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Rockhouses

Rockhouses are types of cliff communities that have a prominent cave-like recess which undercuts an overhanging rock ledge or cliff. They form primarily at the heads of ravines along clifflines on the northern Cumberland Plateau. Rockhouses differ from the adjacent and usually shaded cliff face communities in that they are very dark, have higher humidity levels, do not receive direct rainfall, and usually have a thick sand floor. The lip of the cliff above the rockhouse receives direct precipitation and runoff from adjacent slopes which may drip or pour down the face of the cliff in rainy weather. The rockhouse portion of the cliff is that portion behind this "drip line." Frequently small wetland communities are found at the entrance to rockhouses below the drip line but conditions inside the rockhouse, though humid, are not wet. Historically rockhouses have served as important sites for both Native Americans and early settlers. Several vascular plant species are endemic to rockhouses of the northern Cumberland Plateau and many are threatened by trampling or by artifact hunters.

SOUTHWESTERN APPALACHIANS

CUMBERLAND PLATEAU ECOREGION

CENTRAL APPALACHIANS

CUMBERLAND MOUNTAIN THRUSTBLOCK ECOREGION