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

Pine Relict

State Rank: S2     Global Rank: G4   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

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

Pine relicts are pine-dominated conifer forests that occur as discrete, isolated stands in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin. Most of these dry "relicts" are associated with sandstone or dolomite bluffs. The bedrock may outcrop as cliffs or ledges or underlie a thin layer of soil. The vegetation surrounding the conifer-clad bluffs is more typical of southern Wisconsin, including hardwood forests, remnant prairies and savannas, and lands used for various agricultural purposes. The dominant trees of the "relicts" may be eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), red pine (Pinus resinosa) or, less commonly, jack pine (Pinus banksiana). The pines sometimes occur in almost pure stands but are often mixed with hardwoods. The groundlayer is sometimes strongly reminiscent of those found in the pine forests of northern Wisconsin, in the heart of our northern pineries. Representative understory plants include ericaceous shrubs such as blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), and herbs or sub-shrubs such as wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate), partridge-berry (Mitchella repens), and moccasin flower (Cypripedium acaule). These species of generally northern distributions are often mixed with familiar herbs of the southern Wisconsin's oak forests, savannas, and 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 Pine Relict 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.

Eastern Whip-poor-willAntrostomus vociferus3
Yellow-throated WarblerSetophaga dominica3
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Worm-eating WarblerHelmitheros vermivorum2
Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescens1
Cerulean WarblerSetophaga cerulea1
Red-headed WoodpeckerMelanerpes erythrocephalus1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Grizzly Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus punctulatus3
Black-striped KatydidScudderia fasciata2
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Leafhoppers and true bugsScore
A Seed BugSlaterobius quadristriata1

Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus1
Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis1

Gray RatsnakePantherophis spiloides3
Timber RattlesnakeCrotalus horridus3
GophersnakePituophis catenifer2

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
Agalinis gattingeri Roundstem Foxglove 2
Aristida dichotoma Shinners' Three-awned Grass 2
Carex albicans var. albicans Dry Woods Sedge 2
Platanthera hookeri Hooker's Orchid 2
Rhododendron lapponicum Lapland Azalea 2
Thaspium trifoliatum var. flavum Purple Meadow Parsnip 1


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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
Western Coulee and RidgesMajor
Southwest SavannaImportant
Central Sand PlainsPresent

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 Pine Relict in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.

Southwest Savanna

The known sites in this Ecological Landscape occur on private lands.

Western Coulee and Ridges

Examples occur at Pine Glen within Devils Lake State Park (Sauk County), Snow Bottoms State Natural Area (Grant County), Governor Dodge State Park (Iowa County), and Ridgeway Pines State Natural Area (Iowa County).


Pine Relict Photos

Pine Relict Photo

Mature forest of white and red pines, white and red oaks in Driftless Area. Coldwater Canyon in Dells of the Wisconsin River SNA.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Pine Relict Photo

Red pine relict, mouth of Lemonweir River, Juneau County.

Photo by Eric Epstein.

Pine Relict Photo

Pine Relict and sandstone cliff along the Kickapoo River. Vernon County.

Photo by  staff.

Pine Relict Photo

Pine relict on dry cliff.

Photo by Thomas Meyer.

Pine Relict Photo

Pine Relict on St. Peter Sandstone at Snow Bottom SNA

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