Plant Communities of the Northwoods

Along the Isabella River, BWCAW

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


Plant Communities Index

Alder Thicket

  • The Alder/Willow Wetland, about 2.5% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • Slow moving subsurface water with dense, nearly impenetrable cover of tall shrubs
  • Signature Species


  • The Sphagnum/Black Spruce Bog, about 2% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • Shallow open water, floating mats of vegetation, and waterlogged peat
  • Signature Species

Bog Forest

  • The Black Spruce and Tamarack Bog Forests, about 9.5% of the BWCAW by area
  • Advanced succession bog capable of supporting trees
  • Signature Species
  • Sub-types
    • Black Spruce Bog Forest
    • Tamarack Bog Forest
    • Sphagnum/Black Spruce Forest

Boreal Forest

  • The Spruce/Fir Forest, about 20% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • The cool moist circumpolar spruce/fir forest of the north
  • Signature Species
  • Sub-types
    • Black Spruce/Feathermoss Forest
    • Fir/Birch Forest
    • Upland White Cedar Forest

Marsh and Open Muskeg

  • About 4.5% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • Signature Species
    • Arrowhead, Sagittaria spp
    • Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor
    • Cattail, Typha spp.
  • Sub-types
    • Marsh
    • Muskeg

Lichen and Rock

  • About 3.5% of the BWCAW by surface area

Mixed Hardwood Forest

  • About 14.5% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • The northern edge of the climax deciduous forest of eastern North America
  • Signature Species
    • Basswood, Tilia americana
    • Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis (absent from BWCA)
    • Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum
    • Yellow Birch, Betula allegenensis (rare in BWCA)
  • Sub-types
    • Maple/Aspen/Birch
    • Maple/Aspen/Birch/Fir
    • Maple/Oak

Pine Woods

Surface Waters and Margins

  • Generally small, slow moving, shallow, and muddy bottomed
  • Shores support marsh or bog communities
  • Signature Species

Second Growth Forest

  • About 23% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • The northern forest subsequent to logging or other disruption
  • Signature Species

Cedar Swamp

  • The Mixed Conifer Swamp Forest, only about .5% of the BWCAW by surface area
  • Dense forest with subsurface water
  • Signature Species
  • Sub-types
    • Mixed Conifer/Cedar Swamp Forest
    • Black Ash/Elm Swamp Forest

Boreal border

Lowland Plant Communities Upland Plant Communities

Boreal border

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Last updated on 2 April, 2002