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Wisconsin/Michigan Pine Barrens

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About the Wisconsin/Michigan Pine Barrens

The Wisconsin/Michigan Pine Barrens are a region in northeastern Wisconsin and the more inland portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

This region is underlain by bedrock of granite, quartize, and iron-rich formations. This bedrock lies near the surface and is often exposed in knobs extending as much as 300 feet above their surroundings. Atop the bedrock is glacial outwash and moraines. The soils here are variable; glacial moraines have deep soils ranging from loamy to excessively-drained sands, and outwash plains have excessively-drained sands, whereas other areas have shallow sands over bedrock. This region has a humid continental climate, mostly far enough from the Great Lakes as to have minimal lake moderation, although the far east of this region experiences a slight moderation of temperatures from the presence of Lake Michigan; the presence of Lake Superior leads the north of this region to have somewhat higher snowfall.

This region originally had a mix of closed-canopy forest and open pine barrens, with a few open wetlands and wet meadows. The tree species here were transitional between more southern and northern species. This region has two distinct types of barrens, one on deep, excessively drained sands on outwash plains, and the other due to thin soil over bedrock on the exposed knobs. Thin soils over bedrock supported trees including eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), red pine (Pinus resinosa), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and northern red oak (Quercus rubra), large-tooth aspen (Populus grandidentata), and jack pine (Pinus banksiana), with some white oak (Quercus alba) in the south.

Areas of deep loamy soils on moraines supported northern hardwoods with sugar maple and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis); American beech (Fagus grandifolia) was common on such sites in the south but declines in the north as it approaches its range limit. The south of this region featured some more southerly species including bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), white oak, and rock elm (Ulmus thomasii).

Sandy outwash plains supported open barrens of jack pine and jack oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis). Low depressions in the outwash plains supported bogs and wet meadows.

This area has been logged and the forest composition has changed considerably. Fire suppression has resulted in a decline of open pine barrens and an increase in closed-canopy forest. Forests now mostly consist of second-growth of aspen and birch, with some jack pine. Historically, this region was used for iron mining, but the mines have all been abandoned. Currently, the forests here are used for pulp production. This region is mostly sparsely populated, but it contains the micropolitan area including Iron Mountain, MI, Kingsford, MI, and Norway, MI, and some smaller towns. There is some protected land here, in Spread Eagle Barrens State Natural Area in Wisconsin.

This region is bordered to the east and northeast by the Menominee Drumlins and Ground Moraine, an area where well-drained drumlins alternate with poorly-drained depressions. To the north is a small border with the Winegar Dead Ice Moraine, a region with numerous kettle ponds. There is a large border to the west with the Brule and Paint River Drumlins. To the south, this region borders the Green Bay Till and Lacustrine Plain.

Plant Lists & In-Region Search

We do not yet have data to generate plant lists for a region as fine-tuned as this one. However you can move up to the broader Northern Lakes and Forests and generate lists for that region: native plants or all plants. Or search that region's plants here:


1. Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A. "Michigan: Level III and IV Ecoregion Descriptions / Mapping Issues", US EPA (2007) Web.

2. Albert, Dennis A. "Regional landscape ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin: a working map and classification.", General Technical Report NC-178, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN (1995) Web.