Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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Natural Communities
Keyword: Bog


Click on community name for photo gallery.

Bog relict
These boggy, acidic, weakly minerotrophic peatlands occur south of the Tension Zone within a matrix of "southern" vegetation. Bog relicts are isolated from the more extensive, better-developed and much more widespread stands of this community found in the northern part of the state. Acidophiles present can include sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp), sedges (e.g., few seeded sedge, Carex oligosperma), ericaceous shrubs, and insectivorous herbs. Tamarack (Larix laricina) is usually the most common tree and poison-sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is often formidably abundant in the understory, especially in the moat (or "lagg") at the upland/wetland interface. Examples in southeastern Wisconsin are all somewhat alkaline and may resemble "shrub-fen" communities described in other states.

Boreal rich fen
Neutral to alkaline cold open peatlands of northern Wisconsin through which carbonate-rich groundwater percolates. Sphagnum mosses are absent or of relatively minor importance, as calciphilic species (especially the “brown” mosses) predominate. Dominant/characteristic plants include woolly sedge (Carex lasiocarpa), twig rush (Cladium mariscoides), beaked bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta), rushes (Juncus spp.), and Hudson Bay cotton-grass (Scirpus hudsonianus). Shrubby phases also occur, with bog birch (Betula pumila), sage willow (Salix candida), and speckled alder (Alnus incana) present in significant amounts.

Central poor fen


Lake--hard bog


Lake--soft bog


Muskeg
Muskegs are cold, acidic, sparsely wooded northern peatlands with composition similar to the Open Bogs (Sphagnum spp. Mosses, Carex spp., and ericaceous shrubs), but with scattered stunted trees of black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina). Plant diversity is typically low, but the community is important for a number of boreal bird and butterfly species, some of which are quite specialized and not found in other communities.

Northern poor fen
This acidic, weakly minerotrophic peatland type is similar to the Open Bog, but can be differentiated by higher Ph, nutrient availability, and floristics. Sphagnum (Sphagnum spp.) mosses are common but don’t typically occur in deep layers with pronounced hummocks. Floristic diversity is higher than in the Open Bog and may include white beak-rush(Rhynchospora alba), pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea), sundews (Drosera spp.), pod grass (Scheuchzeria palustris), and the pink-flowered orchids (Calopogon tuberosus, Pogonia ophioglossoides and Arethusa bulbosa). Common sedges are (Carex oligosperma, C. limosa, C. lasiocarpa, C. chordorrhiza), and cotton-grasses (Eriophorum spp.).

Open bog
These non-forested bogs are acidic, low nutrient, northern Wisconsin peatlands dominated by Sphagnum spp. Mosses that occur in deep layers, often with pronounced hummocks and hollows. Also present are a few narrow-leaved sedge species such as (Carex oligosperma and C. pauciflora), cotton-grasses (Eriophorum spp.), and ericaceous shrubs, especially bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), and small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus). Plant diversity is very low but includes characteristic and distinctive specialists. Trees are absent or achieve very low cover values as this community is closely related to and intergrades with Muskeg. When this community occurs in southern Wisconsin, it is often referred to as a Bog Relict.

Patterned peatland
Very rare in Wisconsin, this wetland type can be characterized as a herb- and shrub-dominated minerotrophic peatland with alternating moss and sedge-dominated peat ridges (strings) and saturated and inundated hollows (flarks). These are oriented parallel to the contours of a slope and perpendicular to the flow of groundwater. Within a patterned peatland the peat “landforms” differ significantly in nutrient availability and Ph. The flora may be quite diverse and includes many sedges of bogs and fens, along with ericads, sundews, orchids, arrow-grasses (Triglochin spp.), and calciphilic shrubs such as bog birch (Betula pumila) and shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa).

Shore fen
This open peatland community occurs primarily along Great Lakes shorelines, especially near the mouths of estuarine streams. Along Lake Superior most stands are separated from the lake waters by a sand spit. The floating sedge mat is composed mostly of woolly sedge (Carex lasiocarpa); co-dominants are sweet gale (Myrica gale) and bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata). The following herbs are common in this diverse, circumneutral, nutrient-rich community: twigrush (Cladium mariscoides), marsh horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), a spikerush (Eleocharis elliptica), intermediate bladderwort (Utricularia intermedia), marsh bellflower (Campanula aparinoides), narrow-leaved willow-herb (Epilobium leptophyllum), water-parsnip (Sium suave), and bog willow (Salix pedicellaris). Coastal fens are distinguished from open bogs and poor fens (which may adjoin them in the same wetland complex) by the lack of Sphagnum spp. Mosses, higher Ph, and direct hydrologic connection to the Great Lakes. They are distinguished from rich fens by the absence of indicator species such as linear-leaved sundew (Drosera linearis), grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia glauca), false asphodel (Tofiedia glutinosa) and a spikerush (Eleocharis rostellata).


Offsite resources:
Virginia Kline's collection of the Vegetation of Wisconsin
Michigan Natural Features Inventory Community descriptions

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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