A soggy bog might not be your first choice of places to spend a sunny morning in June, but I have a feeling a stroll along the Ponemah Bog boardwalk might change your mind. Who knew that these “peatlands” could be such beautiful places?I was introduced to the bog by its steward Jack Gleason of New Hampshire Audubon, whose passion for this rare natural community is impressive. The hike was part of the Friends of Ponemah summer field trip series, a great opportunity to learn more about the bog’s birds and blooms.
What’s so special about a bog? It has everything to do with its natural history. Beginning 18,000 years ago retreating glaciers punched round “kettle-hole” depressions in the earth. Rain and snow pooled in the craters left in the glacier’s wake. The colonization of peat moss created the bog, and over thousands of years it layered to form floating mats along its edges.
A unique plant community grows right upon the ancient moss beds. There are cranberries, laurels, and rare orchids adapted to this acidic and nutrient poor soil. Some plants even create their own fertilizers by preying upon insects.
Despite the unforgiving acidity and lack of nutrients the bog is a vibrant place. Song sparrows warble in the trees and dragonflies hum above the boardwalk. White and pink flowers speckle a mossy lawn of green and red. Little yellow mushrooms protrude like candles from the rot of logs. A careful eye finds many small treasures.