Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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Natural Communities
Keyword: Northern Upland Forest


Click on community name for photo gallery.

Mesic cedar forest
This is a rare upland forest community of mesic sites in northern Wisconsin, characterized by white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and various associates including hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), white spruce (Abies balsamea), yellow birch (Betula alleghanensis), and white pine (Pinus strobus). The herb layer may contain canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), clubmosses (Lycopodium spp.), and others. More information is needed on this community type.

Northern dry forest
This forest community occurs on nutrient-poor sites with excessively drained sandy or rocky soils. The primary historic disturbance regime was catastrophic fire at intervals of decades to approximately a century. Dominant trees of mature stands include jack and red pines (Pinus banksiana and P. resinosa) and/or Hill's oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) . Large acreages of this forest type were cut and burned during the catastrophic logging of the late 19th and early 20th century. Much of this land was then colonized by white birch (Betula papyrifera) and/or quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides, or converted to pine plantations starting in the 1920s. Common understory shrubs are hazelnuts (Corylus spp.), early blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium and brambles(Rubus spp.); common herbs include bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinium), starflower (Trientalis borealis), barren-strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare), trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), and members of the shinleaf family (Chimaphila umbellata, Pyrola spp.). Vast acreages of open "barrens" were also planted to pine, or naturally succeeded to densely stocked “dry” forests.

Northern dry-mesic forest
In this forest community, mature stands are dominated by white and red pines (Pinus strobus and P. resinosa), sometimes mixed with red oak (Quercus rubra) and red maple (Acer rubrum). Common understory shrubs are hazelnuts (Corylus spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), partridge-berry (Mitchella repens); among the dominant herbs are wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), and cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare). Stands usually occur on sandy loams, sands or sometimes rocky soils.

Northern mesic forest
This forest complex covered the largest acreage of any Wisconsin vegetation type prior to European settlement. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is dominant or co-dominant in most stands, while hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) was the second most important species, sometimes occurring in nearly pure stands with white pine (Pinus strobus). Beech (Fagus grandifolia) can be a co-dominant with sugar maple in the counties near Lake Michigan. Other important tree species were yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis), basswood (Tilia americana), and white ash (Fraxinus americana). The groundlayer varies from sparse and species poor (especially in hemlock stands) with woodferns (especially Dryopteris intermedia), bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis), clubmosses (Lycopodium spp.), and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) prevalent, to lush and species-rich with fine spring ephemeral displays. After old-growth stands were cut, trees such as quaking and bigtoothed aspens (Populus tremuloides and P. grandidentata), white birch (Betula papyrifera), and red maple (Acer rubrum) became and still are important in many second-growth Northern Mesic Forests. Several distinct associations within this complex warrant recognition as communities, and draft abstracts of these are currently undergoing review.


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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