Monday, June 21, 2010

Rifle River Fen

By the time we finished our drive the drizzle had stopped and the sky was beginning to brighten. We drove over to the boat launch, hoping to find the rather tame roughed grouse the park employee had told us follows her around every time she's there. No luck, though. It was too early for lunch, so we decided to take the mile nature trail walk around the fen.

A fen is a rare type of habitat that is formed when groundwater seeps through bedrock up to the surface. There are a relatively high number of them in Michigan compared to other places thanks to the glaciers. We have several here in the Brighton Rec Area were we're doing invasive species removal. This fen seemed to be in very good shape.

It was a pleasant walk, and by the time we reached the water the sun had come out, turning the little pond azure blue.

Nothing had had a chance to dry out, though, and the world glistened and sparkled.

Ferns abounded,

making homes for all sorts of creatures.

Bunchberries clung to rotted logs.

The purple pitcher plants were in full bloom. When we were there last August, there were still flowers but they were dry and colorless. This time, the colors were bright and glowing.

The backside.

The purple pitcher plant is the most cold tolerant and the only one I've ever seen in Michigan--which is certainly not to say there aren't other species here. All pitcher plants are carnivorous, meaning of course that they eat meat. The tube-shaped leaves catch and hold rainwater. When an insect falls in it drowns, then sinks to the bottom and decomposes, at which time the plant can utilize it.

Here you can see down into the water filled leaves.

I would imagine that any plant as specialized as this must be quite ancient. Like so many of our native plants, their future is at risk as we continue to alter their--and our--environment. It's good to know there are places like these where this amazing plant still stands a chance.

1 comment:

  1. those pitcher plants were amazing! i've never seen them blooming and the flower is so incredibly intricate