The most productive soils in Indiana are in the most recently glaciated prairie areas of the west central parts of the state. Deep and well-drained, these prairie soils, like those of the Grand Prairie in adjoining Illinois, are exceedingly fertile and intensively farmed. North of the prairie soils are found muck soils, which occur in swamp areas and are fertile when drained. Gray-brown forest soils cover the remainder of northern and central Indiana and also an extensive area of the hill lands in the southern part of he state. Where the land is flat or gently rolling, as in most of central Indiana, the gray-brown forest soils, somewhat acidic, are only slightly less productive than the prairie soils. However, where the soils have been longer subject to leaching of minerals, as in the lighter colored forest or prairie soils of the older glaciated areas of the south, or to severe erosion, as in the unglaciated areas, the soils are lower in fertility.
In the rainy southern areas the soils tend to have a hard pan, or impervious soil layer just below the surface that impedes natural drainage of the land. Crops can be grown on such soils, but the yields per acre are lower than in most other areas of Indiana, and many farmers choose to keep their land in pasture. In much of southern Indiana the soils best suited to farming are the alluvial soils found in river valleys.
Before the land was cleared for settlement in the 18th and 19th centuries, forests covered more than four-fifths of Indiana. The forests were mainly deciduous. Grasslands areas occurred in places between the forested areas and were most extensive in far western Indiana.
Forests and woodlands cover 21 percent of Indiana. Much of the forested land is now contained in state forests and Hoosier National Forest. The principal forested areas are in the south.
There are small forested areas in the north, along the shores of Lake Michigan, and elsewhere along the watercourses. Numerous species of deciduous hardwood trees grow in the state. Among the most common are black walnut; American sycamore; beech; the tulip tree, or tulip poplar, which is the state tree; and several species of oak, poplar, hickory, and maple.
Other trees found in much of the state include the eastern red cedar, honey locust, flowering dogwood, eastern cottonwood, aspen, and species of elm and ash. Among the trees in the southern counties are the common persimmon, sweet gum, bald cypress, eastern hemlock, yellow buckeye, and river birch. In the north are found the tamarack and the yellow birch. In the lakeshore area known as the Indiana Dunes, and in some hilly, forested areas of southern Indiana, are found the jack pine and the white pine.
The Indiana Dunes region, much of it within Indiana Dunes State Park, forms an unusual natural habitat. It is characterized by high, tree-covered sand dunes, long stretches of beaches, and numerous marshes. A great variety of trees and other plants grows there within a very small area. Some of the plants and trees are native to widely different environments. They include the prickly pear cactus, oaks and beeches common in the eastern United States, and the lichen mosses and bearberry of the Arctic, as well as luxurious ferns and more than 20 varieties of orchids. Wildflowers found in Indiana include the violet, wild lupine, wood anemone, oxeye daisy, goldenrod, wild carrot, aster, gentian, and sunflower.
The flowering shrubs found throughout the state include the elderberry, bittersweet, sumac, and wild rose. Among the other plants that grow in Indiana are the wild peppermint as well as the insectivorous pitcher plant and species of sundew. Wild cranberries and blueberries are present in a few remaining undrained swamp areas, where bladderwort, water-milfoil, and similar plants are also found. "Indiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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