- Related links
- Printable version
- Contact information
- For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
- Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Assistant Ecologist
State Rank: S2 Global Rank: G2?
General natural community overview
Black oak (Quercus velutina) is often the dominant tree in this fire-adapted savanna community of xeric sites, but white oak (Quercus alba), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), and occasionally red oak (Quercus rubra), may also be present. Common understory species include lead plant (Amorpha canescens), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), round-headed bush-clover (Lespedeza procumbens), goat's rue (Tephrosia virginiana), June grass (Koeleria macrantha), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense), false Solomon's-seals (Smilacina racemosa and S. stellata), spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis), and wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). Some of the oak barrens remnants also contain patches of heath- like vegetation in addition to the prairie understory, with bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) locally common or even dominant. Distribution of this community is mostly in southwestern, central and west central Wisconsin.
The pine barrens and oak barrens communities described by Curtis (1959) share many similarities. In general, prairie species are better represented in the more oak-dominated barrens to the south, and pines and some of their characteristic associates are more prominent in the north. However, jack pine is an important component of some of Wisconsin's southernmost barrens occurrences (e.g., Gotham Jack Pines on the Wisconsin River in Richland County), and both red pine savanna and jack pine barrens were described in the Public Land Survey notes for Juneau County. Frequent fires can reduce the oaks to short, multi-stemmed "grubs", and result in the elimination of scattered large oaks that were formerly important in and characteristic of some areas.
Barrens communities occur on several landforms, especially outwash plains, lakeplains, and on the broad sandy terraces that flank some of the major rivers of southern Wisconsin. Soils are usually excessively well-drained sands, though thin-soiled, droughty sites over bedrock can also support this community. Similar communities include Pine Barrens, Oak Opening (drier sites), Sand Prairie, Southern Dry Forest, Central Sands Pine - Oak Forest, and Bedrock Glade.
Species of Greatest Conservation Need
The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the Oak Barrens natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.
Scores: 3 = significantly associated, 2 = moderately associated, and 1 = minimally associated.
|Ants, wasps, and bees||Score|
|American Bumble Bee||Bombus pensylvanicus||1|
|Confusing Bumble Bee||Bombus perplexus||1|
|Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumble Bee||Bombus insularis||1|
|Yellow Bumble Bee||Bombus fervidus||1|
|Aquatic and terrestrial snails||Score|
|Wing Snaggletooth||Gastrocopta procera||1|
|A Leaf Beetle||Distigmoptera impennata||3|
|A Pear-shaped Weevil||Sayapion segnipes||3|
|Ghost Tiger Beetle||Ellipsoptera lepida||3|
|Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle||Cicindela patruela patruela||3|
|A Leaf Beetle||Pachybrachis luridus||2|
|A Pear-shaped Weevil||Trichapion perforicolle||2|
|A Leaf Beetle||Pachybrachis peccans||1|
|A Leaf Beetle||Cryptocephalus venustus||1|
|A Leaf Beetle||Glyptina leptosoma||1|
|A Pear-shaped Weevil||Fallapion impeditum||1|
|Common Nighthawk||Chordeiles minor||3|
|Eastern Whip-poor-will||Antrostomus vociferus||3|
|Lark Sparrow||Chondestes grammacus||3|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||Tympanuchus phasianellus||3|
|Vesper Sparrow||Pooecetes gramineus||3|
|Brewer's Blackbird||Euphagus cyanocephalus||2|
|Grasshopper Sparrow||Ammodramus savannarum||2|
|Loggerhead Shrike||Lanius ludovicianus||2|
|Red-headed Woodpecker||Melanerpes erythrocephalus||2|
|Upland Sandpiper||Bartramia longicauda||2|
|Western Meadowlark||Sturnella neglecta||2|
|American Woodcock||Scolopax minor||1|
|Long-eared Owl||Asio otus||1|
|Olive-sided Flycatcher||Contopus cooperi||1|
|Yellow-breasted Chat||Icteria virens||1|
|Butterflies and moths||Score|
|Doll's Merolonche||Acronicta dolli||3|
|Frosted Elfin||Callophrys irus||3|
|Karner Blue||Lycaeides melissa samuelis||3|
|Mottled Dusky Wing||Erynnis martialis||3|
|Persius Dusky Wing||Erynnis persius||3|
|Phlox Moth||Schinia indiana||3|
|Cobweb Skipper||Hesperia metea||2|
|Cross Line Skipper||Polites origenes||2|
|Dusted Skipper||Atrytonopsis hianna||2|
|Gorgone Checker Spot||Chlosyne gorgone||2|
|Owl-eyed Bird Dropping Moth||Cerma cora||2|
|Sprague's Pygarctica||Pygarctia spraguei||2|
|Bina Flower Moth||Schinia bina||1|
|Chryxus Arctic||Oeneis chryxus||1|
|Phyllira Tiger Moth||Grammia phyllira||1|
|Silphium Borer Moth||Papaipema silphii||1|
|Grasshoppers and allies||Score|
|Mermiria Grasshopper||Mermiria bivittata||3|
|Stone's Locust||Melanoplus stonei||3|
|A Spur-throat Grasshopper||Melanoplus foedus||2|
|Ash-brown Grasshopper||Trachyrhachys kiowa||2|
|Blue-legged Grasshopper||Melanoplus flavidus||2|
|Green-streak Grasshopper||Hesperotettix viridis||2|
|Huckleberry Spur-throat Grasshopper||Melanoplus fasciatus||2|
|Plains Yellow-winged Grasshopper||Arphia simplex||2|
|Scudder's Short-winged Grasshopper||Melanoplus scudderi||2|
|Speckled Rangeland Grasshopper||Arphia conspersa||2|
|Clear-winged Grasshopper||Camnula pellucida||1|
|Club-horned Grasshopper||Aeropedellus clavatus||1|
|Forest Locust||Melanoplus islandicus||1|
|Gladston's Spur-throat Grasshopper||Melanoplus gladstoni||1|
|Obscure Grasshopper||Opeia obscura||1|
|Rocky Mountain Sprinkled Locust||Chloealtis abdominalis||1|
|Short-winged Grasshopper||Dichromorpha viridis||1|
|Spotted-winged Grasshopper||Orphulella pelidna||1|
|Leafhoppers and true bugs||Score|
|A Leafhopper||Laevicephalus vannus||3|
|A Leafhopper||Paraphlepsius maculosus||3|
|A Leafhopper||Prairiana kansana||3|
|Prairie Leafhopper||Polyamia dilata||2|
|An Issid Planthopper||Bruchomorpha extensa||1|
|Franklin's Ground Squirrel||Poliocitellus franklinii||3|
|Northern Long-eared Bat||Myotis septentrionalis||2|
|Prairie Deer Mouse||Peromyscus maniculatus bairdii||2|
|Prairie Vole||Microtus ochrogaster||2|
|Big Brown Bat||Eptesicus fuscus||1|
|Eastern Pipistrelle||Perimyotis subflavus||1|
|Little Brown Bat||Myotis lucifugus||1|
|Woodland Vole||Microtus pinetorum||1|
|Blanding's Turtle||Emydoidea blandingii||3|
|Eastern Massasauga||Sistrurus catenatus||3|
|Prairie Skink||Plestiodon septentrionalis||3|
|Six-lined Racerunner||Aspidoscelis sexlineata||3|
|Slender Glass Lizard||Ophisaurus attenuatus||3|
|Wood Turtle||Glyptemys insculpta||3|
|North American Racer||Coluber constrictor||2|
|Prairie Ring-necked Snake||Diadophis punctatus arnyi||2|
|Western Ribbonsnake||Thamnophis proximus||2|
|Gray Ratsnake||Pantherophis spiloides||1|
|Ornate Box Turtle||Terrapene ornata||1|
|Plains Gartersnake||Thamnophis radix||1|
Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.
The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.
|Scientific Name||Common Name||Score|
|Agalinis gattingeri||Roundstem Foxglove||2|
|Agalinis skinneriana||Pale False Foxglove||3|
|Asclepias lanuginosa||Woolly Milkweed||3|
|Asclepias ovalifolia||Dwarf Milkweed||3|
|Baptisia tinctoria||Yellow Wild-indigo||3|
|Boechera missouriensis||Missouri Rock-cress||3|
|Commelina erecta var. deamiana||Narrow-leaved Dayflower||2|
|Juncus marginatus||Grassleaf Rush||2|
|Liatris punctata var. nebraskana||Dotted Blazing Star||1|
|Opuntia fragilis||Brittle Prickly-pear||2|
|Packera plattensis||Prairie Ragwort||2|
|Phemeranthus rugospermus||Prairie Fame-flower||2|
|Piptatheropsis canadensis||Canada Mountain Ricegrass||2|
|Polytaenia nuttallii||Prairie Parsley||2|
|Vaccinium pallidum||Blue Ridge Blueberry||3|
|Viola sagittata var. ovata||Sand Violet||3|
The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Oak Barrens, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.
|Central Sand Plains||Major|
|Western Coulee and Ridges||Major|
|Central Sand Hills||Important|
Major (3 on map)
A major opportunity for sustaining the natural community in the Ecological Landscape exists, either because many significant occurrences of the natural community have been recorded in the landscape or major restoration activities are likely to be successful maintaining the community's composition, structure, and ecological function over a longer period of time.
Important (2 on map)
Although the natural community does not occur extensively or commonly in the Ecological Landscape, one to several occurrences do occur and are important in sustaining the community in the state. In some cases, important opportunities may exist because the natural community may be restricted to just one or a few Ecological Landscapes within the state and there may be a lack of opportunities elsewhere.
Present (1 on map)
The natural community occurs in the Ecological Landscape, but better management opportunities appear to exist in other parts of the state.
What are conservation actions?
Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.
The following are additional considerations for Oak Barrens in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.
Central Sand Hills
Oak barrens are not well represented in this Ecological Landscape, but there are good opportunities for restoration at small to medium scales. Opportunities occur at Rocky Run Savanna State Natural Area (Columbia County) Lawrence Creek State Natural Area (Adams and Marquette Counties), and Emmons Creek State Fishery Area (Portage County).
Central Sand Plains
The large public land base in the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape can be used to accomplish barrens restoration and management objectives. Opportunities to develop partnerships with private groups should be explored and fostered. Restoration and management efforts are underway at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (Juneau County), Bauer-Brockway Barrens (Jackson County Forest), Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area (Adams County), and Sandhill State Wildlife Area (Wood County). There are legitimate restoration opportunities on the Black River State Forest (Jackson County).
Western Coulee and Ridges
Excellent examples of oak barrens occur at Fort McCoy Military Reservation (Monroe County). There are some distinctive and important occurrences of barrens (that include jack pine) on the broad terraces bordering some of the major rivers in the Ecological Landscape, e.g., North Bend Bottoms State Wildlife Area (Jackson County), Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge (Trempealeau County), and Nine Mile Island Savanna (Pepin County). Additional survey work is warranted on some of the major river terraces, especially the Black.
Oak Barrens Photos
This mixed oak and pine barrens has been restored through the use of mechanical brush and tree removal and prescribed burning. The scattered trees provide habitat for species such as Red-headed Woodpecker, Orchard Oriole, and Eastern Bluebird. Several invertebrates associated with barrens benefit from the filtered shade of the remaining trees.
Note: photos are provided to illustrate various examples of natural community types. A single photograph cannot represent the range of variability inherent in a given community type. Some of these photos explicitly illustrate unusual and distinctive community variants. The community photo galleries are a work in progress that we will expand and improve in the future.