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


State Rank: S4     Global Rank: G4G5   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

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

Muskegs, also called treed bogs, are cold, acidic, sparsely wooded northern peatlands with composition similar to open bogs (mosses, sedges, and ericaceous shrubs), but with scattered stunted trees of black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina). Plant diversity is typically low, but the community is important for a number of boreal bird and butterfly species, some of which are quite specialized and not found in other communities.

Defining Characteristics and Similar Communities

Muskegs are defined as acidic northern peatlands having generally 10-25% cover of trees, usually stunted black spruce and tamarack. They are similar to open bogs but can be distinguished as having more than 10% cover of trees. Muskegs often grade into black spruce swamps, which have over 25% cover of trees.

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 Muskeg 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 septentrionalis3
Pickerel FrogLithobates palustris2

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
Frigid Bumble BeeBombus frigidus2
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1

A Minute Moss BeetleHydraena angulicollis1

American BitternBotaurus lentiginosus2
American Black DuckAnas rubripes2
Olive-sided FlycatcherContopus cooperi2
Ruby-crowned KingletRegulus calendula2
Rusty BlackbirdEuphagus carolinus2
Whooping CraneGrus americana2
Yellow RailCoturnicops noveboracensis2
Black-backed WoodpeckerPicoides arcticus1
Connecticut WarblerOporornis agilis1
Gray JayPerisoreus canadensis1
Henslow's SparrowAmmodramus henslowii1
Sharp-tailed GrouseTympanuchus phasianellus1
Spruce GrouseFalcipennis canadensis1

Butterflies and mothsScore
Arctic FritillaryBoloria chariclea3
Midwestern Fen BuckmothHemileuca nevadensis ssp. 31

Dragonflies and damselfliesScore
Forcipate EmeraldSomatochlora forcipata3
Subarctic DarnerAeshna subarctica3
Zigzag DarnerAeshna sitchensis3
Incurvate EmeraldSomatochlora incurvata2
Ringed BoghaunterWilliamsonia lintneri2
Sphagnum SpriteNehalennia gracilis2

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

Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus2
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus1
Eastern PipistrellePerimyotis subflavus1
Water ShrewSorex palustris1
Woodland Jumping MouseNapaeozapus insignis1

Eastern MassasaugaSistrurus catenatus3
Eastern RibbonsnakeThamnophis sauritus3

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
Pseudevernia consocians Common Antler Lichen 3


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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
North Central ForestMajor
Northern HighlandMajor
Forest TransitionImportant
Northwest LowlandsImportant
Northwest SandsImportant
Superior Coastal PlainImportant
Northeast SandsPresent

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


Muskeg Photos

Muskeg Photo

Black spruce dominated muskeg with well developed hummocks and heath layer. Flambeau River State Forest.

Photo by Andrew Galvin.

Muskeg Photo

Vegetation sampling plot with Joan Elias, Jim Meeker, and Eric Epstein. Muskeg in Bad River Reservation, Ashland County.

Photo by Emmet Judziewicz.

Muskeg Photo

Muskeg, Iron County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Muskeg Photo

Large acid peatland complex around Black Lake on the WI-MN border. Community mosaic includes muskeg, poor fen, N sedge meadow, black spruce swamp.

Photo by Emmet Judziewicz.

Muskeg Photo

Muskeg with stunted tamarack, black spruce, and white pine over dense ericacous shrubs, Sphagnum, and cotton-grass.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor.

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