What a startling contrast we find between the open, sunny environment of the dunes and the lush, shady world of the beech-maple forest. Here plants must compete for the limited amount of sunlight. Shade-tolerance is the key to survival.
The dominant trees are sugar maple and American Beech. Both are able to survive in the shade of taller trees. However, if by chance a young tree gets enough sunlight, it experiences a burst of growth. By growing tall, it can reach the opening in the canopy of leaves. In addition to beech and maple, you will see black cherry, hemlock and basswood trees here. This is he climax forest of the area.
Other plant communities, given enough time, tend to phase into a beech-maple forest. Once established, this forest remains stable unless it experiences a setback such as forest fire or logging. Tune in all your senses. Maybe you will catch a glimpse of a squirrel or deer, or smell the odor of decaying leaves, or hear the flutelike song of the wood thrush.
Did You Know?
Sleeping Bear Dunes includes two large islands in Lake Michigan - North and South Manitou Islands. Take a day trip to South Manitou Island and explore the island village and lighthouse or take a motor tour of the farming district. If you go to North Manitou Island, plan to camp overnight! More...