the Adirondack Mountains:
12 July 2012
On 12 July, VIC naturalist Brian McAllister led a nature walk focused on three different kinds of habitats: mixed forest and two types of Adirondack wetland: bog and marsh. We covered the Boreal Life Trail and the Barnum Brook Trail.
The wooded area of the Boreal Life Trail near the gazebo provides an example of mixed forest, consisting of both deciduous trees and conifers. Red Spruce and Balsam Fir thrive here, alongside Hemlock, Red Maple, and Yellow Birch. Both Red Spruce and Balsam Fir are members of the Pine family. Red Spruce trees have single, four-sided needles 1-2 centimeters long, which Balsam Fir has fragrant, flat needles 1-2.5 centimeters long with two silvery lengthwise lines or grooves below. The understory is composed of club mosses (such as Tree Club Moss), shrubs (such as Hobblebush and Wild Raisin), ferns (such as the Evergreen Wood Fern), and wildflowers (such as Purple Trillium, Canada Mayflower, Clintonia, and Common Wood Sorrel).
The boardwalk area of the Boreal Life Trail provides an example of an Adirondack bog. This habitat is a nutrient-poor, acidic wetland dominated by sphagnum mosses, sedges, and shrubs and evergreen trees rooted in deep peat. The two main trees found on Barnum Bog are Black Spruce and Tamarack. Tamaracks, which are also known as the Eastern Larch or American Larch, are coniferous (cone-bearing) trees which behave like a deciduous tree; the needles of the Tamarack turn a golden yellow in fall and drop to the ground, appearing again in the spring. Tamaracks thrive in the acidic environment of bogs. Both the Tamaracks and Black Spruce in Barnum Bog are quite small, because the harsh environment causes them to grow very slowly, so a tree only a few feet high may be quite old.
Shrubs growing on Barnum Bog include evergreen members of the heath family, such as Sheep Laurel, Bog Laurel, Bog Rosemary, Leatherleaf, and Labrador Tea. We also examined some of the many wildflowers that thrive on Barnum Bog, including several types of carnivorous plants: the Roundleaf Sundew, the Pitcher Plant, and the Bladderwort. The latter is a submersed free-floating plant featuring tiny bladders attached to the leaves, which trap and digest very tiny animals. A number of bog-loving orchids were blooming during our visit, including the Rose Pogonia, and White Fringed Orchid. Birds which nest in Barnum Bog include the Lincoln's Sparrow and the Palm Warbler.
The overlooks along the Barnum Brook Trail provide excellent views of Heron Marsh -- another type of Adirondack wetland. Like other Adirondack marshes, Heron Marsh is a mineral-rich wetland where the dominant vegetation consists of herbaceous plants that are rooted in hydric soils, but not in peat. It has both open water, where White Water-lily and Yellow Pond Lily bloom and water fowl, such as Mallard, American Black Duck, and Ring-necked Duck can be seen. Heron Marsh also has islands of low-growing vegetation, dominated by grasses and sedges, where American Bittern hunt for food. Pickerelweed and Blue Flag Iris flourish at lower water depths. Red-winged Blackbirds are commonly seen perching on snags and shrubs on the marsh. Swamp Sparrows nest among the cattails and shrubs along the margins of the marsh. Heron Marsh also has two active beaver lodges.