Sign 13

Trailhead at Northwest corner of parking lot.

GPS 92.90xx W 45.0030 N 


If you look to the south of this sign post just west of the parking lot, you will see a large colony of sumac plants. There are a couple of varieties of sumac in Minnesota and although native, they can become invasive and take over large areas. Sumacs spread by seeds and rhizomes which form a complex underground stem system that sends up new shoots. The leaves turn brilliant red in the fall and the dark red fruit clusters are beautiful throughout the winter. The fruit can be a food source in lean winter months for small mammals, birds and deer. Each of those little red fuzzy seed nubs is called a drupe and develop only on female plants. Each drupe contains one seed but the entire red pointed cluster of drupes has up to 700 seeds.

Poison sumac (not this one) is a plant that can cause skin irritation. In Minnesota it can be distinguished from other sumacs by its clusters of white or light-green berries that sag downward on its branches, and leaflets with smooth edges. In contrast, the other sumacs have red berries that stand upright and have leaves with jagged or toothed edges. Poison sumac usually grows in wet areas like bogs or swamps and the other sumacs prefer more open areas like prairie or woodland edges.

Living on the Edge

An area where different habitats meet is called an edge environment or transition area. Certain types of animals may prefer and inhabit this edge environment, for example living in the shelter or cover of trees but going to hunt or feed in an open meadow nearby. Bluebirds are one example of a bird that may use this type of environment. Rabbits and deer may also prefer to feed in open areas but use woodlands as cover from predators. Although gradual transition areas may be beneficial to some species, to others however, abrupt edge areas in particular can be a detriment. Certain species may be more sensitive to predators along edge habitats. In addition, when human development breaks up natural areas into smaller parcels, the remaining areas may be too small to support and provide the resources that a non-edge-using species needs to survive. The disturbed areas may also be more susceptible to invasive species. For information on a 2021 survey conducted on mammals that may be found in the park (including edge users such as raccoons), go to ADD LINK HERE.

As you enter the Aspen/Birch area of the Sunfish Lake Park forest, watch for the straight tall white trunks of the birch, and the aspen leaves that flutter in the breeze.  Aspen leaves are more round, birch are more pointed at the tip. These two can be difficult to distinguish, especially when the leaves are down, but birch bark is white and papery and peels off, aspen bark is generally darker.

In a short distance, around a couple of bends, you will find the Sign 14 intersection where the trail to the North side of the Park branches to the right.

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