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Findings from a forest biologist... Part 3: The Shoreline and Dunes

An assessment of the Timber Shores property has found incredible conservation value and potential for restoration for this keystone property in Leelanau Township.


Forest biologist and botanist Liana May of  Borealis Consulting  assessed property in summer 2023.  For her report, May toured the target property with NCV Vice President Beth Linnea Verhey and also examined available ecological historical data and information on the property and this signature area of Leelanau. 


Her report outlines the landscape’s historic and current natural communities along with an abbreviated list of native plant species. Overall, May found the property to be of “significant conservation value, particularly for protections and restoration of Great Lakes shoreline communities.”


Based on aerial imagery as well as May’s in-field observations, it’s clear that the dominant landform on the property is parallel beach ridges and swales on the historic lake plain. This landform occurs roughly across the eastern two-thirds of the property. 


Beach ridges are formed of Deer Park sand, which consists of very deep, excessively drained soils formed in sandy eolian deposits on beach ridges, level plains, and stabilized sand dunes along the Great Lakes (70% constituent of soil). Over millions of years, this highly dramatic and biodiverse landscape was formed and is a key foundation of what uniquely defines and supports our Peninsula’s native environment. 


The sand and gravel beach is predominately vegetated with native species associated with wetlands, including willows, riverbank grape, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima), lanceleaf aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum), silverweed, primrose (Oenothera spp.), purple false foxglove, horsetail (Equisetum arvense), Carex viridula, and Baltic rush. 


Many of these plants extend to the wetlands pockets found inland on the property as well. 

Shoreline vegetation

Just north of the former campground’s “harbor” area is a shallow, rocky substrate that is serving to stabilize the rooting zone so that emergent and submergent plants are able to establish, creating a sparse emergent marsh community. This unique habitat is a key part of the foundation that supports specialized birds, amphibians, fish and other aquatic species.


Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), threesquare (S. pungens), spike-rushes (Eleocharis spp.), rushes (Juncus spp.) occur as emergent along the shoreline, over submergent naiad (Najas flexilis), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), and chara algae. 

o   Grasses or Grass-Adjacent: 

§  Bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens, S. cyperinus)

§  Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani)

§  Threesquare bulrush (S. pungens)

§  Carex viridula

§  Baltic rush (Juncus balticus)

§  Sand reed grass (Sporobolus cryptandrus)

Emergent bullrush on the property; Photo by Liana May.

American brooklime (Veronica americana), designated as a high conservation-value species, is also found growing along the shore.


The small dredged former harbor was host to a few aquatic flora species in it, including naiad (Najas flexilix), narrow-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton spp.) as well as the invasive species curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus).

o   Aquatic: 

§  Naiad (Najas flexilix)

§  Narrow-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton spp.)

§  Spike-rushes (Eleocharis spp.) 

§  Rushes (Juncus spp.)

§  Sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata) 

§  Chara algae

Freshwater coastal marshes are unique habitats that are critically important to the health of our community in so many ways.  Not only do they offer essential habitat for a broad array of fish, waterfowl and other unique wildlife, they also serve an essential role in helping to moderate flooding, buffer the land from storms and high-water events, and to maintain desirable water quality. Emergent marsh also supports a wonderful variety of recreational opportunities such as birding, fishing, photography and wildlife observation.


We encourage you to support conserving and restoring this very special property. 



NCV appreciates May’s work on the property.  You can read the first blog post here and the second here.


Borealis Consulting works for many conservation groups including federal and state agencies, municipalities and non-profits, including The Leelanau Conservancy. Owner-operator Lianna May does natural resource management planning, floristic inventories and quality assessments, wetland delineations, threatened and endangered species surveys, invasive species surveys and management and is certified to write Michigan Forest Stewardship Plans, NRCS Fish and Wildlife Conservation Activity Plans, and NRCS Forestry Plans. For more see Borealis Consulting.

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