Beulah Bog

Bogs are old places that evoke the passage of time. Beulah Bog in SE Wisconsin consists of a series of kettle depressions formed when great boulders of ice that were mixed with the till of the Wisconsin Glacier melted. These depressions became large ponds. As boreal forests retreated northward and were replaced by hardwood forest and then oak savannas, woodlands, and prairies, the relentless annual growing and dying of floating mat-forming sedges and sphagnum moss have slowly closed over and filled these ponds.

Each depression containing a bog is surrounded by a “moat.” This is the area of tension between the bog and the surrounding uplands. When groundwater levels rise, the floating bog mat follows with it, creating a zone of separation that is often inundated early in the year or during wet times. Recent weeks have been exceptionally dry, so my entry into the bog was fairly straightforward.

This is the

This is the “moat” zone that separates the uplands from the bog. Here it is dense with arrowheads, lake sedge, and wool-grass sedge. In wetter times, this would be a thigh-deep mire of roots and muck.

There is still a small area of open water in one of the depressions, surrounded on all sides by floating-mat forming sedges and other vegetation. Left undisturbed, this will eventually be sealed over.

There is still a small area of open water in one of the depressions, surrounded on all sides by floating-mat forming sedges and other vegetation. As the mat thickens, it supports shrubs and tamaracks. Left undisturbed, this pond will be sealed over in short geological time. There is a boardwalk here. I would never be this close to open water, if I were on a floating mat!

Bogs in SE Wisconsin don’t pack as many species into a given area as some of our other natural communities, but they are among the most interesting. The water that feeds the depressions containing the bogs consists of recent rainwater that has had little opportunity to pass through mineral rich soils or glacial till, and the decaying spagnum moss acidifies the environment. This leads to the development of a plant community dominated by specialized plants, including a number sedges, ericaceous shrubs like huckleberry and leather leaf, and carnivorous plants like sundews, pitcher plant, and bladderwort.

Some open areas of the bog are absolutely covered with minute round-leaved sundews, a carnivorous plant that snares insects with the  sticky drops held on stalks from their modified leaves.

Some open areas of the bog abound with round-leaved sundew, a carnivorous plant that snares insects with the sticky drops held on stalks from its modified leaves.

A purple pitcher plant in sphagnum moss- Pitcher plants digest insects in their liquid-filled, modified leaves, which are lined with downward pointing hairs.

A purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) in sphagnum moss- Pitcher plants digest insects in their liquid-filled, modified leaves, which are lined with downward pointing hairs.

Bladderwort (here, Utricularia gibba) trap invertebrates in small bladders.

Humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) traps invertebrates in small bladders held on small leaves that float in shallow depressions or sit on top of recently exposed mucky or peaty shores.

Beak-rush (here, Rhyncospora alba) is not a rush at all. It's a sedge sedge that occurs in open areas of bogs and fens.

White beak-rush (Rhynchospora alba) is not a rush at all. It’s a sedge sedge that occurs in open areas of bogs and fens.

Tawny cotton grass (Eriophorum virginicum) is not a grass. It's a sedge that is extremely abundant at Beulah Bog and typical of bogs in SE Wisconsin.

Tawny cotton grass (Eriophorum virginicum) is not a grass. It’s a sedge that is extremely abundant at Beulah Bog and typical of bogs in SE Wisconsin.

Three-way sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum) reproduces mostly asexually by rhizomes, despite what the name might imply. The name refers to the three-ranked leaves that form three perfet rows when viewed from above.

Three-way sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum) reproduces mostly asexually by rhizomes, despite what the name might imply. Rather, the name refers to the three-ranked leaves that form three perfect rows when viewed from above.

Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) and tamarack (Larix laricina) dominate much of the bog interior.

Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) and tamarack (Larix laricina) dominate much of the bog interior.

The fruits of water arum (Calla palustris), which occurred throughout the bog.

The fruits of water arum (Calla palustris), which occurrs throughout the bog.

Few-seeded sedge (Carex oligosperma) is the dominant sedge at Beulah bog.

Few-seeded sedge (Carex oligosperma) is a dominant plant in the bog.

Viewed today was the result of thousands of years of slow, undending change. There is something soothing to me about that kind of change, the same kind of change, but on a different scale, as the brightening dawn or waxing moon. It certainly beats the abruptness of the change wrought by agriculture and development on the landscape or the sudden turning on of a lamp in the dark of early morning.

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About prairiebotanist

www.prairiebotanist.com
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5 Responses to Beulah Bog

  1. Deb Carter says:

    Very interesting – awesome pictures!

  2. Great place! I taught a wetland flora workshop there once. Can’t wait to get back.

  3. Tom Wright says:

    Thank you for the information. I was there last night for the first time I was at Spruce Lake Bog a couple weeks ago. I hope to visit other bogs this summer.

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