Spring wildflowers at Cedar Bog Nature PreserveLast Saturday I headed up to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio with my friend, Teri. I wanted to photograph the beautiful spring ephemerals, and Teri was starting to gather data for her doctoral thesis. I really didn't know what to expect. The only thing I knew about Cedar Bog was that it was a fen...not a bog and many rare plants thrived there. It didn't take me long, however, to find out Cedar Bog is incredible. Huge Skunk Cabbages spread out from the boardwalk that snakes through the fen, and as you walk into the woods it feels like you're walking through an ancient land. I joked with Teri that we should look out for Sleestaks because it felt like we had stumbled into the Land of the Lost...and it really wasn't that far from the truth. According to Eric Doerzbacher, the site manager, some the skunk cabbages we walked past were well over 1,000 years old.
A leaf of a Skunk Cabbage drips with water from an earlier downpour.
Cedar Bog is another of Ohio's natural anomalies. Complements of the retreating mile-high glacier of the continental Wisconsin glaciation (12,000 - 18,000 years ago), Cedar Bog has its own microclimate. Just like Clifton Gorge to the south, boreal relics, such as the White Cedar (arbor vitae), can survive here because of the cooler temperatures that mimic the north. (Click here for a post about the microclimate at Clifton Gorge.) In an article in The Ohio Journal of Science, March, 1974, Clara May Frederick writes,
"Microclimatic data recorded from 1963 through 1969 demonstrate that Cedar Bog has cooler temperatures and a shorter frost-free period than do adjoining areas. These two factors have resulted in the survival of plants unique to this part of Ohio." (Click here for a link to a pdf of the entire article. It was very interesting.)
The fen is fed by cold artesian waters that bubble to the surface with an average temperature 0f 53 - 55 degrees F. As you walk the boardwalk and look below, you can see the water is flowing--in some places it is more noticeable than others, but you can definitely tell it's not stagnant. "Fens flush" is a common theme on signs posted throughout the preserve that explain what is going on. The constant supply of fresh, cool ground water creates a cool, northern-like microclimate, which has allowed the relic boreal plants to grow here for so many thousands of years since the glacier's retreat.
A few of the many signs posted along the boardwalk.
I have a lot of cool photos of the spring wildflowers we found along the boardwalk. I'll start with these Wild Columbine. The Columbine grew along the boardwalk near the central area of the preserve flanking the clear waters of the west branch of Cedar Run creek.
For a slightly different view, I wanted to see how the columbine photographed from below.
The light shining through the thin, silky petals from above illuminated the inside of the flower like sun through stained glass.
I would never have guessed such interesting shapes and colors could be seen from underneath the blossom. The skies were grey above, but bright, and the brightness coaxed out the incredible pinks and greens.
Cedar Bog is about 1.5 hours north of Cincy, and is definitely worth the drive. I saw so many beautiful spring wildflowers there. I want to go back for the next round of bloomers! Here are a few links to Cedar Bog if you want to make the trip:
...from the Ohio Ornithological Society
...from the Cedar Bog Association