A BWCA Glossary


Pagami
A lake and creek.  "It comes to pass" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Painter
On a boat, the small loop of rope at the bow.
Pakween
A lake.  "There is smoke" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Palmate
Leaves divided into lobes arising from a common center, like the fingers of a hand.  From the Latin, palma, "palm." The leaves of the Maples (Acer spp.) are palmate.
Pangi
A lake.  "A little" in the Ojibwe language of the region.
Panicle
A much-branched inflorescence (flower structure) in which the central axis (main stem) bears flowering branches which are themselves branched again; a compound raceme.
Parasitic
A type of symbiosis where two (or more) organisms from different species live in close proximity to one another, in which one member depends on another for its nutrients, protection, and/or other life functions. The dependent member (the parasite) benefits from the relationship while the other one (the host) is harmed by it.
Passerine
A collective term for the songbirds or perching birds.  From the Latin, passer, "sparrow," hence the sparrow-like birds, as distinct from waterfowl, or raptors.

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Peat
Generally, unconsolidated plant material primarily consisting of undecomposed, or only slightly decomposed, organic matter accumulated under water-soaked conditions. More specifically, a layer of organic material containing plant residues that may show little, if any, morphological change and that have accumulated as a result of submergence in water or through being in a very wet environment.  One of the basic building blocks of the Canoe Country ecosystem.
Peavey
Stout wooden lever, fitted with a strong, sharp spike used for rolling logs. See also Cant Hook.
Pekan
1) Another name for the large northern weasel, the Fisher (Martes pennanti) once trapped extensively for its rich, silver-tipped fur; sold as sable.  One of the few predators of the porcupine.  From the Abnaki (Eastern Algonkin) pekeneOtchig or akâkwidjish in the Ojibwe. 2) A lake
Pelagial Zone
In lakes, the deep water zone where vegetation no longer grows on the bottom.  The complement of the shallow Littoral Zone.
Peltate
Leaves which are shaped like a shield and attached to the stem at or near the center. From the Greek, pelta (pelta), "target." 
Perch
Any of the fishes of the family Percidae.  Represented in the BWCA by the nearly ubiquitous Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), the Sauger (Stizostedion canadense), and the Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum).  From the Greek perke (perke), and Latin perca, an ancient name for a common spiny-finned European fish.  Applied by extension to related species.
Peregrine
The largest, and rarest, of the Boundary Waters falcons (Falco peregrinus).  From the Latin peregrinus, "foreigner," which has come into English as pilgrim.  So named by medieval falconers because the birds were taken, not as young from the nest, but in migration, en pelerinage.
Perennial
A plant that grows for 3 or more years and usually flowers each year.  The vast majority of North Country plants are perennial.  From the Latin, perennis, "through;" and annus, "a year." 
Perfoliate
A botanical term for opposite or whorled leaves or bracts that are united into a collarlike structure around the stem that bears them. From the Latin, per, "through;" and folium, "a leaf."
Pericarp
 The fruit wall which has developed from the ovary wall; sometimes used for any fruit covering. From the Greek, peri (peri), "around;" and karpos (karpos), "fruit."
Perseids Meteor Shower
An annual celestial lightshow emanating from the constellation Perseus, and the most active of the recurring meteor showers, reaching its peak in mid August (8th-15th).  It can make for quite a show on a clear August night in the wilderness, far away from the lights of civilisation.  Hope for clear skys.
Petiole
The stem of a leaf.
pH
A measure of the hydrogen-ion activity in a solution, expressed as the negative log10 of hydrogen ion concentration on a scale of 0 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly basic) with a pH of 7 being neutral. 
Phenology
The science of the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena, such as the fruiting of plants or color change of leaves.  Produces species calendars showing typical dates for typical events (bud open, flower open, leaf drop) in a given locale.
Photosynthesis
The chemical process through which light energy, water, and carbon dioxide are converted to carbohydrate and oxygen in the presence of chlorophyll. Occurs in plants, algæ, cyanobacteria, and lichens. 
Phreatophyte
A plant whose roots generally extend downward to the water table which customarily feeds on the capillary fringe. Phreatophytes are common in riparian habitats. Term literally means water-loving plants.
Phylum
The second highest taxonomic classification for the kingdom Animalia (animals), between kingdom level and class level.  The phylum Chordata includes all of the "higher" animals, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals while Arthropoda picks up the insects, spiders, and crustaceans.
Phytoplankton
Literally plant plankton, from the Greek, futon (phyton), "plant", and planktos (planktos), "to wander or drift". Generally, 63-153 µm long. 
Pigeon River
The international boundary to the west of Lake Superior, known for its waterfalls which created the need for the Grand Portage. Known as River aux Groseilles to the voyagers
Pike
Any of the fishes of the family Esocidæ.  Represented in the BWCA by a single, but prominent species, the Northern Pike (Esox lucius), typically refered to simply as Northern.  (The Walleye, sometimes erroneously referred to as "Walleyed Pike" is, in fact, a Perch).  The name is short for pike-fish, a reference to the long, pointed snout resembling the pike, an iron tipped staff.  Rather like the French, where brochet is the fish, but broche is a spit.
Pileated
An ornithological term for a bird with a prominent crest, a very good descriptor indeed, for the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), a year round resident of the BWCA.  From the Latin, pilleatus, "capped."
Pillow Structure
The billowy forms created when lava cools and hardens underwater.  A common feature of the Precambrian Ely Greenstone.
Pilose
Hairy; pubescence comprised of scattered long, slender, soft hairs.  From the Latin, pilosus, "hairy." 
Pine
Any of the coniferous evergreen trees of the genus Pinus.  Represented in the North Country by three prominent species, the Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), Red Pine (Pinus resinosa), and the stately White Pine (Pinus strobus).  Also used in reference to the Pine Family Pinaceæ, which includes the pines, spruces, firs, and hemlocks.  From the Latin pinus, "pine tree."
Pine Portage
A Border Route portage of 110 rods, crossing Pine Island, between the Pine River and Clove Lake.
Pinna
A leaflet or a primary division of a compound leaf.  From the Latin, pinna, "feather."
Pinnas or pinnæ
The leafy expanded portion of the fern frond. The blade may be undivided to finely cut, each degree of division having a specific term.  From the Latin, pinna, "feather." 
Pinnate
Divided in a feathery manner; having leaflets on each side of an axis or midrib. Pinnate blades are divided into leaflets (pinnæ), with each leaflet narrowly attached to the central stem (rachis). Blades more divided are designated as bipinnate or tripinnate.  From the Latin, pinnatus, "feathered." 
Pinnatifid
A type of leaf division where the green leafy tissue isn't completely separated from the rachis but rather spreads along it.  From the Latin, pinnatus, "feathered." 
Pinnule
A secondary pinna, one of the ultimate divisions of a bipinnate or twice-pinnate leaf.  From the Latin, pinnula, "small feather, small fin."
Pioneer
Any of those species which are among the first to colonize previously barren areas, such as exposed rock, or recently disturbed areas, such as burns.  Also those plants which lead the process which creates bog and fen from open waters.  Among the most significant pioneers of the North Country are the Reindeer Lichens (Cladonia spp.) on rock, and the sedges, especially Carex lasiocarpa, in wetlands.
Pipestone Falls
A 6' waterfall between Newton Lake and Pipestone Bay, an arm of Basswood.  Bypassed by a 90 rod portage on the eastern bank.
Pipewort
A delicate aquatic herb of shallow waters and waters edge (Eriocaulon septangulare).  Its flower clusters look like white beads, rising above the water's surface.
Pipsissewa
An evergreen forest floor shrublet of the genus Chimaphila.  Represented in the North Country by Chimaphila umbellata.  From the Cree pipsisikweu, "it breaks into small pieces", a reference to its use for the treatment of gall and kidney stones.
Pistil
The seed-bearing, female organ of the flower, consisting of the ovary, stigma, and style when present. From the Latin, pistillum, "pestle." 
Pistillate
A flower bearing a pistil or pistils but not stamens, may refer also to a plant having only pistillate flowers. 
Pixie Cups
A diminutive Northwoods lichen (Cladonia pyxidata) which has the appearance of grey goblets but ½" tall.  Forms large groups on rock and dead wood.
Planimeter
An instrument used to mechanically measure an area by tracing the perimeter on a plane surface.  Typically used to estimate the size of an area from scale maps.
Plankton
Passively floating or weakly swimming plant and animal life in either fresh or marine waters. From the Greek, planktos (planktos), "to wander or drift."
Plover
Compact, thick-necked wading birds of the family Charadriidæ.  Represented in the BWCA by a single species, the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous).  Tchitchwishkiwee in the Ojibwe.
PMA
Primitive Management Area.  A portion of the BWCAW backcountry untraversed by established canoe routes which is opened up by the Forest Service to primitive camping and, of necessity, bushwhacking, on a permit basis.
Podzol
The grey layer of soil underlying acidic humus and largely devoid of minerals due to the leaching from the soil above.  From the Russion, podzol, "wood ash."
Poling
A method of advancing a canoe in extremely shallow, weedy, or mucky waters by using the paddle to push against the bottom.
Polypod
Any of a number of ferns of the family Polypodiaceae and particularly of the genus Polypodium.  Well represented in the North Country by 28 species in 15 genera, including the Common Polypody or Rock Fern (Polypodium virginiana), commonly found growing in large patches on the surface of boulders.  From the Greek, polus (polus), "many", and podion (podion), "foot", from the numerous branches of the rootstalk.
Pondweed
Any of a variety of aquatic plants of the genus Potemageton.  Represented in the North Country by some 20 species; some with floating leaves and others fully submerged.
Poplar
Any of a number of deciduous trees of Salicaceae, the Willow family, and genus Populus.  Represented in the North Country by the Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera), Big Tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata), and the ubiquitous Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides).  Asaadi in the Ojibwe.
Popple
Another name for poplar derived from the word for poplar in the Germanic languages, such as the Swedish poppel, and the German Pappel
Porcupine
A large, dark, arboreal rodent of the North Country (Erethizon dorsatum) .  Most noted for its formidable defensive spines which protect it from most predators, save the fisher and the Chevy.  The quills were used by Native Americans for elaborate decorative work.  From the Middle English porke despyne or porkepyn and the Old French porc espin; literally "spiny pig."  Kâg in the Ojibwe.
Portage
The carrying of boat and equipment overland between navigable waters.  The Grand Portage, which bypassed the rapids and falls of the lower Pigeon River, stretched for 8½ miles.  From the verb porter, "to bear or carry" in the French of the early trappers, explorers, and voyageurs.  Onigam in the Ojibwe.
Portage Wheels
Apparatus attached to boats to allow them to be rolled over portage trails.  Generally used for aluminum fishing boats and motors rather than canoes.
Potable Water
Water of a quality suitable for drinking.  Most waters of the BWCA are potable - you just can't tell by looking, hence filters and water purification tablets.
Pow Wow Trail
A 28 mile hiking trail loop in the area between the Number Lakes and the Isabella. The trail originates at Forest Center (BWCAW Entry Point 86) and makes use of some old logging roads.
Prairie Portage
The Border Route portage (20 rods) between Basswood and Sucker lakes and the site of a popular Canadian Port of Entry.  This direct access to the Quetico goes a long way in explaining the ongoing popularity of the Moose Lake entry point, the busiest in the BWCAW, immediately to the south.
Precambrian
The ancient epoch of geological time (3.5 billion to 600 million years ago), marked in the North Country by the Early Precambrian Keewatin, Laurentian, Knife Lake, and Algoman periods (3.5 to 2.7 billion years ago); the Middle Precambrian Early, Middle, and Late Huronian(Animikean) periods (2.6 to 1.6 billion years ago); and the Late Precambrian Early, Middle, and Late Keweenawan periods (1.6 billion to 600 million years ago).
Primitive Management Area
A portion of the BWCAW backcountry untraversed by established canoe routes which is opened up by the Forest Service to primitive camping and, of necessity, bushwhacking, on a permit basis.  Generally referred to as a "PMA".
Proboscis
The extended mouth parts of some insects, including butterflies and moths, but also biting flies and mosquitos.
Profundal Zone
In lakes, the lake bottom sediments free of vegetation that lie below the deep water Pelagial Zone.
Proleg
An appendage that is not a leg, but that serves the purpose of a leg; specifically, the fleshy, unjointed, ventral abdominal projections of caterpillars and certain sawfly larvæ.
Prothallium
In the reproductive cycle of ferns, a self-sustaining, independent plant, developing out of the growing spore.  Green, heart shaped, ½" or less in diameter, and lying flat upon the ground it little resembles a fern, when noticed at all.  The Prothallium grows Antheridia (male organs) and Archegonia (female organs) on its underside which produce the spermatazoids and eggs that combine and grow into what we think of as a fern.  Also known as Gametophyte
Pubescent
A general term for hairiness, often used to describe the surface of plant stems or leaves.  (Hairy Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum pubescens, for example). From the Latin, pubescere, "to become mature."
Pulp
The wood fibers of trees, ground up for use in the manufacture of paper.  A common use of those North Country trees which are logged but unsuitable, because of their size or species, for use as sawtimber.  A compelling reason to recycle paper.
Pussytoes
Any of several species of low perennial herbs of the genus Antennaria.  Represented in the BWCA by Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) and Plantain Leaf Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia).
 
 
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Last Updated on 17 August, 2004