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.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

I really must come visit you next year, your photo's and experiences blow me away. The color of the gold and scarlet sphagnum was one of the neatest things I've seen yet!

Bill and dogs said...

Yours is the best blog on the internet. Your photos are marvelous and I learn so very much from your plant IDs that I return often to help me interpret what I see on my own forays into natural spaces. Thanks for all your posts.

catharus said...

Just beautiful colors of the sphagnum and cranberry! Nice compositons! But better yet, the experience!

Carolyn H said...

Again, I am so jealous. A cranberry bog and fresh cranberries! Outstanding! Down here in southern PA, I don't even have a bog, let alone a cranberry bog.

suep said...

dung moss ! otter poop ! sounds like a great time. Looking forward to going there with you and Evelyn in the future. Thank you for your photos which take us there --

Ellen Rathbone said...

The colors in this post are just delicious! Those mystery pods are beautiful - I somehow doubt any of my pod books will have them, though - they all seem to feature field plants, not bog plants.

Otter latrines! And otter latrine moss! It just doesn't get any better than that!

Anonymous said...

Ditto! Great colors, good eye for composition, interesting and informative!! It just amazes me that others don't/wouldn't get excited about otter poop and the moss it fertilizes. ;-D

It's good to have friends that share our interests! And...gathering your own cranberries for your Thanksgiving feast...priceless!!!

Garden Lily said...

Thanks for taking us along - what a fascinating expedition!

Steve Young said...

I think I am going to guess Hypericum ellipticum for that little plant with the capsules on the hummock. I can't think of anything else. Steve

Anonymous said...

Incredible! I am sending the link on to friends right away. Patti

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Wow! I think my readers enjoyed this post almost as much as I enjoyed canoeing the bog. Thanks so much for your generous and interested comments. I would love to have any of you join me on my adventures, so do be sure to contact me if you're visiting the area so we could arrange to meet.

Steve, thanks for the Hypericum suggestion. I was thinking it must be some kind of St. Johnswort, but which one? We will just have to go back next summer and look for it in bloom.

Bob Meyer said...

Very nice post.. minor detail that lens Lake is just over the border in Warren County. :)

Ethan M. Dropkin said...

I think it more likely the pods are from Triadenum virginicum the Marsh St. Johnswort a close relative of the Hypericums (in the same family) and common NYS bog plant. It looks a lot like many of the hypericums but it tends to have flowers in the salmon to orange range rather than yellow. Great shots as always!!

E. S. Schaefer said...

Visited on Saturday, Sept 1st, 2012. Couldn't find any cranberries. Maybe we just don't know how to locate them, but we were treated to seeing a black bear on the shore doing his own foraging for berries. Seeing him was a real treat!

E. S. Schaefer said...

We were there on Saturday, Sept 1st. Couldn't find any cranberries. Did see a black bear on the shore doing his own "berrying" though. Quite a treat.

Ernie said...

I just picked 4 gallons of the beautiful burgundy berry to add to our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Feasts. Luv 2 Pick Cranberries!

Unknown said...

The colors in this post are just delicious! Great colors :)

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