Flynn Bogs Chapter IV

CHAPTER IV - Alder Thicket and Pond


In the middle of the ranch is a dense Alder thicket which has grown up on the drainage of a small pond. Common or Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata) is a large shrub or small tree that thrives in wet, acid soil. Like some legumes, its roots are host to nitrogen- fixing bacteria which both nourish the Alder and improve the surrounding soil. Alder flowers are borne in short catkins. The female catkins are football-shaped and mature into woody structures which look just like miniature pinecones. The male catkins are narrower and not as long-lasting as the female catkins. In fact, most gold and silver "pinecone" jewelry is actually made from electroplated Alder "cones."

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In boggy soil, densely shaded by the Alders, is a dense population of Smallspike False Nettle or Bog Hemp (Boehmeria cylindrica, not shown). This plant has tough, fibrous stems. No surprise, then, that it is in the same genus as the plant from which the natural fiber ramie comes.

In the same area one can find stands of Lycopus rubellus (Arkansas Bugleweed, not shown). This member of the mint family has small greenish flowers and rather floppy stems.

There is also Lizardtail here (Saururus cernuus). The long spikes of tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves make it a rather attractive plant. It is sometimes cultivated for ornament.

Some beautiful wildflowers and other interesting plants grow around the margin of the pond. The most striking is Meadow Beauty (Rhexia mariana), whose pink flowers have bright yellow, curved anthers. The fruits of Meadow Beauty resemble tiny jugs.

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Beggar's Ticks or Bur-Marigold (Bidens sp.) can also be showy. The golden yellow sunflower-like blossoms produce tiny fruits usually topped by two long or short awns. With a hand-lens, one can see the barbed hairs on the awns. It is this velcro-like combination of hairs and awns that make dry Bidens fruits so perfectly suited to dispersal by furry animals--or botanists' socks!

On a good day, one can find Ladies' Tresses Orchids (Spiranthes cernua) here. The small greenish-white flowers make one or more conspicuous spirals around the slender stem. Most local species have leaves at one time of the year and flowers at another.

Not so rare is Umbrellagrass, which is really a sedge (Cyperaceae). Fuirena squarrosa (Hairy Umbrellagrass) has non-descript, grass-like leaves and spiky heads of greenish flowers and fruit. One could linger an entire day examining this and all the other sedges, rushes, and grasses which flourish in wet areas like this, but there are other parts of the ranch to explore...


Chapter V - Pitcher Plant Bog


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