|Plant life on a root-ball hummock.|
In traversing the bog, there are moments when spruce and fir press in from all sides in total embrace, and moments when, upon entering a glade of leatherleaf bushes, an experience of boundless delight. All in the spruce bog exists in a constant state of gradual transformation. While it takes a trained eye to notice it, things have changed here since a year ago, a decade ago, and a century ago; in some spots only a little, in others, significantly. This year's leatherleaf glade can be changed into a stand of tall spruces over the course of a decade, and vice versa. In experiencing the bog's confining embrace and wide open freedom I am reminded that I too exist in a constant state of gradual transformation thanks to the Source of Divine Creativity who is at work in the spruce bog and in my own heart and mind as well.
Transformation does not happen in isolation. Transformation happens in community. The spruce bog at the Algerine Swamp is a space within which I experience a profound sense of community every time I visit. These root-ball hummocks aren't just interesting to look at, they are biological structures that host an amazing variety of ecologically stratified habitat zones through which space is nurtured for an incredible diversity of wild neighbors!
|One of many root-ball hummocks in the bog.|
Sphagnum moss is a foundational component to the bog both biologically and physiologically. Sphagnum is present throughout the water column (I'm not sure how deep!) and climbing up the sides of hummocks up to about 7 or 8 inches above the water level. Creeping snowberry and bunchberry plants do best 6 inches to a foot above the water level. Conifers that look the healthiest are growing atop hummocks raised a foot or more above the water level. Trees growing closer to the waterline tend to be leaners.
Another variable to consider is light penetration. The coniferous trees that fill the bog reduce light penetration where they are present. Lichens thrive on bark and branches of trees, especially snags. Bazzania trilobata liverwort and mosses other than sphagnum do best a foot or more above the waterline in at least partial shade. Bog bilberry and leatherleaf bushes are prevalent where full sun is allowed to penetrate any spots that are ever so slightly raised above the water line.
Whether on sphagnum, fallen log, or root-ball hummock, no available space is left unoccupied at the spruce bog! In fact, this is why there are no well-established trails in the bog; a single step cannot be taken that avoids contact with some diverse community of living organisms!
The spruce bog at the Algerine Swamp Natural Area is a truly beautiful place. There is much to be appreciated here, even by looking on from the edge of the bog, where thick balsam fir or hemlock swamp gives way to root-ball hummocks, as long as one is willing to put up with the biting insects, or perhaps even to see the flies and mosquitoes as vital members of the spruce bog community.
|Nashville warbler (photo not taken at Algerine Swamp)|
|Bay-breasted warbler (photo not taken at Algerine Swamp)|
In a month's time it will be interesting to see what orchids and other flowering plants are in bloom, and to find out if the bay-breasted and Nashville warblers chose to stick around, or if this was merely one stop among many via their annual northward journey.
If you should choose to visit this place, make sure you have a map and a compass, and that you tread lightly with each step so as to do no harm to one of the most ecologically significant living treasures in the Tiadaghton State Forest.
|Looking into one of many dense clusters of conifers in the bog.|
|One of the more open areas with abundant leatherleaf shrubs.|