GPS 92.90xx W 45.0030 N Trailhead at Northwest corner of parking lot.
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 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.
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. 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.