Trees and Shrubs
Shrub communities on Assateague establish themselves on or behind dunes, in protected depressions, and along the edges of marshes, with characteristic species growing in each location depending on the levels of salinity and moisture present. One of the most distinctive shrubs of Assateague is beach heath (Hudsonia tomentosa), a dense, low shrub common to dunes and sandy areas along the eastern seaboard. It sometimes acts as a pioneer plant, providing cover that allows other species to become established. Beach heath blooms in May and June, producing numerous small, yellow flowers.
In central portions of the island where shelter from overwash and salt winds allow, tree communities occur. The majority of large trees in these forests are evergreen, with loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) being the dominant. Interspersed among the pines are deciduous species such as red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and several species of oak (Quercus sp.). Other evergreen species present in the forests include American holly (Ilex opaca) and red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).
Did You Know?
As Assateague moves and changes, beachfront visitor facilities are relocated westward. The Toms Cove visitor center has been moved 3 times!