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The soils of the state


Dune and lakes in Michigan
Dune and lakes in Michigan

The soils of the state fall into two broad groups, sandy spodosols and loamy alfisols. Spodosols, which typically develop under coniferous forest, are generally found in the northern two-thirds of Michigan. They tend to be acidic and have thin, dark surface layers and a leached, nearly white subsurface layer. Nutrients valuable to plants have been leached, or carried away, by water. These soils are interspersed with loamy soils and large muck areas, often supporting agriculture. The western half of the Upper Peninsula, especially in the Superior Uplands, is dominated by loamy and sandy soils, often only thinly covering the underlying bedrock. The loamy alfisols in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula include thick, dark surface layers and farmed areas of muck that developed under a natural cover of hardwood forest and swamp vegetation.

Plants of Michigan


Until the late 1800s, Michigan was almost entirely forested. The state’s forests were made up of a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees. In the southern hardwood area, oak, maple, hickory, beech, basswood, elm, soft maple, and ash were dominant. The forests also supplied an abundant source of edible fruits, nuts, and berries, consumed by both animals and the early Native American inhabitants. The forests and swamps had luxuriant growths of wildflowers, interspersed with numerous types of ferns and mosses. Tracts of the original forest still remain, such as a large stand found in Hartwick Pines State Park in the north central part of the Lower Peninsula. Michigan’s extensive reforestation program began in 1899, when the state forestry commission was established.

Forested areas now cover 53 percent of the state, two-thirds of which is owned by private interests. The rest is under state and federal ownership. A number of types of trees and plants are on a list of threatened or endangered species because of disease or disturbance of their natural habitat. Trees include swamp or black cottonwood and American chestnut. The butternut is on a special concern list. Wildflowers include the prairie fringed orchid, dwarf lake iris, pitcher’s thistle, Houghton’s goldenrod, Michigan monkey flower, smaller whorled pagonia, and hart’s-tongue fern. Wild ginseng is currently rare in Michigan due to overharvesting, and is on the threatened species list.

Animals life


The black bear is frequently seen in northern Michigan, especially in the Keweenaw Peninsula. In Lake Superior, Isle Royale has one of the few remaining herds of great antlered moose and a small gray wolf population. There are also controlled herds of elk in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula. Deer are abundant in many parts of the state. Among other mammals are porcupines, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, weasels, opossums, and bobcats. Most of the species that provided the base for the fur trade still exist in the state. These include the beaver, otter, muskrat, mink, raccoon, red fox, and badger. Michigan’s wide variety of fish and birds yearly attracts thousands of hunters and fishing enthusiasts to the state. The principal birds are the partridge, quail, grouse, pheasant, wild turkey, and wild geese and ducks. Fish include bass, perch, crappie, pike, trout, salmon, and smelts. "Michigan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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