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Spruce Lake Bog was born about ten or twelve thousand years ago when a huge mass of stagnant ice calved from the advancing and retreating Green Bay lobe of the last great continental glaciation period called the Wisconsinan. The massive chunk of ice was about a half mile in diameter and was buried under the outpouring of new glacial debris, interlobate moraine deposits and outwash. As the ice slowly melted a large depression formed a near perfectly round kettle and lake.


An empty boardwalk always beguiles my curiosity to explore around the bend of this familiar kettle hole bog. I have just decended a flight of steep stairs from the edge of the hardwood forest into a foreign landscape of sphagnum moss, still naked tamarack trees and crooked black spruce with top tufts of witch's broom.


At the very edge of the habitat change from the riotous spring bloom of the hardwood understory into the still sleeping bog I meet head on with a communal village of tent caterpillars. The young wild cherry host is eaten leafless, but will recover. Eastern tent caterpillars may be unsightly nuisance pests, but they're usually quite harmless, unlike their cousins the forest tent caterpillars.


At first, I'm taken aback that the pall of winter has not yet lifted from the barren hummocks and tussocks of winter-burned sphagnum moss. A few spaths and leaves of skunk cabbage have shyly emerged from the burden of ice bound roots.


I can deeply feel the effort and glory of an ancient memory in the fuzzy pale fiddleheads triumphantly unfurling to reach for the sun one more time.


Oh, how I love to praise the perfect design of the beckoning carnivorous pitcher plant.'s a vegetation that eats meat. I think about the irony of that for a moment with a chuckle and am reminded that carnivous plants live on every continent except Antarctica.

Just look at those yawning young hungry mouths...


South facing tussocks sprout a sporty new freshness of green growth. If I stick my nose into the sphagnum softness it smells of the sunshine and stardust of newly formed earth.


The windless whisper of Spruce Lake calls teasingly to me and my canoe. All lakes have their own voice if one listens.


A tiny pale spider hides coyly in the golden petals of her marsh marigold world. She holds her front legs upright to match the dusty stamens. I don't own words to describe my wonderment at this discovery.


I'll leave you a mystery to ponder for a while. It does have six white pedals and yellow stamens.


A delight of blueberry blossom bells bask warmly in the sunlight.


It's too young to call, but I'm tending to lean toward an unfolded royal fern.


A tiny sprig of living fossil no bigger than a cocktail straw catches my attention. Equisetum or scouring-rush horsetail is coated with its own silicates and its ancestors dominated the Paleozoic forest floor for one hundred million years. Some were as big as trees.


I'll leave you here to smell the sphagnum and wander on your own back through the woodland.









We'll enjoy another walk together soon, I promise.

Oh, and about those feathers...who do you think the Cooper's Hawk took out for dinner?

What you'll see if you visit the bog.

Spruce Lake Bog features an undisturbed shallow seepage bog lake situated in one of the many kettle holes characteristic of the interlobate glacial deposits scattered throughout the area. The 35-acre lake has moderately hard water with a pH of 7.5 and supports a dense, floating-leaved aquatic flora of water shield and water lilies. The site is particularly rich in plants more characteristic of northern Wisconsin sphagnum bogs and greatly resembles them in appearance. Black spruce, which is common in the swamp forest, is near its southern range limit in Wisconsin.

Distinct vegetation zones encircle the lake with a floating sedge mat of cotton grass, three-fruited sedge, royal fern, pitcher plant, round-leaved sundew, moccasin flower, wintergreen, and small cranberry grading into a bog forest of tamarack and black spruce.

An outer zone of swamp hardwoods includes tamarack, black ash, red maple, yellow birch, and white cedar and contains species more commonly associated with northern coniferous forests including three-leaved gold-thread, American starflower, partridgeberry, common winterberry, and yellow blue-bead lily. The diversity of shrubs on the sedge mat and in the forest is indicative of the area’s high quality.

Species include speckled alder, black chokeberry, willow, round-leaved and red-osier dogwood, Labrador-tea, bog birch, leather-leaf, bog-rosemary, poison sumac, mountain holly, meadowsweet, huckleberry, cranberry, and blueberry. Several bird species with northern affinities nest here, including northern waterthrush, Nashville warbler, Canada warbler, and white-throated sparrow. Spruce Lake Bog has been designated a national natural landmark by the US Park Service. Spruce Lake Bog is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1968.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sun May 06, 2012 at 12:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Badger State Progressive, and National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.

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