Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down in the Bog

Literally, a bog, here in Western Massachusetts.  It's always a little exciting getting into the bog since it is a floating peat mat on a deep hole full of water.  The edges of the bog look like a normal wetland - spongy ground, wet leaves - but if you step in the wrong place, you'll sink up to your hips.
There is a small log that we usually walk across to get into the bog, although I've never been there without someone falling in at the edge.  This time it was Anna, who sunk up to her knee and slogged around with water in her boot the rest of the afternoon, and Fred, who went deep.  It's not quite as bad as it sounds because the water is clear with just a few bits of organic matter floating in it, and the high acidity keeps down bacteria levels.
Once over the watery margin and then through the dense shrubs at the beginning edge of the peat mat, the center of the bog opens up and the magic begins.  There are plants in the bog that you don't see anywhere else.  It's a unique and not especially hospitable growing environment - very wet and acidic.  The entire floor of the bog is covered in dense, springy sphagnum moss.  There are carnivorous pitcher plants which were flowering, bog laurel with the tiniest pink flower cups, sweet gale which is related to bayberry, tamaracks which are deciduous conifers, and stunted, gnarled black spruces.
There is also a species of bog blueberries - good eating when they are green according to Anna, although I'm not convinced.  We even saw a baby snapping turtle.  It's a landscape like no other.

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