Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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Natural Communities
Keyword: Southern Lowland Forest


Click on community name for photo gallery.

Floodplain forest
This is a lowland hardwood forest community that occurs along large rivers, usually stream order 3 or higher, that flood periodically. The best-development occurs along large rivers in southern Wisconsin, but this community is also found in the north. Canopy dominants may include silver maple (Acer saccharinum), river birch (Betula nigra), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), and cottonwood (Populus deltoides). Northern stands are often species poor, but balsam-poplar (Populus balsamifera), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), and box elder (Acer negundo) may replace some of the missing “southern” trees. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis is a locally dominant shrub and may form dense thickets on the margins of oxbow lakes, sloughs and ponds within the forest. Nettles (Laportea canadensis and Urtica dioica), sedges, ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and gray-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) are important understory herbs, and lianas such as Virginia creepers (Parthenocissus spp.), grapes (Vitis spp.), Canada moonseed (Menispermum canadense), and poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans are often common. Among the striking and characteristic herbs of this community are cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and green dragon (Arisaema dracontium).

Forested seep
These are shaded seepage areas with active spring discharges in (usually) hardwood forests that may host a number of uncommon to rare species. The overstory dominant is frequently black ash (Fraxinus nigra), but yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis), American elm (Ulmus americana) and many other tree species may be present including conifers such as hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) or white pine (Pinus strobus). Understory species include skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), water-pennywort (Hydrocotyle americana), marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata), swamp saxifrage (Saxifraga pennsylvanica), golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum), golden ragwort (Senecio aureus), silvery spleenwort (Athyrium thelypterioides) and the rare sedges (Carex scabrata and C. prasina). Most documented occurrences are in the Driftless Area, or locally along major rivers flanked by steep bluffs.

Southern hardwood swamp
This is a deciduous forested wetland community type found in insular basins with seasonally high water tables. It is best developed in glaciated southeastern Wisconsin. The dominant trees are red maple (Acer rubrum), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), and formerly, American elm (Ulmus americana). The exotic reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is often dominant in the understory. This Natural Heritage Inventory community partly includes the Southern Wet-Mesic Forest of the Curtis classification.


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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