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White Pine-Red Maple Swamp

State Rank: S2     Global Rank: G3G4   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for White Pine-Red Maple Swamp in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

Known occurrences of this forested wetland community are concentrated in and around the bed of extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin in the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape. Stands occur along the upper reaches of low gradient headwaters streams, or as a zone of vegetation at the wetland-upland interface on the margins of the large acid peatlands that are prominent features in central Wisconsin. Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and red maple (Acer rubrum) are the dominant trees, with other species, including yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), and tamarack (Larix laricina) present in lesser amounts. Common understory shrubs are speckled alder (Alnus incana), common winterberry (Ilex verticillata), dewberries (Rubus hispidus and R. pubescens), and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix). Characteristic herbs include skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), gold thread (Coptis trifolia), and two disjuncts from the eastern United States, bog fern (Thelypteris simulata) and long sedge (Carex folliculata). Sphagnum mosses and liverworts are common in some stands, and can form an almost continuous carpet over extensive areas.

Seepages and spring runs are often present swamps, providing important microhabitats for invertebrates, herptiles, and plants. This community occupies a landscape position between wet acid peatlands forested with tamarack and black spruce (Picea mariana), and dry forests composed of mixtures of pines and oaks. Transitions to the upland forests can be abrupt, with a sudden shift in the dominance of understory composition of wetland shrubs, herbs, and mosses, to dominance by bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides), huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), and Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica). Because this community type has characteristics of an ecotone, with spatially variable microsites, high levels of ground cover, connectivity between wetland and upland communities, and uncommon structural features as compared with the surrounding landscape, it supports an unusual mix of faunal species with high conservation value (e.g., Red-shouldered Hawk, amphibians, reptiles, and many species of neotropical migrant birds).

Defining Characteristics and Similar Communities

White pine-red maple swamps are forested wetlands characterized by moderately acidic soils and canopy dominated by white pine over a subcanopy of red maple. In Wisconsin, they are mostly restricted to the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape. They may occur adjacent to northern tamarack swamps, but tamarack is not dominant in the white pine-red maple swamp. They sometimes contain springy areas or areas with groundwater seepage but are distinguished from forested seeps by their larger size and the fact that they are embedded in large wetland complexes in the Central Sands Plains as opposed to being small and embedded in upland forests mostly in the Driftless Area.

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 White Pine-Red Maple Swamp 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.

Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris2

A Predaceous Diving BeetleHydrocolus persimilis2
A Water Scavenger BeetleHydrochara leechi2

Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera2
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Northern GoshawkAccipiter gentilis2
American WoodcockScolopax minor1
Least FlycatcherEmpidonax minimus1
Red-shouldered HawkButeo lineatus1
Rusty BlackbirdEuphagus carolinus1

Dragonflies and damselfliesScore
Swamp DarnerEpiaeschna heros2
Incurvate EmeraldSomatochlora incurvata1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Bog ConeheadNeoconocephalus lyristes1
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus2
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Water ShrewSorex palustris1

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


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for White Pine-Red Maple Swamp, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
Central Sand PlainsMajor
Western Coulee and RidgesImportant

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


The following are additional considerations for White Pine-Red Maple Swamp in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.

Central Sand Plains

A majority of the older, intact occurrences of this type have been documented in the Central Sand Plains, making this Ecological Landscape the best place to maintain and potentially increase this type. Examples include Jay Creek Pines State Natural Area, Robinson Creek Pines State Natural Area, and Ketchum Creek Headwaters State Natural Area, all in eastern Jackson County.

Western Coulee and Ridges

A few examples have been documented in the east central part of the Ecological Landscape, in the immediate vicinity of Fort McCoy Military Reservation (Monroe County).


White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photos

White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photo

White pine-red maple swamp, a rare wet-mesic forest with a highly localized distribution. Older, larger, less disturbed stands support several species of high conservation concern.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photo

Seepages and spring runs provide import micro-habitats for rare plants and animals in this rare and unusual natural community. Jay Creek Pines, Black River SF.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photo

White Pine - Red Maple swamp, Ketchum Creek Pines State Natural Area, Jackson County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photo

Ketchum Creek Pines State Natural Area, Jackson County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

White Pine-Red Maple Swamp Photo

White Pine-red Maple Swamp in early spring. Note the skunk cabbage. Soils here are mucks. Black River State Forest, Jackson County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

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