Trees of the Northwoods

  • Article

    If you can't see the the forest for the trees, neither can you see the trees for the forest. As one looks out at the forest around Star Lake, it tends to look changeless. However, when I try to observe details, I do see a number of changes:

    The trees have gotten taller. I have a clear, if informal, measure of this. In front of North Star Lodge is a stand of about ten virgin white pines. If we sat on my cabin porch from which I cannot see those trees, I would likely tell you that they are much taller than the surrounding second growth forest. But that is no longer true. In fact, the second growth is gradually reaching the same heights. My boyhood memories provide me a clear benchmark. As a boy in my early teens, riding around the lake in my little outboard boat, I could see the tall pines of the lodge from the south bay of the lake--looking over the peninsula. Today you cannot. Not even close. The pines have not shrunk, the surrounding second growth has grown.

    Open spaces are filling in. Again, boyhood memory helps. I clearly remember fields where we could often count six to a dozen deer as we took evening drives. I remember other fields where we picked blueberries and raspberries. Many of those fields are now woods. Open spaces, that are not maintained open by human activity, are gradually filling it with woods.

    The white birch (technically they are paper birch, but everybody calls them white birch) are disappearing. We have long thought of them as the distinctive tree of the northwoods. Summer and winter the white bark adds beauty and contract to the forest. The trouble is, the birch are a result of the fires which following the massive logging in the region. They are reaching the end of their lifespan, and they are not being replaced by nature. Your grandchildren, if not your children, will not think of white tree trunks as distinctive of the northwoods!

    Two things are certain: in forests change is slow (except for loggers and forest fire), but certain. It is very difficult to imagine what the Star Lake woods will be like in the mid to late 21st century.

    I make those comments just to introduce the subject of Trees of the Northwoods. The intention of this section is to add a subtopic for each tree group or species--as there is something to say about that species. Anyone who would like to contribute information about any tree species local to Vilas County, is welcome to do so. Contact: webmaster@starlake.org.

    Charles P. Forbes
    February 20, 2010
  • Bibliography

    Comprehensive References

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    Major References

    Carpenter, Anita, Coneucopia, Wisconsin Natural Resources, Vol. 31, #6, Dec. 2007, p. 2 ff., Madison, 2007. View Full Entry
    Carpenter, Anita, Standing Out from the Crowd, White Birch, Wisconsin Natural Resources, 27:6, December 2003, pp. 2 & 29., Madison, 2003. View Full Entry
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    Evrard and Spoerl, Versatile Aspen, Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin, 38:5, Sept-Oct 1973, pp. 11-14., Madison, 1973. View Full Entry
    Grimm, William, Comprehensive Field Guide to More than 250 Trees of Eastern North America, Harrisburg, PA, 1983. View Full Entry
    Keeler, Harriet, Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them, New York, 1931. View Full Entry
    Knudsen, George, Eastern Hemlock, Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin, 37:4, July-Aug 1972, p. 31., Madison, 1972. View Full Entry
    Little, Charles, Dying of the Trees, New York, 1995. View Full Entry
    Little and Honkala, Trees and Shrubs of the United States, A Bibliography for Identification, USDA Forest Service, Misc. Pub. No. 1336, Washington, 1976. View Full Entry
    Ogburn, Charlton, Birch Trees Are the Graces of Our Wild Forests, Smithsonian, V.5 #9 Dec 1977 p.72, Washington, 1977. View Full Entry
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    Wilson, Fred G., Forest Trees of Wisconsin, 1972 (Pub. 507-72, DO818);1977 (Pub. 2-2400(77); 1990 (PUBL-FR-053 90REV); 2006 (PUB-FR-053 2006) editions, Madison, 2006. View Full Entry
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    Minor References

    Dentice, Dana, Tree City USA Communities, 2011, Wisconsin Urban and Community Forests, Vol. 20, #1, Spring/Summer 2012, Madison, 2012. View Full Entry
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