Short in height but high in the sky

These trees may be high in elevation, but short in height.

Bluffs and ridges protect some of the trees on Brockway Mountain, but Lake Superior’s winds stunt trees and other shrubs on the mountain’s treeline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Without shelter from the wind, trees common to the Michigan Nature Association’s James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary, including sugar maples and aspen, don’t reach full height. The effect is very much like conditions in the Rocky Mountains.

Scattered growth and stunted trees are a result of fierce Lake Superior winds.

In the subalpine environment of the Rocky Mountains, this gathering of low growing trees at the tree line is known as krummholz. Strong winds destroy any branches not sheltered by windbreaks. Trees may only grow as high as the rocks that shelter them or the height of snow cover in the winter, and subsequent growth proceeds in a horizontal direction because environmental conditions do not suit upward growth.

Want to see the Keweenaw Peninsula’s own version of krummholz?

Join MNA for its annual Fall Adventure Sept. 10-12 and you might see examples when a group of members explore James Dorian Rooks Memorial Sanctuary or when the tour group views the peninsula from Brockway Mountain Drive.

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