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For information on Wisconsin's natural communities, contact:
Ryan O'Connor
Natural Heritage Inventory Ecologist

Moist Sandy Meadow

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


General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Moist Sandy Meadow in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

Moist sandy meadows are herb-dominated assemblages on moist sandy soils in central Wisconsin. Available descriptive information is currently very limited. Stand size is generally small, seldom, if ever, more than a few acres. The flora consists of a mixture of plant species typically found in wet prairie, sedge meadow, coastal plain marsh, and pine or oak barrens communities. No one group of associates is clearly dominant. Past human disturbance is evident in some examples, but native species are prevalent. Due to a high water table, stands are subject to periodic inundation for short periods of time in the spring and after heavy rain events. This dynamic appears to be at least partially responsible for maintaining the type, but periodic fire, mowing, and browsing may also be important factors.

Defining Characteristics and Similar Communities

Moist sandy meadow is distinctive in its typically anthropogenic origins (e.g., disturbed sites such as ditches, borrow pits, logging trails) and mix of prairie, fen, sedge meadow, and sometimes barrens species. Moist sandy meadows may be similar to coastal plain marshes or inland beaches but are generally not adjacent to seepage lakes, have little standing water, and do not have the strong vegetation zonation typical of these other communities. The nutrient-poor, sandy soils set this community apart from other similar types like wet prairie (found on loam, silt loam, or silty clay loam) and sedge meadow (associated with organic [peat] soils). Moist sandy meadows also may have a barrens flora component, which is lacking in wet prairies.

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 Moist Sandy Meadow 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.

Blanchard's Cricket FrogAcris blanchardi3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris3
Four-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatum2

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1

Aquatic and terrestrial snailsScore
Eastern Flat-whorlPlanogyra asteriscus1

American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus2
BobolinkDolichonyx oryzivorus2
Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus2
Common NighthawkChordeiles minor2
Eastern MeadowlarkSturnella magna2
Greater Prairie-ChickenTympanuchus cupido2
King RailRallus elegans2
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus2
Whooping CraneGrus americana2
American WoodcockScolopax minor1
Black TernChlidonias niger1
Black-necked StiltHimantopus mexicanus1
Forster's TernSterna forsteri1
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Delicate Meadow KatydidOrchelimum delicatum1
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A LeafhopperLimotettix pseudosphagneticus1

Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus3
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus3
Eastern PipistrellePerimyotis subflavus2
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Water ShrewSorex palustris2
Prairie Deer MousePeromyscus maniculatus bairdii1
Prairie VoleMicrotus ochrogaster1

Butler's GartersnakeThamnophis butleri3
Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
QueensnakeRegina septemvittata3
Western RibbonsnakeThamnophis proximus3
Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii2
Plains GartersnakeThamnophis radix2
Wood TurtleGlyptemys insculpta2
Prairie SkinkPlestiodon septentrionalis1

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
Bartonia paniculata Twining Screwstem 3
Carex straminea Straw Sedge 2
Eleocharis flavescens var. olivacea Capitate Spike-rush 3
Juncus marginatus Grassleaf Rush 3
Piptatheropsis canadensis Canada Mountain Ricegrass 2
Platanthera flava var. herbiola Pale Green Orchid 1
Scleria triglomerata Whip Nutrush 3
Symphyotrichum robynsianum Robyns' Aster 3


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Moist Sandy Meadow, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
Central Sand HillsImportant
Central Sand PlainsImportant
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


Moist Sandy Meadow Photos

Moist Sandy Meadow Photo

Moist sandy meadow at high water due to groundwater flooding in an an ancient dune hollow adjacent to the Wisconsin River, dominated by Spiraea alba and Calamagrotis canadensis.

Photo by Janeen Ruby.

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: Wednesday, June 16, 2021