Buffalo Beats Research Natural Area


Buffalo Beats is a small relict prairie that is surrounded by deciduous forest. It is one of the easternmost outliers of the Prairie Peninsula. The existence of this relict plant community may date from the xerothermic period of about 4,000 years before the present, during which time prairie vegetation expanded eastward. The prairie is nationally significant, both floristically and ecologically.

There are three species occurring in the prairie that are listed by the State of Ohio. Gentiana alba (yellowish gentian), Liatris cylindracea (slender blazing star) and Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master). Additional specie include: Solidago ridgida (stiff goldenrod), Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem), Helianthus hirsutus (stiff-haired sunflower), Euphorbia corollata (flowering spurge) and other prairie species. The woodland surrounding the prairie is classified as a Xeric Upper Slope under the Wayne National Forest Ecological Classification System.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Scalia Lab, Ohio University, Athens Ohio.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
Average annual precipitation is 39 inches (99.06 cm)
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
Minimum average January temperatue is 24 °F and the mean maximum July temperatue is 88 °F.
Elevation varies from approximately 900 to 980 feet.
Geology and Soils:
The prairie sites are underlain by a clay deposit on the north end of the ridge. The clay deposits may represent a portion of the Duquesne member of Pennsylvanian age. Soils in the surrounding woods are Westmoreland-Guernsey and Guernsey silt loames, derived from underlying sandstones and shales.
Aquatic Features:

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Southern Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau (221E)
East Hocking Plateau (221Ed)
Landtype Association(s):
Dry mesic lower hillslopes, <30% slope;
Dry mesic lower hillslopes, >30% slope;
Dry xeric upper hillslopes, <30% slope;
Dry xeric upper hillslopes, >30% slope;
Fertil Uplands, more northerly,
Infertil Uplands, more southerly,
Less fertile bottomlands, southerly,
Mesic lower hillslopes, >35% slope,
Mesic lower hillslopes, <35% slope,
Mesic dry upper hillslopes, >35% slope,
Mesic dry upper hillslopes, northerly<35% slope;
very fertile bottomlands, northerly.
Plant Communities:
Scarlet oak, Chestnut oak/ Vaccinium
shagbark hickory, pignut hickory/Polygonatum, Phytolacca
Chestnut oak, scarlet oak/Danthonia/Panicum
Red maple, red oak, white oak/Carex/Bromus
Scarlet oak, chestnut oak, white oak/Lysimachia/Vaccinium
White oak, black cherry, red maple/Poa/Carex
White oak, black oak, sugar maple, red oak/Panicum/Viburnum
White oak, blackoak, black gum
Red oak, sugar maple, American beech/Polygonatum/Galium
White oak, black oak, hickories/Desmodium/Sanicula/Galium
Red oak, sugar maple, American beech/Scutellaria/Carex
White oak, yellow poplar, blue beech sugar maple/Smilax/Viburnum
White oak, green ash, yellow buckeye, American beech, basswood, sycamore
northern prairie, xeric
SAF Cover Types (list acres) Kuchler Types (list acres):
Black oak, scarlet oak, hickory (13.4)  
Prairie (0.27)  
Common Shrub Species
In woodland (Vaccinium sp., Viburnum sp.); In prairie (Ceanothus americanus, Rosa carolina)
Common Herbaceous Species:
In woodland (Galium sp., Sanicula sp., Panicum sp.,); In prairie (Andropogon gerardii, Eryngium yuccifolium, Liatris sp.)
Common Mammal Species
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
Common Bird Species
Wild turkey, ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), field sparrow, Eastern bluebird.

Related Reports and Publications

McClenahen, J.R. and D.B. Houston.. 1997. Research Report: Comparative Forest Age Structure on Two Calcareous Clay Soil Sites within the Buffalo Beats RNA. Contracted by The Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Wayne National Forest

Wistendahl, W.A. 1975. Buffalo Beats, a relict prairie within a southeastern Ohio forest. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 102:178-186.

Wendell, G.W. and Willard Ralph. 1973. Establishment Record for the Buffalo Beats Research Natural Area within the Wayne National Forest, Athens County, Ohio. (pdf) Unpublished report on file at the Northern Research Station, Rhinelander. 74 pp with appendices.

Last Modified: August 19, 2021