Red Pine

Living up to 500 years, the red pine is one of only three pines native to Michigan; the other two being jack pine and Michigan's state tree, the white pine. White pine has softer needles and are clumped in bunches of 5 needles. Red and jack pine needles are in pairs, but the red pine has much larger needles.

Throughout the refuge, wedge shaped samples have been extracted from pine trees. These samples show the fire history of our forests. Look around the base of the red pine trees on the south side of the road, can you find the one missing a wedge?

Midwest forests have changed a lot in the last 200 years due to human activities such as logging, habitat fragmentation, and fire suppression. Let’s say you want to take a look back in time, to see what major events have happened in a forest. How would you go about doing that? Why is it important to understand why and how things have changed? 

These are questions researchers have asked themselves and have found creative ways to answer. The answer to the first, is to take a look at nature’s time capsules – trees. Some kinds of trees grow for hundreds of years and looking at their growth rings can give you an idea of what the climate was like, when droughts occurred, or if the tree encountered disease. It can even tell a trained eye when certain wildfires occurred right down to the time of year – winter, spring, summer, or fall. As to the why… Knowing the history of a forest can help managers find out how and why it has changed and decide how to treat it. For example, if we can find out how often wildfires burned through an area in the past we can figure out how often we should use prescribed fires to keep the forest healthy.