Different Ecosystems:

Tallgrass Prairie: Midwest | Chaparral: California & Southwest | Ponderosa Pine: West | Douglas Fir: West | Loblolly & Shortleaf Pine: South | Jack Pine: Great Lakes States

Jack Pine: Great Lakes States

In the forests of the Great Lake States, a mixture of pine and other tree species is found. Red, white and jack pine grow among paper birch, aspen and hazel. Grass, forbs and shrubs such as big bluestem, little bluestem, raspberry, blueberry and huckleberry also inhabit the community. The forests of the Great Lake States, like those of the Northwest, have experienced many disturbances throughout recent history, making it difficult to determine the "natural" state of the ecosystem.

Jack Pine

Jack pines at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Jack pine has a unique relationship with fire. Unlike many other tree species, jack pine does not drop all of its seeds as they ripen. The majority of the seeds remain in closed cones that stay on the branches for many years. When a fire occurs, the thick cone protects the jack pine seeds from the intense heat. That heat opens the scales of the cone and releases the seed onto the ground where the fire has removed much of the existing vegetation, preparing the site for the new seedlings. Fire prepares a seedbed, reduces competition from other plants and releases the jack pine seed.

Prescribed fire also is used to reduce fuel levels and prepare sites for seeding. The timing of the burning is tied to the life cycle of the pines; fall is the season of choice for burning.

Fire, as we can see, plays a significant role in ecosystems across the country. Fire, in a natural or prescribed form, performs functions crucial to the maintenance and health of forest and grassland communities.