Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cranberry Glades

Today was my day to co-lead a trip up to the West Virginia high country, and Cranberry Glades. This spot within the sprawling Monongahela National Forest is one of the coolest places in the eastern United States, and is lush with diversity. It's nearly 4,000 feet up here, and these mountain crests are often dipped in cloud, as they were today. But constant moisture and cool temperatures makes the world work here, and creates the conditions for a fantastic assemblage of flora and all of the animals that go with it.
Like bonsai gone mad, twisted, gnarled Red Spruce dot the landscape. It is a birder's paradise, and boreal species that one normally would have to go much further north to see can be found here.

A territorial Dark-eyed Junco keeps watch on our group. Other northern breeders include Hermit Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Canada Warbler, and many more.

Perpetually cool, waterlogged peaty soil spawn all manner of fascinating flora. Botanists got crazy at Cranberry Glades, and even the floristically unitiated will find the plants interesting. False Hellebore, Veratrum viride, dominates this shot, and some Marsh Blue Violets, Viola cucullata, thrust forth at the bottom of the photo.

A gorgeous treelet, the Mountain Juneberry, Amelanchier bartramiana, was in full bloom in the shrubby thickets. This was a "life plant" for most of our crowd. It is known from only three West Virginia counties, and they are the furthest south populations of this plant.

Mist, a constant companion of the numerous Black Bears that roam this area, shrouds the edges of the vast cranberry meadow.

The area namesake, Large Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, still holding some berries not yet found by bears or other hungry animals. It is common, as is a similar species, Small Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos.

We were pleased to see the rare - at this latitude - Bog-rosemary, Andromeda glaucophylla, nearing full bloom. A member of the heath family (Ericaceae), it and it's fellow heaths, such as the cranberries, dominate the acidic sphagnous substrate of the open meadow.

The tiny urceolate, or urn-shaped, flowers of Bog-rosemary are suffused with pale pink and are indescribably showy upon close inspection, and we took a moment to inspect one closely.

In spite of the mistand clouds, we had a fantastic day high in the West Virginia mountains.


Dawn Fine said...

That bog rosemary is beautiful..
When I saw all that wet and mind went to MORELS ...did you see any?

Kathi said...

While Cranberry Glades has the reputation of being cold, Tuesday when I was there it was 85 degrees, and we broiled under the sun. I'm sorry I didn't get to take this trip with you. I missed a lot of botanizing. I had to go back for the pitcher plant and bog rosemary, for gosh sakes.

Did get a gorgeous Blackburnian (and maybe even a photo or two) but missed the Canada, the junco, the wren and others. Not my best day, but still pretty good.


LauraHinNJ said...

Wishing I might've been on that trip with you also, tho my trip there was nice.

Jim McCormac said...

Hey KatDoc and Laura,

Nice seeing you both at the festival, and I enjoyed meeting "The Flock". Even if at times you all sounded like those chachalacas in my last post! Just kidding - KIDDING!!!

Hi Dawn - yep, we found a number of morels on one of our trips. They were duly plucked, sauteed, and consumed. They are no more. That is the morel of the story.


Wil said...

What a great post. Cranberry Glades is a real jewel in WV. I can't get enough of it. Looks like your group got some great looks at birds and blooms. I had the last group up there on Saturday. We did manage to get a Canada warbler to come in and put on a show for the birders. He was a real show stopper.
It was great seeing and birding with you again. I hope to see you soon,

Great Blue Heron, with ornamental plumes

  A Great Blue Heron, a very common wading bird and a species all of us are undoubtedly familiar with. It's never productive to get jade...