Some Like It Wet

The water table (the level below which the ground is saturated with water) is high in this area. Water seeps from below to the surface, creating this shallow bog.

The plants that live in and around the bog are well adapted to its wet, acidic soils. Wild cranberry, sphagnum moss, and Atlantic white cedar are right at home in this typical Pine Barrens wetlands habitat. The bog is a source of water and food for many animals. It’s also a nursery for frogs and other amphibians, which need water to lay their eggs and for tadpoles to grow to maturity.

Please help us protect this fragile wetlands by not stepping into any wet areas or disturbing the vegetation!

Below are some of the plants you will see growing here and in other boggy areas at Bunker Hill Bogs.

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Ripe cranberries on a bog surface.

Cranberry is a low-growing, woody vine with small, white-pink flowers, which bloom in abundance from May-July. The flower nectar is a valuable food source for native bees. The edible, tart fruit, which ripens from September to October, is used in pies, muffins, sauces, and other dishes. The small green leaves turn bright red in fall. Cranberry naturally grows in wet, boggy areas.  It was cultivated in the 1800’s and has been grown commercially ever since. Bunker Hill Bogs is the site of one of the many former cranberry farms in Jackson.

Stand of Atlantic White Cedar trees

Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)

Atlantic White Cedar is an aromatic evergreen tree with a tall, narrow form and straight trunk. The scaled, blue-green leaves have a flat, fan-like structure. Atlantic white cedar prefers acidic, organically-rich sandy soils and naturally grows in low, wet areas, including freshwater swamps, river banks, and wet woodlands.  The wood is decay-resistant and has traditionally been used to make boats, shingles, and other building materials.  The many Jackson road names containing the work “Mills” date from a time when sawmills for cutting Atlantic white cedar into lumber were abundant in town.

Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum spp.)

Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss prefers wet, acidic soil and is usually found growing in a thick clump.  A system of capillary tubes enables the moss to absorb water like a sponge. It can hold up to 20 times its weight in water! Sphagnum moss is also acidic and has antiseptic properties – it has been used for centuries as a dressing for wounds, including during World War I. It was also commonly used as packing material for shipping seeds and live plants.

Sundew (Drosera spp.)

Like other carnivorous plants that grow in the sandy, nutrient-poor soils of the Pine Barrens, sundews get the nitrogen and other nutrients they need by capturing and digesting insects and other tiny animals. The large tentacles protruding from their leaves each have a sticky gland at the tip.  The sticky secretions of nectar glisten like dew and attract insects, which become stuck in the glue-like substance.  Once an insect is trapped, other tentacles coil over it and start secreting enzymes that digest it.  It only takes about 15 minutes for a sundew to kill a trapped insect, but it can take a couple of weeks to fully digest it. Three species of sundews are found in the Pine Barrens, all named for the shape of their leaves: round-leaved, spatulate-leaved, and thread-leaved.

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)