Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rare plants of Cedar Bog

This is the scene shortly after entering Cedar Bog via its fabled boardwalk. Most of the plant species in this shot are, if not downright rare, uncommon at best. Cedar Bog is a treasure trove of rarities; a botanical paradise quite unlike any other habitat in Ohio.

I'm giving a presentation on the rare plants of Cedar Bog on Saturday, July 13 at 10 am in their fabulous new visitor's center. It costs a whopping $6.00 ($5.00) if you are a member of the Cedar Bog Association (and you should be!). Proceeds go to benefit the bog and its management, of course. All of the details ARE HERE. I've been visiting and studying the place for years, and will share photos of Cedar Bog's habitats and botanical denizens, as well as the story of its existence and why this habitat and its plants are so rare now, at least in Ohio. Perhaps best of all, following the talk we'll have lunch, then head out the back door and onto the boardwalk to see scores of interesting plants (and animals) in real time.

I was at the bog yesterday morning, and spent some quality time ferreting out interesting flora with Cedar Bog's new manager, Tracy Bleim, and current Cedar Bog Association board vice-president Cheryl Erwin. Following is just a snippet of the cool stuff that we saw on our foray.

A conspicuous beauty - and one you'll see if you make the July 13th gig - is the rare Fen Indian-plantain, Arnoglossum plantagineum. It's having an especially good year and one might not think it rare if Cedar Bog was their only exposure to this plant. But it's only known from a handful of other sites in Ohio.

Grass-pink orchid, Calopogon tuberosus, which is also in profusion at Cedar Bog this year. It is one of ten species of orchids here - 22% of Ohio's total orchid flora. Not bad for a 427-acre wetland!

Cedar Bog is not really a bog - we'll learn more about wetland terminology on the 13th - but is a fen. And fens are dominated by sedges, some of which are showy and quite interesting. This is Twig-rush, Cladium mariscoides, which is rare in Ohio, but not at Cedar Bog. Its only close relative in the eastern U.S. is the saw-grass of the Florida Everglades.

A beautiful flower to be sure, but don't eat it! This is the "Death Camas", or Wand Lily, Zigadenus elegans, and it is toxic.

One of my target plants was one of Ohio's great botanical rarities, and a species I probably hadn't seen for a decade or more. We were a bit past its flowering time, but I found that the fruit, with their long feathery bristles, looked quite fine. This is a state-endangered plant, the Prairie Valerian, Valeriana ciliata, and it is only known from one other locale in Ohio. This is arguably Cedar Bog's most significant plant. In 1838, botanist John Samples discovered Prairie Valerian at Cedar Bog, and it was described to science from his specimen.

Of course, tremendous plant diversity spawns animal diversity, and one cannot stroll Cedar Bog's boardwalk without encountering interesting animal life. This nymph katydid had the temerity to snack on the flowers of Shrubby Cinquefoil, Dasiphora fruticosa, which is a fairly rare plant in its own right.

We were pleased to see several Appalachian Browns, and one of these butterflies cooperated quite nicely for our cameras. There is a lot of butterfly diversity at Cedar Bog, including our largest species, the Giant Swallowtail.

This is the state-endangered Elfin Skimmer, the smallest dragonfly in North America. As always, CLICK THE PIC to see more detail. This is the male, in his chalky-blue finery. Females are just as small, but look totally different. They are wasp mimics, with alternating bands of black and yellowish-white, and even twitch their abdomen like a wasp when at rest. I can about guarantee that we'll see these, and other cool dragonflies on the 13th.

Even the parking lot has its charms. Native plants abound around its edges, and I wandered over to check some blooming Common Milkweeds, Asclepias syriaca. And then spent the next ten minutes capturing images of the charismatic Red Milkweed Beetles, Tetraopes tetraophthalmus, that were inhabiting the plants.

If you've never visited Cedar Bog, I hope that you can make it out on July 13th. And if you have, I hope that you can come again!

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