Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of amethyst shooting star © Thomas Meyer

Limestone cliffs provide habitat for a diversity of rock-dwelling plants, including the rare amethyst shooting star.
© Thomas Meyer

April 2011

Wisconsin, naturally

Wyalusing Hardwood Forest State Natural Area

Notable: Wyalusing Hardwood Forest occupies the top and steep, rugged flanks of a wooded bluff just east of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. Four major southern Wisconsin forest types illustrate UW-Madison ecologist John Curtis' concept of a vegetation continuum. Wet-mesic forest dominated by silver maple and hackberry occupies the river floodplain. Upslope areas grade seamlessly from mesic, to dry-mesic, to dry forest; each forest type changing in floristic composition with variations in elevation, microclimate, and soils. Rocky ravines and dramatic limestone cliffs provide habitat for a diversity of rock-dwelling plants, including the rare amethyst shooting star, found in Wisconsin only in the Driftless Area. In 1966, the site was dedicated to Professor Curtis, a driving force behind the creation and early success of the State Natural Areas Program, the first of its kind in the nation.

How to get there: Within Wyalusing State Park, Grant County. Obtain a park map at the park contact station upon entry and paying the park admission fee. Although the park's Sand Cave Trail approaches to within one quarter mile of the natural area's western boundary, there are no trails to or within the natural area itself. Use a map and compass or GPS to access the site. Visit Wyalusing Hardwood Forest for maps and more information.