SOIL DIVISIONS of the E.S. George Reserve

mapped and described by J. O. Veatch in 1953

text added by Dunrie Greiling identified in italics


  • Upland Soils
  • Sands: 40, 41, 39,
  • Sandy Loams: 29, 32X, 27,
  • Clay Loams/Sandy Loams: 48, 49, 47,
  • Calaths: 9&8,
  • Lowland Soils
  • Wet and semi-wet mineral soils: 46, 45, 23, 33, 25
  • Mucks and Peats: 5, 5-3, 3, 4, 2, 1, 6
  • Factitious Soils
  • 7, 10, man-made soil, animal burrows
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    The divisions recognized are described according to the numbers which appear on the map. Although the mapping, comparatively, is very detailed, the differentiations still do not represent the ultimate. An area indicated by a number is a unit, as an association, but is by no means absolutely uniform, inasmuch as it includes innumerable separate micro-soil and site variations. Some of these which might have ecologic significance are mentioned in the following descriptions.



    40. This division includes the soil which is more siliceous, sand, in textural size, incoherent, pervious and penetrable to a depth of 3 to 5 feet or more. The soil is low in retention of water, warms up early in the spring, and reaches a high temperature in the surface few inches in the summer unless protected by a dense cover of vegetation. The moisture content, although low, is almost all available to plants, because the colloid content of the soil is very small. An equal amount of summer rainfall after a period of drought moves to greater depths than in other soils which have a higher clay content. Any free carbonates which may have been in the parent drift appear to have been leached out to depths of 4 to 6 feet. Consequently the soil profile is acid in reaction = a pH of 5 to 6. However, roots of mature trees may penetrate to the limy substratum. Both for natural vegetation, and for cultivated crops, low soil moisture is very probably the-principal limiting factor in volume of plant growth.

    The principal soil variations are in size of the sand separates and in amount of clay-colloid in the complete profile. The sand is mostly medium in size, but locally finer and more loamy, and at the other extreme both the surface soil and basal drift substrates may be coarse; and even a small amount of gravel appears here and there.

    In places thin bands of reddish sand-clay appear in the profile and perhaps a small amount of soil is included, no different from that marked 39. In tiny hollows and at the base of slopes, accumulated soil is slightly more productive than elsewhere. On the other hand, where water and wind erosion have been active, spots may be barren or support only a sparse cover of grasses and weeds, or even only mosses and lichens,

    41. This division includes the finer textured sand soil. Such soil, because of a slightly higher content of silt and colloids may be a little more productive than that of the 40 areas. Very probably a few spots of the finer sand variations in the parent drift were missed in the mapping. Where found they may have significance in micro-ecologic studies,

    39. This division includes highly pervious soil, a loamy sand or light sandy loam, to depth of 3 feet or more. It represents the second step in ascending order from the more nearly pure sands to the more clayey soils and a corresponding position in relation to retention of moisture and natural fertility. A thin, friable reddish sandy clay B horizon is present, or a substratum of more clayey material, at depths of 36 to 48 inches. The pH of the soil profile may range from 5 to 6.5, but limy sand or gravelly drift is generally present at 3 to 5 feet. The more uniform soil is that on the flat or undulating upland plateaus, and is marked 39 (30). On the slopes, marked 39E, the soil is more variable and on the steepest, reflects more closely the lithologic variations in the parent drift. Here there are occasional spots of darker, high humus limy gravelly soil; richer soil which has accumulated in hollows and at the base of slopes; and variations from coarse and fine sand to clay, but on the whole this division is sandier than areas marked 29 and 47. On the old fields, there are patches poorly productive because of erosion, and a very low content of organic matter, but elsewhere both on flats and in depressions the soil supports a fairly dense cover of grasses.

    Sandy Loams

    29. This division represents a sandy soil which has, typically a reddish clayey B horizon in the profile. The textures above the B horizon vary from loamy sand to fine sandy loam or even a light loam. The substratum of unweathered drift is mostly crudely bedded or stratified sand, gravel and occasional lenses or fragmental blocks of clay. The pH of the solum varies from 4.5 to 6.5, but carbonates are present generally at depths of 36 to 48 inches. A reddish clayey B horizon is present, typically at depths of 18 to 30 inches and varies from a few inches to 2 feet or more in thickness; also narrow tongues or wedges of red penetrating the grayish substratum to depths of 4 or 5 feet are common. The reddish horizon though it contains only a small percentage of clay becomes compact when dry, and even where small in thickness retards the downward movement of water, and retains moisture when the material both above and below it is quite dry. It therefore has especial significance in relation to both plant and animal life.

    The flatter land of the upland plateau indicated as 29 (32), is more uniform, but even here there are micro variations resulting from erosion and from accumulations in hollows and at the bases of short slopes. A few gravelly spots occur, which are either residual from erosion or reflect more gravelly parent material.

    The areas marked 29E, the more steeply sloping land, are variable in texture and other profile characteristics, but on the whole include more fine sand, silt and clay in the soil, or parent drift, than areas marked 39E and 40E.

    The soils of the 29 and 29E divisions can be correlated with the Bellefontaine and Fox types of the Soil Survey classification in Michigan.

    32X. This division includes soil similar to that of the 29 (32) areas, but more gravelly, and underlaid by deposits of the same composition as those under the 27 areas. Physiographically the area appears to be a gravelly margin of the flat outwash plain, or old glacial drainage way, lying to the northward of the Reserve.

    27. This division includes areas in which the soils are more gravelly either at the surface or shallow depths. However many spot profiles are no different than in areas marked 29, 32, 39, and 48. Except on the crests of the eskerlike ridges, the surface is characterized by inequalities, hillocks and hollows and the soil is extremely variable in depth to and thickness of the underlying reddish clay horizon; in lime content, size of the components from sand to gravel, cobbles and even boulders, and blocks of till clay. These variations, in connection with degree of slope and direction of exposure, have to be recognized in spot studies, but nevertheless generalizations for the areas as a whole in comparison with other numbered areas can be made.

    Clay Loams/Sandy Loams

    48. This division includes soils generally a little finer in texture of the surface layers, and a thicker, as much as 3 or 4 feet in places, subsurface clayey horizon which is more likely to be yellowish rather the more common reddish color. The quantity of water available for plants therefore is slightly greater than that of the preceding divisions, although the surface layers may appear to be quite dry in late summer and fall. In the profile, under forest, the horizon between the organic surface and the subsurface clay is pulverulent and nearly white when dry, and is also strongly acid in reaction. Spot variations appear in accordance with degree of slope, depth to and thickness of the underlying clay layer and depth to the limy substratum which may vary from 30 to 60 inches. The pH of the solum varies from 4.5 to 6.5.

    49. This division comprise the soil which has the greatest thickness of clay in its profile. The soil as a whole is less pervious, less penetrable and more retentive of moisture than other divisions of the upland. In its unweathered state the parent clay is slate colored, or whitish, hard and brittle when dry and highly calcareous. Where weathered it is either yellow or a mixed yellow, brownish and greyish color, leached of lime, plastic when wet, and disintegrates into coarse crumbs, or into flaky particles on vertical exposures, when dry. Under forest the soil has a dark colored, nearly neutral humus, with very little suggestion of a spongy F layer. The surface organic accumulation is underlain by a friable cream colored or nearly white dry horizon, strongly acid; and thence by dense clay. The clay normally is overlain by 10 or 15 inches of friable silty or fine sandy loam, but on eroded spots the yellowish weathered clay or even unweathered clay is exposed. This kind of soil is classified as the Miami type in Soil survey mapping. It is not extensively represented in the Reserve and may not have supported the characteristic forest growth, which included sugar maple and beech.

    47. These areas are a unit in that autogenic clay is generally present in the profiles, but less uniformly so than in the 49 areas. The clay layer, in the parent drift, is either overlain or underlain by sandier material. On the less sloping areas the surface layers are fine sandy loam, a loam, or even gravelly, and from 3 or 4 inches to 30 inches in thickness over clay. The areas are in reality a complex of 48 or 49 types. There are the usual micro-variations in hollows and reflection of the common heterogeneity of the drift on the steeper slopes marked 47E.


    9 and 8. Throughout the upland there are a great number of small depressional land forms, constructional in origin, inherited from the original inequalities in the glacial drift deposition, I have applied the name "calath" to these as a group for want of any more satisfactory geamorphologic terminology than "kettles, pot-holes., pockets and hollows." The depressions are however widely variable in form and depth from cup-like, funnel-form, to saucer, and from 4 to 5 feet to nearly 50 feet. They may be dry or may be intermittent ponds; and in the deposition in their bottoms they vary from coarse sand to silt and clay and peat and muck. No two are precisely the same in every minute detail of the environment, but for purpose of mapping, have been grouped necessarily. More than 250 have been spotted on the map, but these are only the more conspicuous, since it is impracticable to delineate every minute depressional detail of the land surface.

    The depressions which are normally dry have been grouped under the number 9, Further distinctions were made according to the texture of the material in their bottoms, as silt, sandy loam, sand. The letter designations refer to the original material in the bottommost part, and not to the soil on enclosing slopes, although in sore instances recent erosional deposition is included.

    The soil in the bottoms is generally more fertile than that of the slopes or contiguous upland levels because of a higher content of organic matter, clay-colloid and higher average moisture. However there is a wide range in these features as micro-environments in accordance with size and depth; and thickness, texture and structure of the bottom deposition. The soil is not limy, except in a few instances where there has been wash from slope gullies. In old fields there was movement of plow soil which accumulated as peripheral bands at the slope base, and in some instances this was sufficient to completely bury the original soil. It is conceivable that most of the depressions were originally ponds, and that a particular stage of their evolution may have some ecologic meaning.

    The depressions which are now intermittent ponds or which have hydromorphic soils are designated by the number 8; and further those that contain peat or muck by 8-1. The 8 group has a wide range in texture of the deposition, from sand to clay., and in succession of layers with depth. As a group this division presents a difference from 9, but within it, there are individual micro differences in water relations, chemical and physical differences in the soil and inferentially in average temperature,, humidity and plant and animal life.

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    Wet and Semi-wet Mineral Soils

    46. This number represents the more clayey soil on the narrow belt of lowland constituting the swamp-marsh border. The soil is not uniformly dense clay from the surface downward to 3 feet or more, but merely embraces that which is more clayey either at the surface or in the profile as a whole. In places the surface contains less organic matter and hence cracks and becomes indurated when dry, but most of it is dark colored, loamy, and if not now, at one time in its history had a thin cover of muck, since the sites very probably represent former lake bottom. The profile exhibits the common features related to waterlogging and low oxygen content. Physiographic position and fluctuations in water may be more potent ecologic factors than texture and chemical condition of the soil, but pretty certainly some differences in plant and animal life exist compared with the sandy soil in the same physiographic position.

    The 46 (23) includes the more sandy soil, that is a more penetrable sand-clay mixture, or a sandy soil over clay at a shallow depth, than the 46, but in the same physiographic position, and supporting a swamp type of vegetation under natural conditions.

    45. This number indicates the clay soil which occupies an intermediate position in natural drainage between the 46 and 49. Presumably the transitional condition in soil is reflected in its plant and animal occupants,

    23. This number indicates sites where the texture of the soil material is about the same as that of the 29 areas but the water content higher, The soil profile is hydromorphic which implies either permanent saturation throughout its thickness, or water logging at a shallow depth, The soils are variable in texture, but mostly sandy or gravelly, variable in amount of organic matter, but mostly relatively high, and in depth to a soil clay horizon or impervious substratum. In some of the profiles a subsurface clay horizon is succeeded by a saturated sand and gravel and this in turn by a deeper limy clay. The small area in the southwestern part of the Reserve pretty certainly supported a different plant association., and the growth on cleared land also exhibits a different aspect from that on adjacent higher lying land,

    33. This number includes the sand soil on the swamp-marsh border. Most of the area are 2 to 5 or 6 feet above the permanently wet lowland, and includes narrow inclined strips transitional between the upland slopes and the swamp marsh, and also separate flat bodies in coves or on the flattened tips of peninsulas. The soil is variable from a loamy sand to fine sand and fine sandy loam fairly uniform in texture., and not cemented, to depths of 3 to 5 feet, and theme is underlain by drift material sufficiently clayey to retard water movement and result in a wet condition at the base of the sand part of the profile. Evidence of wetness may not appear on the surface but is present at depths in the form of a mixed gray and yellowish or rust color. The soil as a whole is higher in organic matter than the upland sandy soils, and because of higher moisture is naturally more productive. It is medium acid in reaction 4.5 to 6, to depths of 3 feet or more, but underlying clay and seepage water are alkaline in reaction.

    Where the sites constitute a narrow lowland strip between the upland and the swamp-marsh., the amount of soil wash from slopes of cleared land is probably sufficient to produce a variant of micro-ecologic significance.

    25. This division includes the least clayey sand soil of swamp-marsh sites. The surface material in places is a thin peat or muck cover, a few inches, over loose clean sand. Other soil is included which consists of a mechanical mixture of mucky organic matter and sand underlain by waterlogged sand or sand and gravel. The fertility of such soil is resident mainly in the organic matter and free water. Given drainage, and crop use, such soils soon lose their high productivity. Only a few small bodies are shown on the map., but others very probably exist and may have importance wherever very intensive studies are made in the swamp-marsh sites.

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    Mucks and Peats

    The organic soils, because of the large proportionate area they occupy, and their pattern of distribution., become a major element of the total environment of the Reserve. The bulk of the peat deposits represents accumulation of the remains of species of the sedge and grass families; there is much less material from woody hydrophytes and purely aquatic and floating plants, and probably none from Sphagnum mosses, although other species of mosses are present. No complete series of soundings have been made, so that maximum thickness and variations are not known. Certainly over much of the swamp-marsh area the thickness is no more than 2 to 6 feet. The substratum is variably plastic clay, sand, gravel or the mixtures commonly observed in the glacial drift. The substratum is limy and the ground water alkaline in reaction, but no evidence of thick or extensive beds of marl was observed.

    The easily observed soil differences appear to be functions of water table depths, degree of decomposition of the plant matter the living plant cover; and where the deposits are thin, the physical chemical nature of the mineral substratum. As soil, fairly good representatives of the Houghton (consisting the largest area) Greenwood, Carlisle, and Rifle types of the Soil Survey classification are present.

    5. This division comprises practically all of the marsh land. Beneath the surface mat from living plants, the peat-muck is blackish (when wet) very finely fibrous, decomposed, and nearly entirely organic since very little mechanically and mixed coarse mineral matter is present. This material is not highly acid; a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 appears to be common.

    Where the deposits are thick, the peat beneath the surface dark layer is coarse yellowish or brownish, spongy, felty and layered, and has not been decomposed to a degree great enough to destroy the botanical character of the plant matter. However, locally the deposits are very thin and the dark colored muck may occupy the whole thickness down to the glei. It is a safe assumption that local differences in the plant growth types, dominance or proportions of sedges, grasses, ferns, mosses, cattails, shrubs etc. can be correlated with micro differences in fluctuation of the water table, thickness of the peat deposit, reaction and other features of the complete profile, though certainly this would be a difficult task. The condition marked 5, should not be interpreted as a soil uniform in its character throughout the whole area.

    Sphagnum moss on tussocks, and clumps of leatherleaf here and there occur in these areas. Here a very strongly acid reaction may be obtained from water squeezed from the surface mat.

    5-3. The division marked 5-3, as soil is only slightly different from that marked 5. The surface may contain a little more undecomposed woody matter and the dark colored mass a little finer in texture. At depths, however, there appears to be no difference. A tamarack-poison sumac association is characteristic, along with a few elm, red maple, aspen, shrubs and a ground cover of species common to the marsh. Probably, trees have not been present for a period of time sufficient to greatly affect the original marsh soil.

    3. The division 3 includes a small areas north of Hidden Lake, in which there is a slightly higher proportion of elm red maple, aspen and yellow birch than in the 5-3 areas. The difference in soil is slight, possibly a little darker, finer in texture, excluding the coarse woody matter, and possibly less average thickness of the peat deposit, but this latter was not definitely determined. Where tested, the reaction appeared to be about the same as in the 5-3 and 5 areas, namely a pH of 5,5 to 6.5,

    4. This division includes narrow strips on the margins of swamp-marsh areas. As soil, the plant matter is either more decomposed, fine, pasty when wet, and granular when dry; or there is greater admixture of sand, silt, or clay washed in from the adjacent upland. The thickness of the organic accumulations is also less than in the interior. Some of the soil has a pH above 7, especially where springs are present. Where sand appears to be the principal coarse inorganic constituent, and the glei generally also a sand, the place was marked with the letter S, and contrary clay, by the letter C, but because the size of the physical task forbade complete differentiation, no mapping of all of the possible variations was attempted. They may be worthwhile if it is desirable to account for the local variations in plant species in this marginal site.

    2. Areas marked 2, comprise coarse textured, yellowish or brownish strongly acid peat, pH 3.5 to 5. The plant matter is least decomposed and is nearly free from admixed mineral particles. The characteristic plants in these areas are leatherleaf and Sphagnum mosses. The bog plants appear to have been adventitious on and finally to have replaced the growth common to the 5 areas. In places, especially on the margins of Cassandra and Bock Hollow bogs, the soil and plant species are suggestive of the marsh sites.

    1. This number indicated the organic mud common on pond or lake bottoms. The deposition may be nearly pure organic matter, but mostly contains sand, silt or clay, tree leaves, twigs and other matter washed or blown in from bordering upland. The deposits may be very thin and underlain by a glei, or may be underlaid by peat.

    Where the water cover disappears during the summer, the bottom may remain bare, or may support a temporary growth of smartweeds, grasses, sedges, burmarigold and other plants.

    6. This division includes the floating mat bordering Hidden Lake. The peat is mostly a blackish finely fibrous, spongy, sedge-grass type, but is underlain at a shallow depth by fluid peat and water. The water of the lake, and that a foot or so under the peat mat, is alkaline in reaction; the fibrous peat has a pH of 5.5 to 6.5; but in places where Sphagnum moss appears on tussocks the pH of the raw plant matter and contained water is very strongly acid.

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    The activities of man within the boundaries of the Reserve have resulted in sundry alterations of the natural landscape. The soil, or site, conditions which may be attributed directly or indirectly to man’s doings are grouped under the above title, along with such adventitious conditions that may result from animal burrowings and overthrow of forest trees.

    7. On the fields, formerly in farm crops, water erosion was very active in places. This resulted in movement of soil down slopes. As the base of every slope, of any length or degree of inclination, there is some accumulation, though it is not possible to measure and differentiate it completely. Such accumulated material may be rich, or poor, depending upon its source soil and the degree of erosion. In places gullies were formed, which cut deeply into the soil substratum. The material scoured from these by heavy rains accumulated as fans, or deltas, large enough to stand out as minor features of the landscape, and of mappable size. The drier deposits are indicated by the number 7. They vary considerably depending upon the depth., and branching, of the gully from which they debouched and the lithologic nature of the local Glacial drift, Most of the deposits are sandy, some even gravelly and cobbly, loose and pervious down to the old buried soil surface; and so recent that carbonates have not been leached out. Some deposits are 3 feet or more in thickness, and thence feather out to merge with the older soil in a depression or valley bottom. There features have micro-ecologic significance, but each deposit differs in some respect with in its own space and from any other separate deposit.

    10. Both old and very recent wash, either wet or dry at the surface but overlying muck or other hydric soil at a depth of a few inches, is indicated by the number 10. Because of the higher water content, the vegetation is much more luxuriant than on the 7 areas, except where there is a surface smear of very recent wash.

    MAN MADE SOIL. -- In the construction of Crane Pond and the two ponds south of Hill and Dale House, the excavated material was dumped and partly leveled on the borders. The soil is a heterogeneous mixture of muck, clay and sand. Because of higher organic matter, nitrates, and moisture, the vegetation is lusher, and remains green longer, than on the adjacent natural soil.

    The water, limy, and the pond bottom, organic mud, are soils very favorable for aquatic plant growth. Unless control measures are taken Crane Pond will probably be completely filled by vegetation in a comparatively few years.

    Small bodies of artificial soil are present on ditch banks and on the fills in and across marsh-swamp land. Also the floors and sides of the several recent and old excavations, shown on the map) by a gravel pit symbol, make a variety of abnormal soil conditions.

    ANIMAL BURROWS. -- Small mounds of unassorted material at the locations of burrows made by woodchucks and possibly other animals, are common throughout the Reserve. Some of these are very recent some very old, but constitute spots of abnormal soil and peculiar micro-ecologic sites. The excavated material may be partly raw drift, higher in lime, and otherwise different in textures structure and chemical character from the adjacent normal soil.

    Ant hills, though large ones are not very numerous, are conspicuous in size in a few instances, especially on wet sites. These constitute minor deviations physically, and very probably chemically, from normal soil; and old, now obscure, workings may possibly account for some spot habitat difference.

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