Porcupine Mountains Photo Essay
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Porcupine Mountains Photo Essay
The largest remaining old-
growth and hardwood forest in
the Midwest is here in the
Porcupine Mountains of
Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The ridges of this area create
a shady, moist microclimate
with milder windstorms and
fewer wildfires, and the steep
rugged slopes also spared the
hemlocks, sugar maples and
yellow birches from the loggers
According to the interpretive
signs, some of the trees along
the Presque Isle River are
more than four centuries old!
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Our family has a traditional
day hike in the Porcupine
Mountains Wilderness State
Park each summer. We walk
alongside the Presque Isle
River, which cuts northward
through the U.P. and
empties into the south shore
of Lake Superior, about a
half mile downstream of this
According to the park’s
interpretive signs, the local
Ojibwa named these falls
after the powerful spirit god,
The ancient uplifted basalt is transformed by the river’s power, and this
is a beautiful and even scary sight to behold. See the fractures in the
rock? In some places they almost look like a stonecutter’s measured
and precise work.
Some years the river has been very low, others, incredibly high, fast and roaring.
It’s neat to compare the water volume from year to year, depending on the rainfall
in the weeks preceding. I think I’d like to dig up earlier year’s photos and compare
this side by side.
The Presque Isle River, viewed from a
bridge just before it reaches Lake
Superior. These holes are formed by
rocks swirling and scouring over time.
Now that’s a hot tub design.
Eastern hemlock trees abound in this forest. These photos show:
how they thrive even when clinging and leaning over the river; their
adorable tiny cones; some new growth on a bough.
A huge yellow birch, another of the main
species in this old-growth forest. Inset, a
close-up of the bark, which I think is very
beautiful. It’s quite different from the way it
looks on a younger tree, but I’ll have to get a
photo of a young one next year!
Look at those holes! Caused by a pileated woodpecker?
Were they homes for various birds and other animals
during this tree’s life? I’m not sure, but they sure look cool.
Also, the inset photo shows how fallen trees become a part
of new growth regenerating. In the Olympic Forest in
Washington State, these are called nursery trees, which
helps to illustrate the important role they play in helping
nurture new trees from their own decay.
Check out this tree’s base. It probably started out as
a seedling nestled on a fallen tree. Slowly, it grew
in, on and then around the old tree. Its roots grew
around and down to the ground, and remain even
after the nursery tree finally decomposed and
disappeared into the soil below.
“These leaves look sort of maple-y, don’t they?” That’s
what I would have said before this class, but of course,
now I know the correct terms, which sure helped me
confirm that they belong to a Mountain Maple, or Moose
Check out this description from an Audubon guide:
“Leaves: opposite, with 3 or 5 short broad lobes, coarsely
saw-toothed; 3 or 5 main veins from base; light green and
becoming hairless above, hairy beneath, turning bright red
and orange in autumn.”
Yep, just as I would have said it!
Is this a vertical split in the tree from
sap getting trapped on a winter day? I
think this is a huge sugar maple tree, so
that would make sense.
Hmmm… brightly colored fungus. Do
mushrooms use color as a warning
also? I am not tempted to find out.
There’s something so beautiful
about ferns. I love the variety in this
forest, and tried to take enough
photos to identify them later. I saw
that these were two species here,
so I put both into the frame for
better comparison later.
I used my hand to convey scale, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I
really could have used a fern book, which I still don’t have. However, a great
website, www.ontarioferns.com, taught me how to approach their
First, vocabulary, of course! The frond is anything above the root. On the
blade, look to see how much more the fern divides. Some are only once-
divided, some are twice-divided, some are thrice-divided. This is crucial,
and my photos usually had enough detail to determine this.
Also important, but I didn’t record: the undersides of the frond leaflets, in
order to see the spori, which hold the spores. Oh well, I may have had
enough for some good guesses: On the right, a Bracken Fern, I think:
Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculumcken. On the left, possibly an
Intermediate Wood Fern: Dryopteris intermedia.
I’m not sure about this fern. Its fronds are twice-divided, and my
best guess is that it is a Long Beech Fern (Phegopteris connectilus).
I also think it’s what was covering the forest floor in some areas.
The fronds of this fern are
once-divided, and it’s pretty
unique, a Senstivie Fern
I need help identifying this one. Any ideas?
Reminded me of honeysuckle, but no flowers
were present. Smooth edged, opposite leaves
with pinnate veins. A bush sized-plant growing
along a stream edge in a shady forest. And
the berries, of course! There were only a very
few of these.