Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Ecologist

Patterned Peatland

State Rank: S1     Global Rank: GNR   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Patterned Peatland in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

Very rare in Wisconsin, this wetland type can be characterized as an herb- and shrub-dominated minerotrophic peatland with alternating moss and sedge-dominated peat ridges (strings) and saturated and inundated hollows (flarks) that are oriented parallel to the contours of a slope and perpendicular to the flow of groundwater. Within a patterned peatland the strings and flarks differ significantly in nutrient availability and pH. Strings are influenced by acidifying Sphagnum mosses and flarks by more calcareous surface or groundwater. The flora may be quite diverse with strings supporting scattered and stunted black spruce, tamarack, northern white-cedar, low shrubs including bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla) and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), and sedges (Carex oligosperma, C. limosa, C. lasiocarpa). The alternating flarks are often inundated and may support many sedges of bogs and fens, along with ericads, sundews (Drosera spp.), orchids, arrow-grasses (Triglochin spp.), and calciphilic shrubs such as bog birch (Betula pumila) and shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa).

Defining Characteristics and Similar Communities

Patterned peatlands are extremely rare--there are only three documented sites in the state. Patterned peatlands contain elements of more common peatlands such as poor fens or boreal rich fens (especially in the inundated flarks) and open bogs (especially in the low ridge-like strings), but these other peatlands lack the alternating series of flarks and strings. This patterning can sometimes be difficult to discern on the ground but is usually apparent in an aerial photo.

Rare animals

Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

The following Species of Greatest Conservation Need are listed according to their level of association with the Patterned Peatland natural community type, based on the findings in Wisconsin's 2015 Wildlife Action Plan.

Scores: 3 = high association, 2 = moderate association, and 1 = low association. See the key to association scores for complete definitions.

Four-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatum3
Mink FrogLithobates septentrionalis2
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris1

Rusty BlackbirdEuphagus carolinus2
American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus1
American WoodcockScolopax minor1
Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera1
Ruby-crowned KingletRegulus calendula1

Butterflies and mothsScore
Midwestern Fen BuckmothHemileuca nevadensis ssp. 31

Dragonflies and damselfliesScore
Forcipate EmeraldSomatochlora forcipata3
Incurvate EmeraldSomatochlora incurvata3
Zigzag DarnerAeshna sitchensis3
Ringed BoghaunterWilliamsonia lintneri2
Sphagnum SpriteNehalennia gracilis2
Subarctic DarnerAeshna subarctica1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Crackling Forest GrasshopperTrimerotropis verruculata1
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus2
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus2
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Tricolored BatPerimyotis subflavus1
Water ShrewSorex palustris1
Woodland Jumping MouseNapaeozapus insignis1

Eastern RibbonsnakeThamnophis sauritus3
Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii1
Plains GartersnakeThamnophis radix1
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta1

Please see Section 2. Approach and Methods of the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Rare plants

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.

Scores: 3 = "significantly associated," 2 = "moderately associated," and 1 = "minimally associated."
Scientific Name Common Name Score
Drosera linearis Linear-leaved Sundew 2
Eleocharis quinqueflora Few-flowered Spike-rush 1


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Patterned Peatland, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
North Central ForestImportant
Northern HighlandImportant
Southeast Glacial PlainsImportant

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.


Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

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.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for natural communities


Patterned Peatland Photos

Patterned Peatland Photo

Patterned peatland at Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area. Pictured here is an open wetland (flark) on saturated muck and peat with pools of standing water.

Photo by  staff.

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.

Last revised: Tuesday, August 30, 2022