Looking for Spring

I went on a walk in the woods today. Not to far from where I live there is a protected peat bog, so I went out looking for signs of spring-time. I didn’t find any new growth yet, but I did stumble on some important life lessons that I want to share. Even before I got to the bog, I saw fallen trees and stumps everywhere!

2-Beaver Stumps Triangle

I know there were beavers in the area, so this didn’t surprise me so much. I was, however, amazed by the quantity of wood that they had removed from the site. In the picture above, there are twelve stumps at least, but only three logs are left. These logs have had all their branches and tops removed. I found the missing wood a few minutes later:

3-Beaver Den

This is a new beaver den, probably a young beaver born last year. Already, it has dug out a system of canals, and has begun construction of a lodge. Notice that all the bark is missing from these branches. Beavers do not really eat wood so much. Instead, they prefer the bark, and will strip it off of the trees they fell. On that note…

10-Beech Girdled

I saw a number of large beech trees that were completely girdled. I guess beavers don’t bother cutting down trees if they can just eat the bark right off. This kills the part of the tree above the girdled area, but it appears that the tree resprouts from below any damage, as you can see in the second picture. The area was full of these little resprouting stumps. It almost appeared as if the beavers were killing the large trunks to grow smaller, more tender shoots to eat. If i ate bark and twigs, I couldn’t think of a more efficient way to grow them near my home.11-Beech Resprouting

I wonder what would happen to these woods if all the beavers were gone. Yes, initially more trees would live to grow large, but then what. Would their shade keep young trees from growing? With no canals to spread water, trees that like wet feet would die, and different species would grow here instead. I have spoken to people who believe that beavers only hurt the forest, cutting down trees and damming off streams; but what if there were no beavers. What then?

12-Beaver Lodge

And here is the lodge of the parents, close by.

I found another promising sight here. Some of the maples that the beavers had cut were soaked with sap!

4-Sap on Beaver Stump

The maple sap flow has started! I plan on tapping my trees in the next few days, but I got my first taste of maple sap straight from the source here. Winter is on it’s way out, and Spring is just around the corner!

Going downhill, I came to the peat bog. One of my favorite native plants grows here: the Northern, or purple, pitcher plant. These plants are not common by any standards, because they occur only in bogs such as this one, but where they grow, they are everywhere.

Here is a patch of them:

5-Pitcher Cluster

The purple pitcher plant is special because it does not take up nutrients from the soil. Instead, it traps insects and digests them for nutrients. It is still dependent on photosynthesis, but it can grow in areas of very poor soil.

6-Pitcher Zoom

To trap insects, the pitcher, a modified leaf, has downward-facing hairs at its top to keep insects from climbing out, and a pool of water inside. The insects drown, and as they decompose in this pool the plant helps itself to the nutrients. While some pitcher plants create their own fluid, with digestive enzymes, the purple pitcher is filled by rainwater and relies on bacteria to digest food for it. There was a pitcher nearby who’s pool had frozen into an ice cube.

9-Pitcher Ice

I got very excited when I found this very young pitcher plant. I went out last year looking for young plants but couldn’t find any. This time I found a bunch all over the bog.

7-Pitcher Baby

This is a promising sight for a species sensitive to habitat destruction. While not currently threatened in Vermont as far as I can tell, American pitcher plants of all species are dependent on peat bogs such as this one, and development has wiped out many a population.

Conservation aside, pitcher plants have it made. It would be nice to just bask in the sun all day, and have food just wander into our open mouths without any effort on our part. Then again…

8-Pitcher Snow

Consider the lily in the field, and be glad we have houses and warm blankets to ride out the last weeks of winter.

~The Homesteading Hippy

2 thoughts on “Looking for Spring

  1. Pingback: At Last! I’ve found Spring! | The Homesteading Hippy

  2. Pingback: Spring is Almost Here! | The Homesteading Hippy

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