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.
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.
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.