Field Trip: Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and Bog

The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp in Bradford, NH, is a good example of an inland cedar swamp (others in NH are Cooper Cedar Woods in New Durham and Loverens Mill Preserve in Antrim; I haven’t been to either). These inland swamps, located more than 30 miles from the coast and at an elevation higher than 500 ft., are known for their quite acidic (pH 3.4 to 4.8) and usually wet soil. At the end of the swamp trail (mostly boardwalk) is the Bradford Bog, which is really a fen — a medium-level fen system, to be exact. There’s a short observation tower from which to view the bog and the surrounding hills.

view from atop observation deck
view from atop observation deck

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I’ve visited the swamp and bog four times, in August of 2014, May of 2015, October of 2016, and just this past weekend, when the snow was about 18 inches deep, or more. We parked on the narrowly plowed edge of E. Washington Rd., then when we left we saw that there was a large plowed parking area a hundred yards or so farther up the road that we could have used if we had seen it. There was no plowed path into the trail but the kiosk was visible over the snow mound; with snowshoes on, it was easy to clamber over the snow and onto the trail, which was fairly well packed down by others who’d used it before us (we saw only one family in the 2 hours or so we spent here).

washingtonstkioskbehindsnowmoundsbradfordbognh18feb2017

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What’s nice about winter, snow, and snowshoeing is that you can travel off-trail in these wet bogs, swamps, and lowlands, without damaging the delicate plants or risking being sucked into eternal mummification beneath the mossy hummocks, dark standing water, and/or peat moss. We took a couple of side trails that are often too wet to walk, and once we reached the bog at the end of the trail, we were able to trek all through it, which is not possible or advisable at other times of the year.

snowyfieldblacksprucetreeshillsbradfordbognh18feb2017

Usually, you don’t get this view of the observation tower, taken from in the bog:sideviewobservationdecksnowsprucetreesbradfordbognh18feb2017

There was some animal fur in the bog snow:

fewinchesgreydarkfursnowbradfordbognh18feb2017

Views around the bog in winter and in other seasons:

blacksprucebogsnowskyhillbradfordbognh18feb2017

view in October
view in October

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blacksprucebogsnowblueskyhillsbbradfordbognh18feb2017

view in May
view in May
view in October
view in October
closer October view
closer October view

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blacksprucebogsnowblueskyhillscbradfordbognh18feb2017

view in May
view in May

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And as doors to the next world go, a bog ain’t a bad choice. It’s not quite water and it’s not quite land – it’s an in-between place.” ― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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The downside to visiting in winter is that you can see only a few of the species common to this community: the Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) of course, as well as red spruce (Picea rubens), black spruce (Picea mariana), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), eastern larch (Larix laricina), sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), some lichen. And of course, no butterflies or other insects were out.

Rhodora:

And Rhodora in the spring:

rhodora, seen in May
rhodora, seen in May

Black Spruce:

Lichens:

Larches:

larches, spruce against sky
larches, spruce against sky

And larches at other times:

larch tree, seen in October
larch tree, seen in October
larch branch, seen in August
larch branch, seen in August

Atlantic White Cedar:

Atlantic White Cedar with sign
Atlantic White Cedar with sign

And a non-snow shot of the trunks, with mosses:

white cedar trunks, with mosses, seen in August
white cedar trunks, with mosses, seen in August

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Off the main swamp trail, I also found some stands of speckled alder (Alnus incana) growing, as well as winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and cherry birch (Betula lenta), and some polypore fungi on a white birch snag:

birch polypore
birch polypore

Alder:

speckled alder buds
speckled alder buds
speckled alder cones
speckled alder cones

 

Winterberry:

redberriesilexverticillatawinterberrybradfordbognh18feb2017

Cherry birch – the bark smells strongly of wintergreen!:

cherry birch bud
cherry birch bud
cherry birch bark
cherry birch bark

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In other seasons, you might see (those in bold are pictured below) black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), three-seeded sedge (Carex trisperma), bluebead lily aka Clintonia (Clintonia borealis), creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula),  wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), bog cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium or the tawny variety, E. virginicum ), pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea), pink lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule), painted trillum (Trillium undulatum), spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), star flower (Trientalis borealis), three-leaved goldthread (Coptis trifolia), Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) …

Vaccinium corymbosum (northern highbush blueberry) flowers, seen in May
Vaccinium corymbosum (northern highbush blueberry) flowers, seen in May
Clintonia in bloom, seen in May
Clintonia in bloom, seen in May
wintergreen, seen in October
wintergreen, seen in October
mass of wintergreen, seen in October
mass of wintergreen, seen in October
bunchberry, seen in August
bunchberry, seen in August

 

lots of bog cotton, seen in August
lots of bog cotton, seen in August
pitcher plants, seen in August
pitcher plants, seen in August
Lady slippers and star flowers, seen in May
Lady slippers and star flowers, seen in May
painted trillium, seen in May
painted trillium, seen in May
spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), seen in August
spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), seen in August
three-leaved goldthread (Coptis trifolia) in bloom, seen in May
three-leaved goldthread (Coptis trifolia) in bloom, seen in May
Indian cucumber root, seen in May
Indian cucumber root, seen in May

and many kinds of mosses, ferns, and fungi:

Clavulina fusiformus (coral fungi), seen in August
Clavulina fusiformus (coral fungi), seen in August
taffy-like Clavulina fusiformus (coral fungus), seen in August
taffy-like Clavulina fusiformus (coral fungus), seen in August
blurry Trichoglossum hirsutum (Black Earth Tongue fungus), seen in August
blurry Trichoglossum hirsutum (Black Earth Tongue fungus), seen in August
unidentified red curly fungi, seen in August
unidentified red curly fungi, seen in August
underside of a likely Lactarius fungus, seen in August
underside of a likely Lactarius fungus, seen in August
yellow jelly fungi, seen in October
yellow jelly fungi, seen in October
fern, seen in May
fern, seen in May
moss along boardwalk, seen in August
moss along boardwalk, seen in August
mossy stump with fungi, seen in August
mossy stump with fungi, seen in August

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“In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, … how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.” ― Barbara Hurd, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination

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For More Info:

Inland White Cedar Swamp, Natural Communities of NH, at NH Division of Forests and Lands

Map and info at Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust

The Ecology of Atlantic White Cedar Wetlands:  A Community Profile, 1989 report of the Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior. 125 pp PDF

Atlantic white-cedar: Ecology and Best Management Practices Manual, by Kristin A. Mylecraine and George L. Zimmermann, Dept of Environmental Protection, New Jersey, 2000. 19 pp PDF.

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As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible but more mysterious. – Albert Schweitzer, “Paris Notes”

 

 

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