poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘bog

keeping watch for dragons #7 – Bog Dragon

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Some dragons like to live in bogs.

When we were in Nova Scotia, near Peggy’s Cove, imagine my delight when I found, among the Pitcher-plants, a species of the orchid family, Arethusa (Arethusa bulbosa L.), also known as the Dragon’s Mouth Orchid.

Arethusa loves wet, boggy conditions.  Among the greens and reds of the low-lying bog, it surprises a visitor with its splash of pink.  Even the Pitcher-plants in the photo above look a little over-come with the beauty of the Dragon’s Mouth!

This orchid has a complex flower, with three thin flaring upper petals, two in-turned petals guarding its ‘mouth’ and a lower lip with yellow and white fringed crests.

Arethusa is named after a Naiad in Greek mythology.  The Naiads were nymphs associated with fresh water features such as springs, wells, fountains and brooks.  Nymphs, like plants, were dependant on their habitat… if the water where they lived dried up, they perished.

Perhaps a Bog Dragon is also absolutely dependant on the water held within the bog!!!



Bog Dragon

         Arethusa bulbosa L.



masquerades as dragon,

claps her hands across her mouth,

sorry to have spoken –

her voice, her pink, her petals

lure them,

their large feet and tugging hands

too near



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

July 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

coastal barren, coastal bog

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On our vacation to Nova Scotia last month, we revisited the Peggy’s Cove area near Halifax.  I spent a lot of time along this coast years ago, but I had forgotten the unique wildness and beauty of this landscape.

We explored two habitat types, the dry and rocky barrens, and the wet coastal bog.  As we found each new plant, I felt like I was greeting old and well-loved friends.

On the higher areas, growing in the thin soil on the bedrock were several species.  One of these included Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.), a small moss-like plant with spiky leaves and small pink flowers.  Later in the season, these will bear edible back berries.

We also found Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Sibbaldia tridentata (Aiton) Paule & Soják) with its three leaflets and the characteristic three teeth at the tip of each leaf.  The leaves are thick and outlined in red at this time of year.  Later in the year the leaves turn bright red.  The white flowers each have five petals, and are starry with stamens.

In the low-lying, boggy areas, we found a ‘merriment’ (my word) of Pitcher-plants (Sarracenia purpurea L.).

The leaves of these insectivorous plants are shaped like vessels.  Insects climbing into the leaves encounter downward pointing hairs.  They are trapped!  Eventually they drown and are digested in the water at the base of the ‘pitcher’.

We also found another carnivorous plant, the Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia L.).  The leaves of these plants are covered with tiny hairs… these exude a sticky liquid and trapped insects are slowly digested. For more information on the Sundew, please visit my post for October 31, 2011, ‘Round-leaved Sundew’.

All was not gruesome.  We also found Arethusa (Arethusa bulbosa L.), a member of the orchid family.  This beautiful pink orchid is also known as the Dragon’s Mouth.

Overall, our trip to Peggy’s Cove was a wonderful adventure.   We plan to return in the early fall, when the Crowberry and the other edible plants we saw have set their berries.

Have you ever been to Peggy’s Cove and what did you think of the coastal landscape and the plants growing there?


©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

air to breathe

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As I approach retirement, I find I am thinking a lot about my past work.  My first job was as a botanist in the field of air quality. 

Some plants are very sensitive to air pollutants and develop ‘herring bone’ patterns on the leaves when the levels of pollutants like sulphur dioxide get too high.   Other plants can be used as monitors since they absorb pollutants from the air. 

I worked to diagnose air pollution injury to sensitive plants and designed ways of using plants to assess air quality problems.  We grew tobacco to measure ozone pollution, set out  ‘tea bags’ of sphagnum moss to monitor levels of trace metals in the air, and collected reindeer lichens to determine their pollutant exposure.  I had wonderful days identifying plants, collecting lichens and being a botanist.

My favourite air pollution monitors were the reindeer lichens.  These are like all lichens, a symbiotic organism consisting of an algae and a fungus.  They have no roots, so they absorb all their nutrients from the air, making them an excellent monitoring system for air pollutants. They were a challenge to identify and the habitats where they grew took me to some very interesting places in New Brunswick.  These included peat bogs where the lichens grew beside pitcher plants and sundews, mountain-tops dominated by ericaceous species like sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia L.) and blueberry, and high flung rock outcrops where I could see all the world below me as I picked my specimens.

Although we collected many species, the three reindeer lichens most useful for our studies were Cladina arbusculaCladina rangiferina, and Cladina stellaris.   These are all ‘fruticose’ lichens, species with a ‘shrubby’ appearance, consisting of a main branch with many side-branches.  A single ‘plant’ fits nicely in your hand.  The Cladinas all have hollow branches and could be (and are) used as little trees in HO scale train models. 

Cladina arbuscula (left) and Cladina rangiferina (right) growing on a rock by the roadside in Maine. You can tell the difference by the greenish color of the arbuscula and the bluish-grey color of the rangiferina.

Cladina arbuscula (Wallr.) Hale & Culb. grows in extensive colonies, and is yellowish-green.  The tips of the branches all point in one direction, a distinguishing characteristic of the species.  Cladina rangiferina (L.) Harm. is often found growing with Cladina arbuscula and can be distinguished from arbuscula by its very blue-grey appearance.

Cladina stellaris (Opiz) Brodo is yellowish-grey, and grows in distinct clumps which resemble small ‘poofy’ trees.

Cladina lichens and moss on the rock at Moss Glen Falls in New Brunswick. The clump of lichen towards the center, looking like the ice cream in a cone, is Cladina stellaris.

On our travels this summer, I reacquainted myself with the Cladinas.  And I remembered all the remote places I have been as a result of my work.  One of these was Turtle Mountain in southern New Brunswick, now protected as part of the Loch Alva Protected Natural Area (PNA).  It is a very old mountain, worn to a granite hill.  At the top of the hill, is an ericaceous meadow where Cladina lichens flourish. 


Turtle Mountain, 1979


afternoon air at the base

of the food chain

rewards obligation to breathe


grazing tickles the nose

and grey-blue lichens know

laurel and balsam


flume of curtain billows

across the daybed

into the room


into the space between

Kalmia and wintergreen

meadow heat rising from stone


marbled weave of oxygen

hydrogen nitrogen

bilberry and salt ocean


© Jane Tims   2011


Written by jane tims

October 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

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