Multivariate classification and ordination methods were used to develop ecological species groups for upland forest ecosystems of northwestern Lower Michigan. Species groups were based on similarities in ground-flora composition and abundance patterns among 76 sample stands. Nine ecological species groups were identified using 48 herbaceous, woody and moss species. The divisive classification produced six classes of stands: two dominated by northern hardwoods and four dominated by oaks. The distribution patterns typified by Deschampsia flexuosa, Vaccinium angustifolium, Viburnum acerifolium, and Desmodium spp. were important in discriminating among oak stands, whereas patterns typical of Osmorhiza claytonii and Maianthemum canadense distinguished northern hardwood stands. The species groups exhibited a wide range of ecological amplitudes, from highly specific associations with individual ecosystems to broad distributions across a range of site conditions. Within the geographic limits imposed by macroclimate and regional physiography, ecological species groups act to integrate site attributes and can simplify the process of mapping ecological land units.