Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wildflowers Series #2: Oh, for Peat's Sake

True to its name, bog rosemary grows only in a bog,
where the plant has adapted to the cold, acidic environment.

A bog and a book signing


BY PHYLLIS ROOT AND KELLY POVO

Heading up north to our first bookstore book signing in Park Rapids (last weekend), we detoured to the Lake Bemidji State Park bog boardwalk—one of our favorite places to visit. The boardwalk leads out into a bog at the edge of a small, secluded lake.

Bogs are peatlands whose only water comes from precipitation; they are tough but fragile environments where footprints in the moss can leave a lasting mark, so we’re grateful for boardwalks that allow us a glimpse of these wild places.

Along the trail through the park to the boardwalk we saw signs of what we call second spring (the one we follow north after the first woodland flowers have already bloomed in southern Minnesota). Wood anemone, Canada mayflower, sarsaparilla, pussytoes, and sessile-leaf bellwort all bloomed brightly under the trees.


Labrador tea: This plant really can be made into
a tea, but don't try it—besides the fact that you should
leave native plants unharmed, the tea is said to be toxic.

Goldthread's small flowers look like thready stars,
and its three-part glossy leaves with scallop-edged
leaflets lie close to the ground.


We came to the bog while mist still drifted across the little lake where a lone loon called. Along the boardwalk we found Labrador tea’s white flowers, the small pink blooms of bog rosemary, purple pitcher plants deep in the moss, the small white flowers of goldthread (so called because of its thready yellow roots), bright buckbean, and the graceful buds of stemless lady’s-slipper about to open. Tamarack trees were already clothed in their soft green new needles, the tiniest of sundew plants were just beginning to show themselves in an island of moss, and blueberry bushes wore tiny pale bells of flowers. A temperature gauge at the end of the boardwalk informed us that while the air temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit, ten inches below the surface the water in the bog was 36 degrees.

Later in the summer we’ll come back to look for tuberous grass-pink orchids, dragon’s-mouth, showy lady’s-slipper, more sundew, and whatever else we might see in this rich and amazing place. The plants that grow here may look fragile, but they are also tough survivors, able to tolerate higher acidity and colder water—and they delight us whenever we have a chance to see them.

Filled up with flower sightings and loon song, we drove from the wonder of the bog to the wonderful independent bookstore Beagle and Wolf Books and Bindery, where we talked wildflowers with fellow flower seekers, signed books, read a lovely review of our book by bookstore owner Sally Wizik Wills, and had a splendid time. A day of bogs and bookstores. What could be better?

Here's a list of more summer book events in June.


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Phyllis Root and Kelly Povo spent ten years collaborating on Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers: A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between. Check back on this blog as they document their wildflower-seeking adventures this summer.

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