Stepping Lightly in the Pennington Bog

Stepping into the Pennington Bog is almost like stepping into another world. Overhead is a thick canopy of white cedar, balsam fir, and black spruce. Underneath your feet is a blanket of sphagnum moss. When you take a step, you are never quite sure how far your foot is going to sink. Walking becomes a new experience for the senses.  There are no designated trails or boardwalks, so you are the master of your own exploration. While the floor of the bog in general is soft and spongy, there appear to be narrow pathways for water runoff (look closely behind the log in the first picture). The pathways have a firmer surface and are apparently used by animals (evidenced by the droppings in the pathway.)

Log in bog with moss and water path

Water pathway under log and through moss blanket

I was fascinated how blankets of the sphagnum moss form mounds over dead and decaying tree trunks. When you stop and take a look inside the mound, you often find a pool of still water.

Blanket of Sphagnum Moss

Blanket of Sphagnum Peat Moss

Scattered in the bog, just waiting for discovery, are orchids, other wildflowers, and assorted plants. Of course the “prize” for the wildflower enthusiast is finding an orchid that one has not seen before. Pennington Bog did not disappoint. I spotted my first small round-leaved orchid, a beautiful white flower with pink to purple spots. I also saw the biggest clump of moccasin flowers that I have ever seen. In addition I found bluebead lily (or clintonia), star flower,  buckbean, and a small white flower that I could not identify.

White wildflower with pink spotsRound leaf Orchid

Clump of pink moccasin wildflowersPink Moccasin Flower (or Stemless Lady Slipper)

Yellow and white wildflowers

Bluebead Lily (or Clintonia) and a Star Flower

White wildflowerBuckbean

white wildflower

Unidentified wildflower (Do you know the name?)

Moss and Non-flowering plant leavesMore wildflowers soon to bloom?

The Pennington Bog, located on Hwy 39 (the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway) between Blackduck and Cass Lake, is a Minnesota State Scientific and Natural Area. It is described in an informational flyer from the Department of Natural Resources, as “a virtually undisturbed tract of lowland-coniferous forest, which provides critical habitat for a diverse array of bog-associated plant and animal species”. Due to the fragile nature of the forest floor, one must obtain a permit (free) from the DNR (call 218-308-2682)  prior to visiting the bog. The permitting process controls the number of people visiting the bog at one time. The Pennington Bog is a wonderful place for nature discoveries. If you do decide to visit, get your permit, bring your camera, and step lightly.

Toppled tree roots

~ by Pinetree Photo Nature Discovery on June 8, 2012.

5 Responses to “Stepping Lightly in the Pennington Bog”

  1. What a wonderful blog! I love your tiny world you have described so well. Great images to support the story too. Is this somewhere you’ve been before or did you just now discover it? Good job!

  2. Thankfully, this is a protected area. Beautiful photos.

  3. Thank you, Carol, for taking me to the bog in spirit. Beautiful photography!

  4. Even though the Pennington Bog is only about 10 miles from our house, I had never been there before. It’s amazing what shows up when you become more aware of the possibilities. Yes, I agree those little jewels of Mother Earth “where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man” need protection.

  5. What a beautiful woods walk in early summer. Ahhhhh…..

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