Exploring Cedar Bog

If you’ve never been to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve (just south of Urbana OH), I’d highly recommend it. If you enjoy seeing nature at its finest, this is the place to explore. A 1.2-mile boardwalk guides you through the interesting ecosystem of the preserve. Wetlands, meadows and Northern white cedar embrace you as you meander some of nature’s finest. Conveniently placed benches invite one to sit a while and enjoy the coolness that comes from this unique area.

The name “Cedar Bog” makes one naturally assume that this preserve is a bog. It is not. True, there is a lot of water throughout, hence the need for the boardwalk. But Cedar Bog is actually a “fen.” A fen allows water from an aquifer to come above ground in places and continuously flow through the area. A long time ago, Ice Age glaciers buried the Teays River (just east of this area), and it is this aquifer that comes above ground in two places within the preserve. The alkaline water is cool and maintains the ambient temperature at a cooler level during the summer and warmer during the winter. So…water continuously flows through the area. Hence, it is a fen and not a bog.

Cedar Bog is said to contain the widest diversity of plants within the state and features 40% of the rare and endangered plant species in Ohio (https://historicsites.ohiohistory.org/cedarbog/). With such a diversity of plants, you will always find something new to attract your attention, regardless of the season. June is a great time to see the Showy Lady’s Slipper, which is said to be one of the tallest orchids in North America.

These delicate pink and white plants grow primarily in wetlands and wooded swamps. The fen is a perfect place for them. They thrive in this environment. And that’s a very good thing because these orchids are rare and considered threatened in Ohio. According to the U.S. Forest Service, these plants can take up to 16 years to flower for the first time. It’s especially amazing when you find that these orchids have a special symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. They won’t just grow anywhere. So when you see them you will recognize that this is a rare plant indeed.

But orchids aren’t the only thing you will see as you wander.

There are open areas where wildflowers abound, such as (what I believe to be) Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon genus). It’s a beautiful little white flower with delicate purple stripes to guide bees inside for nectar. It’s a favorite of bumblebees. The plant is said to thrive in moist meadows but also tolerates compact urban soils – possibly a flower for all of our yards!

Here’s something that stopped me in my tracks.

The leaves on this plant looked to be a type of rose, but what is the spikey red ball? Not a flower. It’s a Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp (diplolepis polita). In the spring the larvae inside the gall will become mature wasps which will chew their way out and fly off to find a mate. The fertilized female will lay eggs in a leaf bud. The eggs will hatch, begin feeding, and the plant will grow a layer of cells around the larvae. (Amazing how nature protects itself.) Larvae will continue to grow inside the gall and eventually enter a pre-pupa stage which lasts throughout the winter. In spring it enters a pupa stage until it’s time for the wasp to chew its way out of the gall. And the life cycle will begin anew. Why is the gall spikey and red, and not smooth or otherwise shaped? Good question. I’m not sure. Perhaps a reader knows the answer to this?

Painted Skimmer dragonflies are out and about quite a bit in May and June. They enjoy marshy areas. This one posed quite nicely for a bit, though it was a distance away.

This male Ebony Jewelwing decided to sit a spell as well. Males have black wings and iridescent blue/green bodies which can be 2 1/4 to 3 inches in length. Females have brown wings and are a bit less colorful. These damselflies love shaded, cool, moist areas with slow-moving water and lots of vegetation. You’ll find them throughout the eastern United States. I’ve read they have a habit of turning their heads to watch us as we watch them. Certainly looks like that is the case here!

This Silvery Checkerspot butterfly is sometimes confused with the Pearl Crescent. It certainly confused me at first glance. They’re both small orange and black butterflies, although the Silvery Checkerspot is slightly larger. One way to distinguish them is the small dots along their hindwings, which can be white-filled dots, and they also have more black around the outer wing edges. Easier to identify if they’re sitting still with wings outstretched, but much more difficult if they’re flitting about. They do seem to like being near water, while Pearl Crescents you will see in varying environments.

And sometimes you find things you don’t necessarily expect…

Like this baby Barred Owl having breakfast, although it did stop long enough to take a look at the humans on the boardwalk below before quietly enjoying it’s food. Food undoubtedly provided by a parent owl which was in a nearby tree keeping a watchful eye on the little one.

Cedar Bog can offer much to those who love nature and slow down to explore its depths. It’s a great place to wander and learn.

Until next time, keep exploring nature up close.