Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Paddling a Cranberry Bog
It's a good thing my canoe was still on my car. When Evelyn called to invite me to join her for cranberry hunting at Lens Lake today, all I had to do was hop in my car and head up north to this isolated boggy lake. Lying about 5 winding, climbing miles west of Stony Creek, Lens Lake has a convoluted shoreline made even more intricate by hundreds of acres of sphagnum mats, their golden moss carpets embroidered by the dark purplish leaves of thousands upon thousands of wild cranberry plants.
The colorful bog mats added a warm glow to an otherwise dark and chilly lake, as we skirted the mats in our search for elusive cranberries. Despite the obvious abundance of cranberry leaves everywhere, only a few of the mats had plants that were bearing fruit. When we found a fruiting patch, we pulled our canoes up onto the mats and climbed out to crouch in the soggy, spongy moss to gather the berries.
Sometimes, the small red fruits were hidden by the color of the sphagnum itself.
They were much easier to detect on mats where the sphagnum was golden.
I was intrigued by the tiny red "buds" on the leaf stems of the cranberries. Could these be the buds of next summer's flowers? I just don't know.
Sometimes I would reach to pluck what I thought was a berry nestled down in the moss, only to discover that the round red ball was the tip of an emerging baby Pitcher Plant.
This little rotting stump was filigreed with pale green Bog Lycopodium and crowned with the spent seed pods of a thin-stalked plant I do not recognize.
Here's a closer view of those three-parted pods. Perhaps some reader will recognize them and tell us what they are.
These neat little heaps of what look like green corn kernels are actually the seeds of Arrow Arum, what's left of the fruits after the stems and leaves have rotted away..
All around us, fluffy heads of Cottongrass swayed in the wind.
Evelyn called my attention to this site where some creature had returned again and again to deposit its feces.
A closer look at the feces revealed that it was made up mostly of fish scales and bones and little bits of crayfish shells. The piles were too big to be those made by minks, so we surmised that we had come upon an otter's latrine.
And because we could be reasonably sure that this was otter poop, Evelyn felt pretty confident that this adjacent moss was the quite uncommon Pennsylvania Dung Moss (Splachnum pennsylvanicum), which grows only on the feces of otter and a few other creatures, as well as on some kinds of bones and animal cadavers.
I brought home a sample of the moss to show to a bryologist friend for confirmation, and I also was able to take a macro photo revealing the tiny starry growths at the tips of the fruiting bodies. Isn't this beautiful? And I would have walked right by it, if Evelyn had not pointed it out to me.
Now, not everybody I know would get all excited about finding otter poop. I count myself very lucky to have some friends who do, and who share their enthusiasm with me. Thanks, Evelyn, for a fun afternoon's adventure. And thanks, too, for sharing your cranberry harvest.