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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


Coniferous bogs are similar to open bogs in plant community composition and structure except that mature trees (dbh greater than 6 inches) of black spruce and/or tamarack are the dominant species growing on the sphagnum moss mat. Sphagnum moss is the dominant groundlayer species. Sedges, orchids, and pitcher plants that have endured the shaded conditions are often present, along with the heath family (Ericaceae) shrubs.

Black spruce and the heath family shrubs are characteristic only of acid peats such as those associated with sphagnum moss mats, whereas tamarack can grow in calcareous peats as well, such as those of northern white cedar swamps.

A coniferous bog

VEGETATION: This coniferous bog is dominated by tamarack (Larix laricina), black spruce (Picea mariana), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), tussock cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and a carpet of sphagnum moss (Sphagnum magellanicum). Other species present include small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia), bog sedge (Carex oligosperma), tawny cottongrass (Eriophorum virginicum), sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.) and wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus). This photograph was taken in October when the tamarack had turned golden yellow and was about to shed its needles.

SOILS: Fibric peat (Histosols), acid. Landscape position is a kettle bog located in rolling, glacial till.

HYDROLOGY: Primarily direct precipitation (rainfall and snowmelt). Peat soils are typically saturated to the surface throughout the growing season.

LOCATION: Washburn County, Wisconsin.


Black Spruce (Picea mariana (Miller) BSP)
Tamarack (Larix laricina (DuRoi) K. Koch)
Swamp Birch (Betula pumila L.)

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