The Bog That Isn’t A Bog

We took another field trip! This time we went to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, only about an hour away from our home of Ohio State University.  This was almost the perfect day, the only downside being the little bit of rainfall we encountered on the way out!

We were able to see many plants that we would not be able to see outside of the nature preserve.  When you visit the Cedar Bog website it is described as the “Ohio’s premier natural area”; and is even recognized as the highest ranked National Natural Landmark within the state of Ohio because of it’s wide range of plants and species Cedar Bog is home to.

Despite it’s name Cedar Bog is not actually a bog it is a fen; to be more specific it is the largest example of a boreal and prairie fen within the state of Ohio.  What is the difference between a bog and a fen?  Well, with the new information that I have learned within this class and on our field trip I can tell you!

A bog is an area that stores and releases water to the surrounding land and environments.  Although it is able to provide water outwards to the land surrounding it, a bog is not connected to any system of lakes or streams.  A bog is typically nutrient poor for this reason, and because of such low nutrients plant diversity is slim.  A fen is an environment that is part of a water system and is connected to small and slow flowing lakes and/or streams. The fen of Cedar Bog is an ecosystem that was left behind by the Wisconsin glacier more than 12,000 years ago. The water supplied to fens is typically done so underground and tends to bubble up to the surface of the environment.  This means the water stays relatively cold – around 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit – no matter the time of year. The ground under the bog we visited this past week, is mainly composed of limestone, which means the water that comes to the surface of the ground is full of minerals and alkaline.  The combination of the limestone rich soil, the constant cool temperature of the water, and the mineral richness of the water this environment – and it’s unique makeup – is home to some pretty unique species.

I Spy With My Little Eye….

 On our field trips we are given miniature scavenger hunts where we have to find two specific plants that fit a given criteria.  Everyone’s scavenger hunt is different; on this specific field trip I was to find two trees that are not a member of the tree families we have learned.

American Basswood

The first plant that I was able to identify ( aka Dr. Klips identified and I quickly snapped a picture ) is American basswood.  Now American basswood is not this tree’s real name, it is actually Tilia americana.  American basswood ( Tilia americana ) is a member of the Malvaceae family which is native to Northern America.  This is tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree with a life expectancy of 200 years!   When in an a nature area – like a fen – and you are looking for an American basswood tree, you will look for a tree with a domed crown with spreading branches.  American basswood bark is typically gray to light brown, with smooth twigs that tend to be slightly red in their coloring.  The leaves of an American basswood are simple in their complexity, and are alternately arranged on their branch.   There are flowers that bloom in early to mid may that are small and fragrant, with coloring that ranges from white to yellow.  The CC value of this plant is 6.

Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac

The second plant I was able to snap a picture of was poison sumac.  The scientific name for this small tree/shrub is Toxicdendron vernix – once upon a time known at Rhus vernix – it’s new name is more fitting in the sense that it is toxic to most that come in contact with it.  Every part of this plant carries a skin irritant call urushiol that causes a rash when someone comes in physical contact with any part of it.  An interesting fact about this irritant is that even inhaling the smoke of a burning poison sumac will cause a rash to appear on the lining of your lungs.  When in areas that poison sumac is common, keep your eyes out for a small tree with undulate ( wavy-edged ) leaves with a red tint to both the stems of leaves and the leaves themselves.  The bark of this tiny, poisonous tree is light grey – but often gets darker with age. The CC value belonging to this poisonous plant is 7.

We were able to locate and capture pictures of some of the other unique plants and species that are common within the Cedar Bog fen.  The first species we encountered almost immediately is nicknamed great angelica ( real name Angelica atropurpurea ).  This angelic flowering plant that can grow up to SIX feet tall is a member of the Apiaceae family.  The stem is commonly a purply color with white and greenish flowers arranged in an umbel – basically the bunches of flowers look like little mini umbrellas. You can actually eat the stalks of great angelica and it will taste similar to celery.  It was commonly used in Native American cultures as a purifying herb, and is still burned during by shamans during healing ceremonies. Angelica atropurpurea has a CC value of 6.

Great Angelica

Great Angelica

 

Ninebark

Another very pretty flowering plant that we saw at Cedar Bog is called ninebark but is actually named Physocapus opulifolius.  This plant belongs to the Rosaceae family and is native to both North America and northeaster Asia. These deciduous shrubs have alternatively arranged leaves with bell shaped flowers made of 5 rounded white to pinkish flowers.  The name of this flowering plant comes from the Greek word for “bladder fruit” because some Physocarpus species have inflated fruits.  The commonly used name, ninebark, comes from the fact that mature branches of this shrub easily pull away in strips. The CC value for this pant is 4.

One super cool plant that Dr. Klips had to practically stick his head in the fen to find is sundew.  It’s real name is Drosera, and belongs to one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants – the Droseraceae family! This tiny carnivorous plant lure, captures, and digests insects that land on their leaves.  The leaves, of all species that belong to the Droseraceae family, are covered in a mucous that traps and almost glues the insects to them. Both the names this plant goes refers to the almost glistening drops of mucilage that look like drops of morning dew! These plants are hard to describe and hard to find. There are super tiny, and hide away under the rest of their surroundings.  Sundews are typically anywhere between 1 – 100 cm tall and are green in color, with red spike looking tentacles that branch out from a middle green portion.  All sundews are able to move their tentacles to aide in both capturing and digesting prey.  The CC value for this carnivore is between 7 – 9.

Sundew

Sundew

I saved my favorite plant of the Cedar bog excursion for last – go out with a bang.  We saw the prettiest iris I think I’ve ever seen in the last 15 minutes we were on the path, and right before the right hit us! It is nicknamed the Southern Blue Flag Iris, or Iris virginica.  It belongs to a family that we did not study in depth within our class, the Iridaceae.  It is a perennial plant, that has 2 – 4 bright green, lance-shaped leaves, but that is not the show-stopper of this plant.  The flowers, while they don’t smell like much, are beautiful.   The flower portion of this plant is made up of 3 horizontal sepals, and 3 erect petals.  The coloring for both the flowers and the sepals can vary from dark violet to a pink almost white color.  There is a single stripe of yellow found on the sepals that stands out bright against the purple/pink coloring.  At one point in time, it was common for the Cherokee to use this iris for a medicinal use. The root would be pounded into a paste that was used as a salve for one’s skin.  The root was also commonly used in an infusion in treatments for liver diseases or illnesses.  The Seminole found a slightly stranger and very specific use for Iris virginica in treating one’s shock after an alligator bite. The CC value for this very pretty flower is 6.

Iris

Iris

Iris