The Vascular Flora and Vegetational Communities of Munsee Woods Nature Preserve, Delaware County, Indiana
Owned by the Red-tail Land Conservancy, Munsee Woods Nature Preserve (MWNP) is an 18.4 ha (~45.5 acres) woodland located 9.5 km southeast of downtown Muncie, Indiana, and just west of the northern end of Prairie Creek Reservoir in Delaware County. The inventory of the vascular flora indicates that the site harbors significant plant diversity with 399 taxa representing 252 genera and 85 families. The 10 families containing ~55% of the documented species are Asteraceae (51 spp.), Poaceae (43), Cyperaceae (35), Rosaceae (18), Brassicaceae (15), Lamiaceae (14), Fabaceae (12), Scrophulariaceae (11), Polygonaceae (10), and Liliaceae (10). Of the 399 taxa, 300 [75.3%] are native and 99 [25.8%] are exotics, and 41 represent Delaware County Records. Three species are on the Indiana Watch List, i.e., Hydrastis canadensis, Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata, and Viola pubescens. A physiognomic analysis revealed that the native species consisted of 55 woody species, 182 herbaceous vines or forbs, 56 graminoids, and seven ferns or fern allies. Of the 99 exotics, 14 were woody, 63 were herbaceous vines or forbs, and 22 were grasses. The flora at MWNP is predominately low fidelity (low C-value), i.e., ~67% of the taxa have C-values ≤ 3, and only ~5% have C-values ≥ 7. For native species only, the FQI = 55.0 and the mean Coefficient of Conservatism (mean C) is 3.2. For all species FQI = 47.7 and the mean C = 2.4. These numbers indicate that MWNP is a site with high natural quality that is being compromised by exotics. The exotic woody species with the highest visual abundances are Lonicera maackii, Rosa multiflora, Euonymus alatus, Ligustrum obtusifolium, and Ailanthus altissima. Permanent plot analysis revealed that the five most important species in the overstory [based on relative importance] are Acer saccharum, Quercus alba, Celtis occidentalis, Prunus serotina, and Ulmus americana. Except for Q. alba, the same species dominate the regeneration layers. Tree species composition and diversity at MWNP is similar to other disturbed forests in the region, with an overstory dominated by species with low or intermediate shade tolerance and understory advanced regeneration with greater abundance of shade tolerant species. All these disturbed woods had lower importance of shade tolerant species and higher tree species diversity than an old-growth forest in the region. These observations indicate that Munsee Woods is in an intermediate stage of forest succession after a long history of human disturbance.