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.

Volunteer Day: Goose Creek Grasslands – June 27

MNA is offering members social media as a way to connect with other members and to provide a glimpse of MNA Stewardship. This new online element showcases issues of interest concerning stewardship efforts through the eyes of those on the ground.

by Matt Schultz, MNA Western Regional Stewardship Organizer

What happens at a volunteer day at an MNA sanctuary?  A lot!

Volunteers do a lot of stewardship work at MNA sanctuaries. Volunteering is also a good opportunity for community members to learn a few things about a natural area in their neighborhood and help manage preserves.

Volunteers saw pitcher plant in addition to others while working in Goose Creek Grasslands Sanctuary-Photo by Matt Schultz.

A typical volunteer day is a lot like the one held Sunday, June 27 at Goose Creek Grasslands in Lenawee County. Goose Creek is a prairie fen – an alkaline, groundwater-fed wetland that contains many plant and animal species that are uncommon or rare in Michigan.  Fens require active management to ensure that they continue to function properly. One of the most important management elements is to ensure that the prairie fens burn on a regular cycle and that invasive species are kept in check.

This volunteer day focused on controlling two invasive plants that are a big problem in prairie fens: reed canarygrass and glossy buckthorn.

Glossy buckthorn (January 2010 MNA newsletter pages 6-7) is a shrub that invades wetlands, while reed canarygrass prefers wetlands but can also invade uplands.  Like most conservation organizations, MNA relies on the careful use of herbicides to control these invaders. During the volunteer day, Mike Roys and Bruce Hart (who came with a lot of experience working at The Nature Conservancy’s Ives Road Fen), used the cut-and–daub method to attack mature glossy buckthorn. Matt used a backpack sprayer to control young glossy buckthorn and patches of reed canarygrass.

Matt also installed a new sign at the preserve. We would like to thank Consumers Energy for their support.

Grass pink orchid-Photo by Matt Schultz

The volunteer day crew was also treated to some beautiful and characteristic  prairie fen plants, including Kalm’s lobelia, pitcher plant and grass pink orchid.

We also saw the white camas, which was plentiful in the burn unit.

MNA can always use your help at volunteer days!

Check out our schedule of events at

Lake Superior can’t go online, but you can

Bluffs and ridges protect trees from Lake Superior's winds--Photo by Charles Eshbach

The bluffs and ridges of the Michigan Nature Association’s James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary form part of the dry-mesic northern forest that saves other trees and plants from Lake Superior’s turbulent winds.

You can protect trees too! Make our communication with you environmentally friendly and paper free by signing up for MNA’s annual Fall Adventure online at:

Our newsletters are also online at:

Late Lupine


Photo by Theodore Fasing

Some of you may have noticed that the Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary volunteer day has been postponed and are probably wondering why. No, it’s not because of a scheduling error or bad weather. It is in fact because the wild lupine seeds have not developed fully. During the volunteer day, participants will collect wild lupine seeds and scatter them in parts of the sanctuary where lupine is sparse or absent. Since the seeds aren’t ready to be dispersed, the event was postponed.

“The window for collecting lupine seed is pretty small,” said MNA Western Regional Stewardship Organizer, Matt Schultz. “If you pick the pods too early, the seeds will not have finished developing. If you wait too long, the pods will explode and you will have missed your chance to collect them.”

Wild lupine, or sundial, is the larval host to the threatened karner blue butterfly. The karner blue’s larvae feed solely on wild lupine, so it is vital to increase the density of this plant population. The karner blue butterfly is a federally listed endangered species and is a threatened species in Michigan. While the karner blue population was once widespread from Maine to Minnesota, it now only has small populations in a few states due to fire suppression and habitat loss for both the butterfly and the plant.

Lupinus perennis L. is in the bean family (Fabaceae) and is an herbaceous perennial, meaning only part of the plant dies at the end of the growing season. The roots stay alive throughout the rest of the year and the plant grows back every spring. Wild lupine flowers can be blue, pink or white.

Lupine 2

Photo by Theodore Fasing

Wild lupine has always been an important Michigan plant. It was used by the Menomimi Indians in upper Michigan and Wisconsin to feed their horses because they believed it made them “spirited and full of fire.” The Cherokee also used wild lupine as a cold remedy.

The 80 acre Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary also has a unique history.  It is part of what was once Michigan’s 19,000 acre dry sand prairie. Only four percent of Michigan’s sand prairie is now left.

The date of the volunteer day at Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary is still undecided, so keep checking back to the events calendar on our website to see when the event will be held.

  1. USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database. 21 June 2010. <>.