Saturday, June 15, 2024

Cedar Bog Moth Night: Saturday, June 22


A LeConte's Haploa (Haploa lecontei) at rest on the needles of White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis). I came across this moth last June 8, while on a whirlwind trip around Cedar Bog, near Urbana, Ohio, on my way home from elsewhere. I was especially pleased at this scene, as the moth chose the bog's namesake plant for its resting spot.

On Saturday, June 8, Chelsea Gottfried will give a talk about moths at Cedar Bog's visitor center. It is loosely based on the book that she and I coauthored, entitled Gardening for Moths. In addition to pragmatic information for anyone interested in growing native plants/moths (the two are inseparable), the book is full of natural history information about moths and their critical role in the environment.

The talk begins at 8 pm, and afterwards we'll have mothing stations up and running and luring lots of interesting moths. Visitors can see these fabulous creatures up close and personal and there should be plenty of great photo ops. For details, GO HERE.

Cedar Bog is an absolute goldmine of floral and faunal diversity and hosts one of the largest concentrations of rare species in Ohio. A few photos of some of the floristic gems (my main targets on that day) follow; all were made on my short June 8 visit.

If you would be interested in a special pre-talk hike around the bog, starting at 6:30 pm, led by myself and Chelsea, let me know. We'll probably limit it to a dozen people as the boardwalk limits the number of people who can gather as a group to look at and learn about interesting finds. Just send me an email if you're interested (jimmccormac35 AT

As always, click the photo to enlarge

A beautiful Grass-pink (Calopogon tuberosus) poses nicely for the camera. I especially appreciated its presentation of odd numbers: three flowers, and five buds above. Some stragglers may still be holding on for our moth night adventure next weekend. This orchid is pretty common in the fen meadows at Cedar Bog and is one of a number of orchid species that occurs there.

PHOTO NOTE: I made all of the images in this post with my Canon R5 (I can hardly bring myself to shoot with anything else, after much experience working with this amazing camera) and the Canon 400 DO II telephoto lens. I knew that at least some of my target plants would not be particularly close to the boardwalk - people should never leave the boardwalk - so I wanted much more reach than either of my macro lenses offer. The 400 DO II is a sensational lens that produces tack-sharp imagery, is very lightweight, has brilliant image stabilization for handholding, sports a relatively close minimum focus range but also works well with a 25mm extension tube for even closer focusing, and creates a wondrous bokeh. It and other larger telephotos can be fine, and even extraordinary, lenses for plant photography and I frequently employ them for such purposes.

The primary target of this day, the Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes). This is a very rare Ohio plant and is also very rare within Cedar Bog. Only two plants were found this year. Purple Fringed Orchid is a very striking plant, but can be easy to miss in shady, well-vegetated haunts such as at this site. This plant, and the other, were rather short in stature as well, making it even easier to miss them.

PHOTO NOTE: To get this image, I laid on the boardwalk and shot through the one small opening in the vegetation that offered an unobstructed view of the inflorescence. I had to push up against the kick rail on the far side of the boardwalk to get far enough away to focus, as my minimum focus distance (with the extension tube) was about 8 feet. Settings were ISO 1000, f/7.1, and 1/160 second exposure. The higher ISO (I typically prefer ISO 100-200 for plants) was necessitated by the darkish shaded habitat. Also, as I was handholding a bit higher ISO atones for any movement on my part as it permits a faster shutter speed than lower ISO settings would. Because of background clutter, I opted for a fairly open aperture of f/7.1 to better melt away the backdrop. In general, I prefer more open apertures for plants, often between f/4 and f/7.1. As for presentation, I chose to crop down to just the flowering portion of the inflorescence. After all, the incredible flowers are the most charismatic part of this orchid. Besides, the bottom portion of the plant had various stems and leaves of other plants in the way. No flash, and I'm tempted to add, "of course". I'm not a fan of flash on most plants, as it imparts a harshness and flatness that isn't pleasing to my eye. There are certain situations in which flash might help improve a plant image, but those instances are not typical.

Finally, the state-endangered Horned Bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta). This is one of Ohio's rarest plants, being found only at Cedar Bog and one other fen in a neighboring county. There are old records from two northeastern counties, but the bladderwort is no longer known to occur at those sites. Bladderworts are carnivorous plants, indeed, the largest group of botanical carnivores with some 250 species worldwide. Their root systems are beset with tiny sacs (the bladders) that have trap doors. When some tiny animal such as a water flea or insect larva swims near and triggers guard hairs on the bladder, the door pops open inwardly with great rapidity, sucking the victim inside. The door then rapidly shuts and over time the bladderwort ingests the soft parts of the prey, abetted by various enzymes that speed decomposition.

I was glad that I had the bigger lens for this one, as this bladderwort - the most unobstructed specimen that I could find - was probably 12-15 feet out in the meadow. The light was not exactly awesome, as it was afternoon with mostly bright sun. I hope to work more with this species in the future, and I think that I have more pleasingly illuminated shots than this from past work.

If you can make it out for our event next Saturday, we will see these species, sans the Purple Fringed Orchids which will probably be well past flowering - and MUCH more.

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