Conserve School has several different types of plant communities within its Lowenwood campus, making it an ideal location for students to study the ecosystems of the Northwoods. Within Conserve School’s boundaries one can find bogs, lakes, forests, meadows, and a small restored prairie.
Acres of raspberry patches have grown up in blow-down areas, so for the best raspberry picking students have to be prepared to scramble over fallen logs. The sandy, acidic soil in the area suits blueberries well, too, and they can also be found here and there on campus. Wild strawberries are a rarer treat -- they are so small and grow so close to the ground that they can be very hard to find. The intense, sweet burst of flavor from a tiny wild strawberry is a great surprise -- a different thing entirely than the wan taste of store-bought berries.
The forests of Lowenwood demonstrate different stages of ecosystem recovery following various disturbances, including clear-cut logging, which denuded great swaths of the Northwoods a century ago, and blow-downs from heavy windstorms that sweep the area occasionally. Students attending Conserve School will find patches of old growth hemlock juxtaposed with stands of other conifers, early successional stands of aspen, and even mixed hardwoods within short distances of one another. These patches of forest offer a classroom tool to explore the history of the Northwoods, and even offer insight into modern forestry practices. Students learn of the value of forest ecosystems as a timber commodity, as wildlife habitat, and for its intrinsic aesthetic value.
On crisp autumn mornings, fog often hovers over shallow lakes and wreathes the nearby trees. The summer sun warms up the smaller lakes so much that when the temperatures start to dip in the fall, the chilly early morning air causes the warm water of the lakes to vaporize. Misty sunrises in shades of violet, pink, and rose are the result. As the morning wears on, temperatures rise quickly and the mist dissipates. Students out on a morning hike can watch the fog swirl on the lake's glassy surface until it lifts as the rising sun bakes it away.
Great care was taken when the campus buildings were constructed to protect the natural landscape. As much as possible, planners utilized areas which had suffered recent blowdowns and as a result were already newly disturbed. One area that was affected by construction was restored as a prairie. Students and staff members over the years have spread the seeds of many different native plants, and, as a result, each summer the prairie fills with more and more wildflower blooms. The prairie is an excellent location for research on insects and rodents. It also is one of the few places on campus where you can fly a kite without getting it hopelessly entangled in the trees.