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

Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest

State Rank: S3     Global Rank: G3   what are these ranks?


Detailed Community Description from Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin

General natural community overview

Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database.

This forest community is associated with, but not limited to, the Central Sands Ecological Landscape. Moisture conditions vary from dry to borderline dry-mesic. Soils are coarse-textured, acid sands, on landforms that can include glacial outwash, lakeplain, old dunes, and eroded sandstone-cored ridges. The canopy co-dominants vary, but older, relatively undisturbed stands may include white and red pines (Pinus strobus and P. resinosa), various oaks (Quercus alba, Q. rubra, and Q. velutina), and sometimes red maple (Acer rubrum), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata). The depauperate understory of the drier sites is composed of a small number of vascular plants that usually include huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), early blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), and Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica). Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) is sometimes co-dominant on the driest sites.

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 Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest 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.

Ants, wasps, and beesScore
Confusing Bumble BeeBombus perplexus1
Rusty-patched Bumble BeeBombus affinis1
Yellowbanded Bumble BeeBombus terricola1

Ghost Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera lepida3
A Leaf BeetlePachybrachis luridus1
A Leaf BeetleGlyptina leptosoma1
A Leaf BeetleDistigmoptera impennata1
A Pear-shaped WeevilTrichapion perforicolle1
A Pear-shaped WeevilFallapion impeditum1
A Pear-shaped WeevilSayapion segnipes1

Eastern Whip-poor-willAntrostomus vociferus3
Kirtland's WarblerSetophaga kirtlandii3
Long-eared OwlAsio otus2
Red-headed WoodpeckerMelanerpes erythrocephalus2
American WoodcockScolopax minor1
Brewer's BlackbirdEuphagus cyanocephalus1
Golden-winged WarblerVermivora chrysoptera1
Hooded WarblerSetophaga citrina1
Least FlycatcherEmpidonax minimus1

Butterflies and mothsScore
Frosted ElfinCallophrys irus2
Doll's MeroloncheAcronicta dolli1
Gorgone Checker SpotChlosyne gorgone1
Karner BlueLycaeides melissa samuelis1
Owl-eyed Bird Dropping MothCerma cora1
Sprague's PygarcticaPygarctia spraguei1

Grasshoppers and alliesScore
Blue-legged GrasshopperMelanoplus flavidus2
Stone's LocustMelanoplus stonei2
A Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus foedus1
Ash-brown GrasshopperTrachyrhachys kiowa1
Black-striped KatydidScudderia fasciata1
Clear-winged GrasshopperCamnula pellucida1
Forest LocustMelanoplus islandicus1
Grizzly Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus punctulatus1
Huckleberry Spur-throat GrasshopperMelanoplus fasciatus1
Mermiria GrasshopperMermiria bivittata1
Rocky Mountain Sprinkled LocustChloealtis abdominalis1
Scudder's Short-winged GrasshopperMelanoplus scudderi1
Short-winged GrasshopperDichromorpha viridis1
Showy GrasshopperHesperotettix speciosus1
Speckled Rangeland GrasshopperArphia conspersa1
Spotted-winged GrasshopperOrphulella pelidna1

Northern Long-eared BatMyotis septentrionalis3
Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus2
Silver-haired BatLasionycteris noctivagans2
Woodland VoleMicrotus pinetorum2
Little Brown BatMyotis lucifugus1
Northern Flying SquirrelGlaucomys sabrinus1

Ornate Box TurtleTerrapene ornata3
GophersnakePituophis catenifer2
Prairie Ring-necked SnakeDiadophis punctatus arnyi2

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
Asclepias lanuginosa Woolly Milkweed 2
Carex cumulata Clustered Sedge 3
Carex gracilescens Slender Sedge 1
Carex straminea Straw Sedge 2
Juncus marginatus Grassleaf Rush 2
Piptatheropsis canadensis Canada Mountain Ricegrass 2
Pseudognaphalium micradenium Catfoot 3
Scleria triglomerata Whip Nutrush 1
Symphyotrichum dumosum var. strictior Bushy Aster 1
Vaccinium pallidum Blue Ridge Blueberry 2
Viola sagittata var. ovata Sand Violet 3


The following Ecological Landscapes have the best opportunities to manage for Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest, based on the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin Handbook.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological LandscapeOpportunity
Central Sand HillsMajor
Central Sand PlainsMajor
Northeast SandsPresent
Northwest LowlandsPresent

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 Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest in Ecological Landscapes with opportunities for protection, restoration, and/or management. For more information, see the Wildlife Action Plan.

Central Sand Hills

Occurrences of this type are found at Emmons Creek State Fishery Area (Portage County), Hartman Creek State Park (Portage and Waupaca Counties), and Standing Rocks County Park (Portage County). Additional field inventory is desirable in parts of this Ecological Landscape.

Central Sand Plains

This Ecological Landscape is the best place to maintain large forest blocks for this type, and to implement the other conservation actions (e.g., encourage species and structural diversity, achieve balanced age-class distributions) because of the abundance of the type and the large public ownership. Fragmentation is a particular problem in some parts of this Ecological Landscape, due to residential development and road construction. Areas near the Wisconsin River were the first of the historic pineries to be logged during the Cutover. White pine forests are now regenerating in the Central Sand Plains, but are still considerably younger and smaller than the original "pineries". A proportion of these white pine forests could be allowed to age and develop structural characteristics approximating those of the historic forest, to allow study of their habitat value. Important sites include the Overmeyer Hills complex, an extensive area of dry forest on sandstone ridges within the Black River State Forest (Jackson County), Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area (Adams County), Mirror Lake State Park (Sauk County), and Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area (Columbia County). Efforts should be made to maintain or enhance connectivity among large forested areas, including state, county and industrial forests.


Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest Photos

Central Sands Pine-Oak Forest Photo

Central sands pine-oak forest north of Coldwater Canyon, Adams 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: Wednesday, June 16, 2021