Stoneface Research Natural Area

[photo:] Stoneface RNA. Photo by Lucy Tyrrell, USDA Froest Service.

Stoneface RNA contains relatively undisturbed examples of xeric upland forest, dry upland forest, dry-mesic upland forest, loess hill prairie, barrens, sandstone glade, and sandstone cliff natural community types. Mead's milkweed (Asclepias meadii), a species listed as Federally threatened, occurs in the area. In addition, two other rare species are found here: chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and stonecrop (Sedum telephioides).

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
The climatological data are from the collection station at Harrisburg, which is located 8 miles (12.9 km) west-northwest of the Stoneface Research Natural Area.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Annual precipitation averages 42 inches (106 cm) and ranges from 25 to 72 inches (63.5 - 182 cm). Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, although prolonged dry spells during the growing season are fairly common. Summer precipitation is usually in the form of short showers or thunderstorms. Only light snows occur during an average winter. Average annual snowfall is about 12 inches (30.5 cm).
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
The warmest months of the year are July and August, with average daily maximum temperatures near 90 °F. The highest recorded temperature is 113 °F. January is generally the coldest month, although temperatures as low as -20 °F have been recorded in both January and February.
Elevation ranges from 450 feet (137.2 m) at the northwest corner of the area, to 820 feet (249.9 m) at the southern edge.
Geology and Soils:
The complex Shawneetown Fault system is responsible for the escarpment ridge, which Stoneface is a part of. The ridge rises abruptly over a flat Pleistocene lake plain whose sediments contain Pennsylvanian coal deposits. The ridge is underlain by the Caseyville sandstone. The ridge crest consists of the Grindstaff formation. The entire area is covered by a thin layer of silty loess, although most of the soils are thin and stony. The Berks-Wellston complex covers most of the RNA. Zanesville silt loam is found on the gentler upper slopes along the ridge crest and in the north part of the RNA. Hosmer silt loams also occur in very narrow bands in these parts of the RNA.
Aquatic Features:
Drainage in the area is to the west and north via intermittent streams into the Saline River.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Interior Low Plateau, Shawnee Hills (222D)
Greater Shawnee Hills (222Dh)
Plant Communities:
Alumroot-marginal shield fern: sandstone cliff natural community
Red cedar-post oak: sandstone glade
Post oak-hill blueberry- little bluestem: sandstone glade
Little bluestem-Junegrass: loess hill prairie
Post oak-black oak- pignut hickory: dry upland forest
White oak-blackjack oak-winged elm: dry upland forest
White oak-red oak-hickory: dry-mesic upland forest
White oak: dry-mesic upland forest
Graminae spp.-forb spp.-saplings: successional field
SAF Cover Types (list acres): Kuchler Types (list acres):
40 Post oak-blackjack oak (91) 91 oak-hickory forest (176)
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak (30)  
53 White oak (25)  
110 Black oak (30)  

View or download complete Vascular Flora List (pdf)

Common Shrub Species:
Farkleberry (Vaccinium arborea), hillside blueberry (V. vacillans), redbud (Cercis canadensis), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Stonecrop (Sedum telephioides), small-flowered alum-root (Heuchera parviflora), ferns (Dryopteris spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), Mead’s milkweed (Asclepias meadii), chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), eastern prickley pear (Opuntia humifusa), orange grass (Hypericum gentianoides), poverty-oats (Danthonia spicata), flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), common poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), dittany (Cunila origanoides), five-parted toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), royal fern (Osmunda regalis). Lichens (Parmelia spp.), mosses (Polytrichum spp.).
Common Mammal Species:
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).
Common Bird Species:
Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Bewick’s wren (Thryomanes bewickii), loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), eastern woodpewee (Contopus virens), blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

Related Reports and Publications

Grahame, A. 1996. The Vegetation of Cave Hill, Stoneface, and Whoopie Cat Mountain Research Natural Areas in the Shawnee National Forest. Master of Science Thesis. Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Grahame, A., and P. Robertson. 1994. The woody vegetation of six research natural areas (RNAs) in southern Illinois. ASB Bulletin 41(2): 214.

Hutchinson, Max D. 1987. Establishment record for the Stoneface Research Natural Area within the Shawnee National Forest, Saline County, Illinois. (pdf) Unpublished report on file at the Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, and the Shawnee Supervisor's office, Harrisburg, IL. 66 pages with appendices.

Nielsen, Clayton; Eric Schauber; Eric Hellgren; Angela Holland; Aaron Gooley. 2015. Cooperative Fur bearing and Nongame Mammal Investigations Study 6: Site occupancy and co-occurrence of aquatic furbearers in southern Illinois. Study 7: Cooperative Fur-bearing and Nongame Mammal Investigations – Demographics and Status of the Eastern Woodrat in Southern Illinois. Federal Aid Project W-135-R. Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University. Copy on file at Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, WI. 121 pp.

Shimp, J. and P.A. Robertson. 1994. Ground layer vegetation of six Research Natural Areas (RNA’s) in Southern Illinois. ASB Bulletin 41(2): 139.

Last Modified: May 6, 2021