Thursday, July 15, 2010
Bog Walking on a Muggy Day
Another hot and humid day, with the air lying heavy and close like a damp wool blanket. Probably not the best kind of weather to go explore a bog, but it turned out not so bad. For one thing, Sue and I started early (for us!), so the sun still cast shadows through the Tamaracks and Black Spruce. For another, the cooling bog water seeped up around our feet with almost every step, as we sank into the Sphagnum mat, following deer trails through the Highbush Blueberries, swatting at deerflies and mosquitoes as we went.
What would possess us to tread a bog on such a soggy, buggy day? Well, there were the ORCHIDS. Beautiful, beautiful orchids. And lots of 'em. Just look at this array of White Fringed Orchis, poking up out of the Sphagnum mat like Dandelions on the lawn.
Here's a closer look at those lovely flowers, so porcelain white and pristine, each blossom adorned with a delicate fringe that gives this orchid its name.
And then there were the Grass Pinks, another native orchid, with grass-like leaves and showy blossoms of deep magenta-pink. It's probably a good thing that orchids as spectacular as these grow only in places difficult to get to, or they would probably be picked into extinction.
Another reward for hot, itchy bogwalkers are the prolific blueberry shrubs, heavy with sweet ripe fruit today. We had promised the person who told us about this bog that we would not eat any berries but leave them all for her. Oops! Sorry, Evelyn, couldn't help it, they just fell into my hand when I touched the branch. (And that's the truth.)
She didn't say anything about not eating huckleberries, did she? No, she did not, so we snacked quite freely on these plump Black Huckleberries, made warm by the sun to just explode their juicy sweetness in our mouths.
Among the other plants that grow prolifically in bogs are Pitcher Plants, which fill with water to drown their insect prey and thus gain the nutrients that this habitat lacks. This pitcher almost looks like some kind of animal, with a fat round belly and blood pulsing through its veins.
This tiny red Pitcher Plant looks like it's swallowed a rosette of Sphagnum Moss. Although I'm sure there's another explanation for this odd but charming arrangement.
The Bog Rosemary is long past its blooming, but its dusty-green leaves I find quite beautiful.
These tufts of Tamarack needles look quite spiky, but they're actually quite soft. This tree, which loves the acid conditions found in bogs, is our only conifer that drops all its needles each fall and grows a whole tree-full of new ones each summer.
Ooh, look at this spiky yellow stuff that was growing on grass stalks down among the moss. My guess is that this is a slime mold, possibly one called Leocarpus fragilis (very few slime molds have common names). Slime molds are very interesting, in that they don't fit easily into our standard classification system, possessing traits that are both animal-like and fungus-like. This one has climbed up on the grass stems and twigs, the better to achieve wide distribution for its spores.
Here's another eye-catching array down among the grass stems, a superfine veil of web adorned with tiny droplets.
I would never have seen that web if I hadn't dropped to my knees to photograph this tiny False Pimpernel, which was growing near the gravel parking lot where we'd left our car.