristic pitch pine-scrub oak barrens birds include:
Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypsis trichas), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), and Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum).



Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Barrens Quick Facts:


  • 20-60% pitch pine
  • 25-50% scrub oak
  • Small patches of grassland throughout


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