Level Up

Dermosols [DE]


Soils with structured B2 horizons and lacking strong texture contrast between A and B horizons. Although there is some diversity within the order, it brings together a range of soils with some important properties in common.

Distribution of Dermosols in Australia.
Soil Profile (View type example photo of Red Dermosol).


Soils other than Vertosols, Hydrosols, Calcarosols and Ferrosols which:

  1. Have B2 horizons with structure more developed than weak1 throughout the major part of the horizon, and
  2. Do not have clear or abrupt textural B horizons.


Some clayey soils in the arid zone which are relatively high in salt tend to have strong, fine blocky structure. It may be difficult to decide if they are Vertosols or Dermosols because of an apparent lack of cracking and slickensides or lenticular structure. The use of shrinkage measurements such as those discussed under vertic properties will help to resolve this situation.



The upper 0.5 m of the B2 horizon is used as the diagnostic section for colour in Dermosols, Ferrosols and Kandosols because of the often indistinct A-B horizon boundaries in these soils compared with those in Chromosols, Kurosols and Sodosols. Of the Dermosols classified, 73% were Red or Brown in the upper B2 horizon.

Great Groups

It is thought that the great group classes listed below will be appropriate for most of the various colour suborders, although yellow and grey forms are relatively uncommon.


The calcareous classes above approximately correspond to those of Wetherby and Oades (1975) as follows: Hypocalcic - Class IV, Lithocalcic - Class III B and III C, Supracalcic - Class III B, Hypercalcic - Class III A, Calcic - Class I and IIIA. In the Lithocalcic and Supracalcic classes the coarse fragments may be >0.2 m in size and soft carbonate may or may not be present.

Of the profiles classified, the Eutrophic class (40%) was the most common great group. The Duric and Pedaric soils are virtually confined to the arid zone, the former being particularly widespread in Western Australia and the latter in western Queensland and New South Wales, and in South Australia.


It is thought that the following subgroups will cater for most situations, although obviously some will not be relevant for particular great groups.


In some dystrophic Dermosols there can be a problem with the definition of Sodic subgroups because of their low base status. (See ESP). No provision is made for Acidic subgroups for soils with melacic horizons as these are most likely to always have acid B2 horizons. Similarly, Acidic subgroups are unlikely to be required for the Dystrophic great groups as most such soils will be acid, whereas the Eutrophic great groups are unlikely to be acid. A number of classes are not mutually exclusive, thus many Vertic subgroups are probably also Sodic or Bleached-Sodic. It is not possible to cater for all such combinations. Of the profiles classified to date, about one third are Haplic, indicating a possible need for further subdivision.

Family Criteria

A1 horizon thickness

Thin [A] : < 0.1 m
Medium [B] : 0.1 - < 0.3 m
Thick [C] : 0.3 - 0.6 m
Very thick [D] : > 0.6 m

Gravel of the surface and A1 horizon

Non-gravelly [E] : < 2%
Slightly gravelly [F] : 2 - < 10%
Gravelly [G] : 10 - < 20%
Moderately gravelly [H] : 20 - 50%
Very gravelly [I] : > 50%

A1 horizon texture

Peaty [J] : See Peaty horizon
Sandy [K] : S-LS-CS (up to 10% clay)
Loamy [L] : SL-L (10-20% clay)
Clay loamy [M] : SCL-CL (20-35% clay)
Silty [N] : ZL-ZCL (25-35% clay and silt 25% or more)
Clayey [O] : LC - MC - HC (greater than 35% clay)

B horizon maximum texture2

Sandy [K] : S-LS-CS (up to 10% clay)
Loamy [L] : SL-L (10-20% clay)
Clay loamy [M] : SCL-CL (20-35% clay)
Silty [N] : ZL-ZCL (25-35% clay and silt 25% or more)
Clayey [O] : LC - MC - HC (greater than 35% clay)

Soil depth

Very shallow [T] : < 0.25 m
Shallow [U] : 0.25 - < 0.5 m
Moderate [V] : 0.5 - < 1.0 m
Deep [W] : 1.0 - < 1.5 m
Very deep [X] : 1.5 - 5 m
Giant [Y] : > 5 m

1 It is common experience that pedologists are inclined to use the phrase 'weak to moderate' when they are in doubt as to the grade of structure. If such a designation is used it will result in the soil being classed as a Dermosol.

2 This refers to the most clayey field texture category.

[ AN ] [ OR ] [ PO ] [ VE ] [ HY ] [ KU ] [ SO ] [ CH ] [ CA ] [ FE ] [ DE ] [ KA ] [ RU ] [ TE ]