I admit it. I don’t think about bogs much.
Up until a few days ago, my bog-related knowledge was limited to the hilariously gaseous and terrifyingly smelly Bog of Eternal Stench from 80s movie classic The Labyrinth.
Turns out, that bog is actually more swamp-like than bog-like (more on the differences between bogs and swamps and marshes and things called fens), but that’s a wetland reality I only came to understand recently. (And apparently worms don’t talk in real life either. Dang.)
My bog curiosity was peaked recently following a visit to the Orono Bog Boardwalk in Orono.
Situated on the edge of the Bangor City Forest, the Orono Bog features a one-mile boardwalk loop trail that begins in forest and then strikes out over the peatland, the vegetation quickly transitioning from overhead tree cover to ground-level mosses. It’s super pretty, for starters, and the boardwalk itself is a bit of a marvel. (The idea was first prompted in 2000 by Professor Ronald B. Davis of Orono and the University of Maine, construction began in 2002, and it opened to the public in 2003. It’s constructed of 509 sections that are 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, as well as connector bridging at turns. Read more about how it was built.)
The boardwalk is wheelchair friendly and there are benches along the way for visitors to sit and rest. It’s free and open to the public from May to October (opening day varies). You can even follow the Orono Bog on Facebook to stay apprised of activities there and what’s blooming. There are also a ton of really beautiful photos from the changing seasons).
So great, it’s a bog and it’s neat to look at. I suppose we could leave it at that. Except I’m starting to appreciate how incredibly interesting bogs are – and how peculiar.
For example, have you heard about bog butter? A few years ago a man found a 22-pound chunk of butter estimated to be more than 2,000 years old in an Irish bog. Turns out, finding really old butter in Irish bogs is not all that uncommon!
And then, of course, there are the 2,000-to-3,000-year-old “bog bodies” that have been discovered in raised peat bogs in Northern Europe. And by bodies they mean people.
Here in Orono, we’re not likely to pull barrels of thousand-year-old butter or thousand-year-old cadavers out of the bog. Sigh. But hey, the Orono Bog does have carnivorous plants!
One of them, the pitcher plant, was abundant during my early summer visit. My photo is not excellent.
This photo is much better and shows the pitfall traps made of specialized leaves and filled with nectar to lure in prey, which usually consists of insects, spiders, and mites. Read more info about the carnivorous plants in the bog.
But lest ye start thinking the bogs are no-good places filled with butter and bodies and tricky trapping plants, it should also be noted that they’re totally underappreciated and important ecosystems.
“They are one of the harshest environments on the planet and also one of the most important in terms of carbon storage. New research hopes to reveal the role these threatened bogs could play in the climate change story.” Read more in this story from The Guardian: Ultimate bogs: how saving peatlands could help save the planet.
Thanks to the University of Maine, the City of Bangor, and the Orono Land Trust – as well as all the volunteers who work to maintain the boardwalk – for creating an accessible place for us to expand our bog knowledge.