August 05, 2014

The Ridges Sanctuary: A Midwestern Treasure

boardwalk rangelight2
Upper Range Light, which along with the Lower Range Light, was built in 1869.

boardwalk rangelight1
Lower Range Light, nearly 1,000 feet directly to the south of the Upper Range Light.
From the water, a sailor got "on range" by lining up, vertically, the lights in the two buildings.

If you live near Door County, Wisconsin, or you ever plan to visit, make sure The Ridges Sanctuary is on your "must see" list. It's one of the most unique collections of habitats and plants found in the U.S.

The Ridges began as a labor of love by private citizens to preserve a unique tract of land on Bailey's Harbor. The sanctuary, formed in 1937, was Wisconsin's first land trust. The most biologically diverse ecosystem in Wisconsin, it's home to more than 475 plant species, including 25 of the 40 species of Orchids native to the state, and 60 species of migrating and nesting birds.

swale

The sanctuary is named for its distinctive topography: a series of 30 ridges and swales formed by the movement of Lake Michigan during the past 1,400 years.

harbor

forest

This ridge-swail complex provides a wide range of environmental conditions--from open beach, to bog, to densely shaded conifer forest. Click here for a Google Earth image of the area, where you can see the unique ridge formations.

When we visited earlier this summer, Yellow Lady Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) and Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) were in full bloom.

ladyslipper 2

ladyslippers pair

ladyslippers road

ladyslipper

I've never seen so many Yellow Lady Slippers in one place before--growing here and there, in large groupings, and even alongside the roadway.

paintbrush

paintbrush2

paintbrush meadow 1

paintbrush meadow 2

The Indian Paintbrushes were beautiful up close, and when viewed in a meadow--thick with their bright, flaming highlights.

Other plants of note:

viburnum

Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. trilobum), which was blooming in many places around the peninsula.

starflower

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

pitcher

pitcher flowers

Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

marshmarigold

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), which had recently finished blooming

labradortea

Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum)

irises & junipers

Vast stretches of Irises growing with Junipers, which must be lovely when blooming

gaywings

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia)

brown bog sedge

Numerous sedges--I think this is Brown Bog Sedge (Carex buxbaumii)

moss1

moss2

moss3

And fabulous mosses of various shapes and sizes.

There's so much more to The Ridges than I can cover in one post, but this offers a small hint of its uniqueness. I'd like to go back during a different phase of the growing season to see other plants in their prime.

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Update: Please note the link in the second paragraph above to a partial list of plant species at The Ridges. And special thanks to The Phytophactor for helping to identify the sanctuary's unique mosses.

49 comments:

  1. It's really a beautiful place. So various plants with beautiful flowers on it. So lovely. Thanks for showing me to this interesting place.

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    1. Hi Endah: Yes, it's quite unique. It's a wonderful place to visit--especially in summer. ;-)

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  2. Very interesting post. It is amazing to see how much the flora is similar to ours in the Bruce peninsula in Ontario. Of course we no doubt have similar climates with lake effect and are at the same latitude. I see that Door County is even a peninsula like the Bruce.

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    1. Thanks, Alain. I'll have to visit Bruce Peninsula sometime. Door County is too cold for me in the winter and spring, but stunning in summer and fall. I traveled in Ontario with my family when I was a teenager, and have never seen such pristine landscapes--except maybe in Door County.

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  3. I found myself getting excited like a little kid about the Indian paintbrush. I grew up with it on the hills all around us, but I rarely see it anymore. It was very interesting to see the two lighthouses and realize what a brilliant concept it was--to align the lights along a line for coming safely into shore or harbor.

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    1. I remember seeing Indian Paintbrush more in the past, too, Susie. Although maybe I'm remembering seeing it in Door County or Northern Wisconsin--where I grew up. It certainly is a stunning plant! The lighthouses are a fun little history item about the Ridges. Cool place.

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  4. What a lovely place. I find it so interesting to see plants that I might not otherwise see, although Marsh Marigold is aplenty in my pond areas here.

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    1. Lucky you to have Marsh Marigolds in your ponds! I've only seen it in boggy natural areas, but it would be a great choice for a pond, too.

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  5. Looks like a place I would love visiting. I love hearing that you saw so many yellow lady's-slippers, as they are a "Wisconsin special concern." Your Indian paintbrushes reminded me of one of many plants I have not seen this year at Greene Prairie. I was shocked while visiting there last night to see that there are no towering sunflowers this year. Apparently, conditions were too wet for many prairie plants. My WW

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    1. I took way too many photos of both the Lady Slippers and the Indian Paintbrush! Of course, I deleted more than half of them. Beautiful plants. I didn't realize the prairie plants were struggling this year. It's interesting because it was so wet in June, and then so dry in July! I imagine they'll come back again just fine next year, but too bad that it's a down year for them. My garden is so shady that Sunflowers are out of the question here. Love them, though!

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    2. It varies by species and location. Dunn's Marsh has a lot of sunflowers right now, Greene Prairie does not. I haven't been over to Curtis Prairie in at least a month, so don't know how plants are doing there, but it sits up a bit higher than Greene. There weren't as many golden alexanders this year, or compass and cup plant at Greene. Meanwhile, rattlesnake master is having a banner year -- there are tons of it! Prairie dock seemed to be having a good year, too, but what flowers there are, aren't very tall. There are some gayfeathers, but not as many as last year -- more in the upper prairie than lower half -- and many other species that should be flourishing right now are rare or absent altogether.

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    3. I glance at Curtis Prairie when I head to the Arboretum to volunteer on Fridays at the native plant garden. I need to spend more time at Curtis Prairie. From what I can see glancing out at it, it seems to have a good display of Helianthus and Silphium plants.

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    4. how exciting to catch a good year for the lady's slippers. Finding wild orchids is a gift!

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  6. There is so much to see in beautiful places like this. I went on a nature hike with Audubon at one of their sanctuaries and saw so many mushrooms that I never saw before. Like you, it just takes looking closely at what nature has to offer.

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    1. Oh how fun! I'm fascinated by mushrooms, too, Donna. The only ones I'll eat are Morels, but I love to find others and study them--there are so many!

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    2. My friend was a mushroom expert and picked many types to eat. I was amazed in your post all the Lady Slippers. I see them so rarely and on a few at a time.

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  7. So beautiful! Love that boardwalk path.

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    1. The boardwalks are nifty and they make walking throught boggy parts of the trail a little easier and less destructive. I found the bogs and wet woodlands particularly fascinating.

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  8. Oh how gorgeous are your photos of that light house, the boardwalk and the mosses, not to mention the flowers! And we here in Minnesota are having the most lush summer I've seen in 18 years...must be all that rain we got in both June and July! Hello there!

    I am enjoying my "moon" garden. This year I planted nothing but white flowers in pots around my boxwood garden. I planted a moon flower vine up the bird house and this evening a few blooms are opening up. It is truly a magical night garden and then in the morning, my blue heaven morning glories trumpet in the new day. What a delight!

    Thank you so much for coming to visit....wishing you a fantastic August! Anita

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    1. Your "moon" garden sounds dreamy, Anita! How are the mosquitoes? That's the only problem with spending time out in the garden in the evening and at night. But maybe they quiet down after the sun sets, or maybe you don't have as many over your way? Interesting, though--we had too much rain in June and less than an inch in July. So far, August is much better. No complaints regarding comfort, however, as we've been hovering around 80F all summer--perfect! Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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  9. At last I'm back reading blogs. Thanks for your visits to mine! This sanctuary is gorgeous! It's so different than Mediterranean vegetation in summer, it makes me so envious of forest landscapes. Enjoy the week!

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    1. Yes, I wouldn't miss your posts, Lula! The Ridges is an amazing place. Of course, Mediterranean terrain and plants are fascinating, as well!

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  10. What a lovely place! I'm sure the wildlife must be as interesting as the plant life here. I'm so impressed with your knowledge of wildflowers, Beth. I wasn't very familiar with Indian Paintbrush and didn't even think it grew in the Midwest. All those orchids must have been quite a sight!

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    1. We did hear and see a lot of birds, but the other wildlife was hiding (near midday) when we were there. Rose: It's a luxury to have a little time to research when you get back from a place like this. The Ridges posts photos of "what's blooming" in their main office, which helps. And then, of course, I had time to check on plant names before I prepared this post. Indian Paintbrush and Lady Slipper Orchids, though, are ones I remember from childhood.

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  11. Lady Slippers are flowers from my childhood! Thank you Beth!

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    1. Yes, me too, Tatyana. :) Although, I don't recall seeing so many of them in one place before!

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  12. Indian paintbrushes like Tatyana they are from my childhood also...I haven't seen them since. What great memories they bring back.

    I should tell Connie from Far Side about all of your ladyslippers...she isn't finding that many this year near her place.

    Jen

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    1. Yes, I was amazed to see so many perfect ones blooming in one place. The conditions must be just right--and just right at that time and this particular year. Perhaps the conditions will improve next year for Connie. Apparently, they are particular about their growing conditions.

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  13. The iris is just any iris, but Iris lacustris dwarf lake iris endemic to the upper Great Lake (shores) area. The moss you show is Spahgnum and the next picture is a club moss (used to by Lycopodium). And no question about it, the Ridges is a remarkable botanical treasure. Too bad they messed up the beach vegetation for wind surfing.

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    1. Thanks so much for your help identifying the Iris and the mosses! I added a link to The Ridges plant list, and also a link to your blog. I really appreciate it! I've only been there a few times--I didn't realize the beach change. I wonder if there are areas where the beach vegetation wasn't disturbed.

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  14. What a beautiful place and thank you for sharing your visit with us Beth. It looks ever so tranquil. Some beautiful native flowers, most of which I am unfamiliar with.

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    1. You're welcome, Angie. I learned some new wildflowers while I was there, too--for example, the Gaywings and the Starflowers. Always something new to learn!

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  15. Oh Beth what an incredible place to have closeby...I can't believe all the plants especially the lady's slippers. And such diversity!

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    1. I wish it was closer, Donna. Except I don't want to live that far north--I already live too far north. ;-) The winters are brutal (as you know). But it's a fabulous place to visit in the summer! Yes, the bounty of the Lady Slippers surprised me.

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  16. I have already tried twice to leave a message but they both disappeared into a black hole but I have come back to say how much I love this post about such a beautiful place. How wonderful to find so many gorgeous orchids growing wild and I love the Indian Paint Brushes.

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    1. Dear Chloris: I'm so sorry about the troubles leaving a comment, and I appreciate your persistence. I will investigate with Blogger to figure out what could have happened. Yes, The Ridges is a wonderland for plant enthusiasts. It's also fascinating because of its diversity. Thanks, again, for persisting.

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  17. This looks really wonderful. I love the lady slippers, and Judy has a thing for pitcher plants. What's the best time of year to go? And I assume there are good places to stay nearby?

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    1. Hey Jason: The best time of year to visit depends on what plants you want to see--whether it's the foliage or the bloom. The Ridgest partial plant list shows bloom times. Here it is: http://bit.ly/1yfglPN. Bailey's Harbor is nearby and is a lovely little town. It's not as touristy as the bay-side towns of Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay. They're all wonderful towns, though, and none of them are far from each other. Here's information on Bailey's Harbor: http://www.doorcounty.com/baileys-harbor/. I'd be happy to answer any other questions via email.

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  18. Oh my . . . TREASURES indeed . . .

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    1. Yes, you would like it Lynne. And it's not too far from you. But I know there are fabulous places to vacation in Michigan, too.

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  19. Wow, what a fabulous place to go visit! I can't believe all those Lady's Slippers and Pitcher Plants and other treasures growing there! What a great place.

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    1. Yes, it was great fun! I highly recommend a vist if you're ever in the area during the summer. Well worth the trip!

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  20. What a glorious place, I love both the name "Indian paintbrush" and the flower. So many fascinating plants. And all right by the water! Perfect combination.

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    1. Yes, it's the kind of place you would really like, Janet. It's been many years since I visited the area last, and I don't want so much time to pass between visits in the future.

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  21. Oh my. This place is a trove of treasures. I could easily spend days here. I love the pitcher plants & lady slippers. I'm glad there are still places they grow wild and are protected.

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    1. Yes, I agree. And we didn't even see the entire property--so there's much more to explore in the future! :)

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  22. It is wonderful that this land with such diverse species has been preserved. I loved the shots across the meadow with the Indian Paintbrush.

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    1. Yeah, the wealth of Indian Paintbrush plants surprised me. I've always enjoyed them, so it was a special treat. :)

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