Nature walk at the Cloquet Forestry Center 10.9.21

10/9/21 summary by Kelly Beaster

Fire dependent plant communities at the Cloquet Forestry Center

Field trip leader: Kyle Gill

On an unseasonably warm October afternoon UMN forester, Kyle Gill, guided the Arrowhead Native Plant Explorers through early successional and late successional forests at the UMN Cloquet Forestry Center. These large stands of towering red, jack, and white pines had been spared from the catastrophic 1918 fire that swept through Cloquet and the surrounding region. The land has been managed by the University of Minnesota since 1909 for research and study. The property exists on traditional and ancestral lands and is within the Fond du Lac Reservation boundary.

After the summer drought and subsequent fires in northern Minnesota, ANPE wanted to gain understanding about how fires can be regenerative for fire dependent ecosystems. The sandy soils of the CFC left behind from the glaciers 10,000 years ago provide an ideal microbiome and drainage for fire dependent communities FDN33 and FDN32. These plant communities are evident in the presence of indicator species such as pine, blueberry, sweet fern, and bracken fern. The early successional forest the group visited had been harvested 15 years ago and the regrowth was a result of both the inclusion of adult seed trees left behind and a small planting effort of seedling pines. Bracken fern and common raspberry covered the forest floor beneath the majority of red pines, some white pine, and a scattering of hardwoods such as red maple, red oak, and big toothed aspen.

Polygala paucifolia and Dendrolycopodium dendroides on early succession forest floor.

The final stop for the group was a stand of massive red pines that germinated back in 1813-1820. These lone pines were excluded from harvest to exhibit an old growth pine stand and demonstrate that the value of a forest is in more than just the trunks of the trees. In an effort to prioritize gratitude rather than the colonizer mindset, Kyle encouraged the group to pause beneath the massive pines in silence and listen to the wind gently sieve through the pine boughs high above.

For further history of the Cloquet Forestry Center visit:

For further information about Minnesota’s fire dependent communities visit:

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