Walking onto the path what struck me immediately was how the space felt more natural than Johnson Woods. This was apparent immediately as my boots sank into the soft ground. It was easy to tell that this area had been waterlogged from all the rain and melting snow. It was interesting to hear about how this wet environment was harming the ecosystem, because the dampness indicated that it was in a lower area. This lower area meant that run off from local farms was bringing pesticides, thus harming the chemistry the poison sumac was thriving as the chemicals were ones that helped nurious them, thus letting them grow rampant throughout the bog. But I digress from my main point.
The mud underneath my feet was darker than I expected. Traditionally I am used to seeing the substance a slippery light brown color; however, this time what is stuck to my boots was dark brown almost black. Yet I knew that it was more than just having the feel of mud underneath my feet. Looking forward I realized what it was. At Johnson Woods the boardwalk looked so permanent as benches were fitted onto specific areas and seemed to anchor the boardwalk to the space. It also was how perfect it seemed, like people had spent many months planning and changing what the final boardwalk was going to look like. This board walk seemed like a group of volunteers that had maybe spent a weekend planning and building these boards. By having this man made objects feel impermanent it made the space feel more natural to me, thus these woods felt more natural than Johnson Woods.
Back in middle school my mom and stepdad took me to a rather free spirited celebration of something I had never heard of. At the festival I got to hold an albino python courtesy of a humane society raising awareness. There were many games and foods with a flavor I could not identify but still enjoyed. During the end of our walk through Johnson’s woods I learned about something unique to Ohio. I learned that Ohio is one of the few natural homes to the paw paw tree. The pawpaw tree bears a small green fruit that looks similar to a symmetrical pear called the pawpaw fruit. These supposedly taste like a mango-banana-citrus combo. When I told my mom about it I found out about an event called the pawpaw festival. More interestingly I learned that I had actually been to one.
Thinking about it now I grew a better appreciation for the presence of the festival. For those who live in Ohio you might agree with me that there’s not a lot of things that make Ohio any different from other states. But knowing about the pawpaw festival made me a little bit more proud of Ohio.
A few days ago, we had the opportunity to visit the Brown’s Lake Bog nature preserve to explore the different plant and animal life which was visible during the winter months here in Ohio. Being on lower ground, the bog was essentially right at a water table, received all and covered enough ground to give way to various wetland vegetation. As a matter of fact, the ground is so saturated with water that someone could move a tree singlehandedly by jumping up and down on the ground.
We were able to see the growth of pitcher plants, sphagnum moss, a few ferns, and many dead, but not dried out plant stalks, and cotton. There was not much wildlife to see at this time of year either, expect for a couple of birds. The pitcher plants at first looked like dead leaves, but they were very much alive. They sustain themselves in wetlands by feeding on insects that get trapped in their flower, much like the Venus Fly Trap in warmer bog climates.
Although we were unable to experience full potential of beauty that the nature preserve had to offer, we were still able to understand Brown’s Bog as a unique site, with different internal processes which creates its environment.
This was my first time visiting Brown’s Bog, and, I must admit, it was much more pleasant than my last encounter with a bog, when I found myself waist-deep in the muck, having to be pulled out by my classmates when I was in middle school. This visit was much more tame, and I was able to appreciate the specific, barren beauty that accompanies winter. The trees were bare and spindly, and the pitcher plants, red and delicate, were a striking bit of color among the shades of brown.
Over our last fall break, I accompanied the WOODs club at Wooster to Red River Gorge, Kentucky. It was my first time camping, and one day I decided to partake in a more challenging hike. On the trip that our class took to the bog, a part of me was immediately transported back to that hike in Kentucky, particularly when we decided to take the short hike that looped back to the bus at the end of our excursion. The somewhat bare expanses of land, the trail itself, and even the rain seemed, in that moment, almost identical to that hike in Kentucky. I was experiencing nostalgia in a place where I had never been before. I think it is interesting to consider the universality of beauty, and how there can be such similar beauty in two entirely different places. I think that, in this way, as well as many other ways, nature can be unifying.
Like in Johnsons Woods, a board walk led us through the woods in Browns Bog. For this, I was glad, since without the boardwalk we would be trudging through ankle high water. Having discussed the conflict of the boardwalk at Johnsons woods, I didn’t think much of the one at Browns Bog. Aside from a couple of cardinals and the sounds of our feet as we walked, it was pretty quiet. I was most excited about seeing the pitcher plant, as I had never seen one before. I was expecting to have to take a while looking for them, but to my surprise the bog was filled with them. As we stood at the middle of the board walk and talked about the history of Browns Bog, I was surprised to learn that the poison sumac was introduced to the bog by humans. I could also not help but get distracted by the fact that the side of the board, on which I stood, was sinking.
Our trek through Brown’s Bog was a welcome and peaceful break from the hectic pre-spring break rush. Although many bemoan the dreary weather, I think it added to the serenity of the bog. This introspective feeling was heightened by the boardwalk weaving through the woods. Unlike the walk at Johnson Woods, this boardwalk was narrow, making it impossible to walk next to anyone.
This tranquility was stymied somewhat by a nagging fear in the back of my mind: poison sumac. I’m a veteran poison ivy contractor, and from what Professor Bourne said, sumac is several times worse. Upon further investigation, the unpleasant reaction sumac has with skin is because of the compound urushiol, which bind to proteins in the skin. This triggers an immune response— the cells that adhered to the foreigner are killed by the immune system, which creates those characteristic red and oozing welts. Interestingly, not all sumac varieties trigger such a response— others have been used in dyes, as medicine, and even to flavor beverages. Once again, Heraclitus’ duality makes itself known, because, as Hannah described in class, sumac can be both what it is (an irritant that causes cell death) and what it is not (a medicine to cure various ailments).
Video: The Larvae in the Pitcher Plant
What struck me most in Brown’s Bog, beside the silent presence of the glacier’s lasting carvings, was the life all around us — dormant, yet busy as ever. Professor Borne lamented that there were fewer ferns and leafy branches to impress us and simulate a North American Eden. While I admit each season has its special contributions, I was no less put off by the winter scene. I had put on my winter boots this time to avoid my toes going numb, and I felt sufficiently protected from the widespread mud. I went into the bog with no preconceptions, just the desire to be outside, away from schoolwork where I could just walk around nature and only think of nature and our complicated relationship to it. The ferns were still present all over the forest floor, but they were hidden by fallen leaves and other detritus. We see it as an escape, yet provide it no escape from our own exploitive expansion that threatens the very oases of “true nature” that we still expect to remain. Brown’s Bog itself only remains because of its private ownership and its over-saturated land disdained by loggers.
Yet it was not until our gathering at ever-shrinking Brown’s Lake that I really began to notice the still-active animal life. A cardinal’s call from the edge of the clearing. Another sound — a bird I do not recognize. An unknown species of woodpecker, now a black silhouette against the late afternoon’s bright grey, overcast sky. As we walked back towards the forked path we passed, a desire came upon me to look closer into the pitcher plants. One I noticed had collected water in it, in addition to its predatory enzyme juices, likely from the rain earlier that day. Leaning in closer, I noticed that there was some type of larvae growing in the pitcher plant as if it were some ready-made nursery. Professor Bourne noted it was too cold for mosquitoes, and my Google research told me it was likely some type of fly, as they are known to use pitcher plants for their young. Seeing all the little noodle-like larvae squirming around, and thinking back on the different birds, I realized how much of the bog was much more active than it seemed to let on. Perhaps if I had set up a folding chair and read a book for a few hours, I might have seen more.
Nature has a way of sending us signs. When the leaves on trees turn up and the wind changes and the animals become scarce, we know a storm is coming. When walking through the woods to see an increasing presence of peat moss, we know we are approaching a bog, but I am led to wonder what about peat moss links it to the wet environment of Brown’s Bog. Peat, or sphagnum, moss has adapted its structure to the watery habitats in which it is found. The water supports the plant, so it does not need strengthening structures, meaning wet places are where the moss can grow and thrive most efficiently. Tangentially—but still interestingly—at its base, sphagnum moss is decaying and dying, while is base is made up of a stem and branches that foster photosynthesizing leaves. Further, as we witnessed in Brown’s Bog, peat moss makes up a forest floor that is supple and rubbery. It has come to be known as a “habitat manipulator” for its effect on the atmosphere, adding significant amounts of hydrogen and its ability to spread into drier environments and provide habitat for many peatland plants, including carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant we saw in the bog. What this microcosm shows us is the great influence one aspect of the environment bears on all its surroundings, even so far as to say the power the part has over the whole. And even as the root of the moss is dying, the species is fostering new life.
This was my second time visiting Brown’s Bog, this time was a much different experience. I visited here last year with two other friends, during late spring, before the chaos of finals. The land was much more colorful and filled with vegetation. This time visiting, ice covered the plants in the bog, with this though came a greater more dusk view of the kettle hole lake. There was little focus this time on the flowers and plant life but more on the glacier made hole. It’s a shame this kettle hole lake will disappear in the future.
This past Monday we went on a field trip to Brown’s Lake Bog Preserve. It is known to have a rare plant community due to the naturally occurring acidic properties of sphagnum moss, while simultaneously being able to insulate the water below from the rapid air temperature changes. Brown’s Lake Bog is also “one of the few remaining peatland sites in Ohio that contains an open kettle lake surrounded by a floating sphagnum moss mat” (The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab). What caught my attention, while walking along the Boardwalk was the large presence of sphagnum moss I saw. While Professor Bourne was talking about different elements of the bog, what was amazing to learn from him was sphagnum moss’s ability to retain a lot of water. In that being said, I thought that must have been the reason there was a huge presence of it here; it was because there was a pool of water that it could live and thrive in. But to my discovery, in doing this assignment, I learned that it was the other way around, that sphagnum moss was the primary component of any bog and that it is the large reason that bogs exist in the first place. While I was looking at the sphagnum moss up close, what was really fascinating about it was seeing the individual “leaves” and how they were short and were slightly toothed. It was also interesting to see how they did not seem to grow higher than 4 inches from the ground, but I guess that is expected with moss. The last feature of the sphagnum moss that stood out to me was the vibrant green color it had, especially the moss that was under the water as it was the most visible thing you could see.
Wiles, Greg. “AMRE at Brown’s Lake Bog.” The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab, 19 June 2018, treering.voices.wooster.edu/2018/06/19/amre-at-browns-lake-bog/.