Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mid-Michigan Habitats - Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamp

A Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamp

The Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamp is a type of wetland forest found in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It is also found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, the northeastern United States and the eastern Canadian provinces.  Mid-Michigan is on the southern edge of the range for this habitat.

Like those trees that live in Floodplain Forests, trees that live in Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamps have to be able to survive having their roots saturated with water.  Because the trees do not have to search deep for water and the saturated soils have very little oxygen, they often have very shallow root systems.  This shallow root system means that windstorms often topple large and small trees.  Many trees are short-lived in this habitat and dead standing timber is often present.

Standing and windthrown North White Cedars, Black Ash, and Skunk Cabbage
Dead standing timber
The Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamp community has a collection of trees that is similar to to those found in Floodplain Forests that occur further south in Michigan.  However, southern species such as Northern Catalpa, Sycamore, and Eastern Cottonwood are replaced by northern species such as White Pine, Northern White Cedar, and Eastern Hemlock.  The hardwood species are often dominant and sometimes exclude the conifers entirely.  The floor of Northern Hardwood-Conifer Swamps is often bare of plants because seasonal flooding prevents the growth of many plants.  Some wetland plants do thrive here and elevated areas can have a diverse collection of grasses, ferns, and herbaceous plants.

Selected Canopy Trees

Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

American Basswood (Tilia americana)

White Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Selected Wildflowers

Cut-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)

Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Mad-dog Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis)

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Spotted Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Swamp Lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata)

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