A field trip to one of Wisconsin’s ecological gems, sponsored by the Natural Resources Foundation of WisconsinOne of the pleasures, and benefits, of living in Wisconsin is that one is surrounded by a vast natural beauty and that it is relative easy to visit and explore the state’s abundance of publically-owned forests, prairies, and wetlands–preserved as state natural areas (SNA). The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin promotes the protection, public awareness of, and facilitates guided visitation to, these natural wonders.
One such SNA that I recently visited is Kissick Alkaline Bog Lake in northwestern Wisconsin. On a delightful day in mid-June, 20 or so members of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF), from all over the state, gathered on a rural roadside to be led on a three-hour walk, or slog, through a bog. Many were photographers, eager to capture an image of one or more of the 14 native orchid species that find refuge in the bog; others were retired folks and some were young parents with children–all were enthusiastic supporters of Wisconsin state natural areas, state parks, and other public lands. The field trip to Kissick Lake Bog is just one of the 188 field trips in 2016 sponsored by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Click at wisconservation.org to learn more.Located in a protected wildlife area in northwest, Wisconsin, the “Kissick Alkaline Bog Lake features a 10-acre wilderness lake encircled by a large, quaking bog mat and northern wet forest” (Wisconsin Naturally, a guide to 150 great State Natural Areas, 2003 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.)
What is a “natural area”? In ecological terms, they are “tracts of land or water that represent the last vestiges of Wisconsin’s native landscape as it existed before the 1830’s, before European settlement began” and extensive alteration of the landscape began in earnest. Wisconsin state natural areas–more than 600 of them–“harbor natural features essentially unaltered by human-caused disturbances or that have substantially recovered from disturbance over time.” Only the best of the best are recognized as State Natural Areas (Wisconsin Naturally” 2003 page 3.)Of course, the emphasis during the walk, in addition to taking in the natural beauty, was on maintaining one’s footing on the quaking bog mat, preventing your boots from becoming stuck in the peat, and on finding a few of the native orchids that we all came to see. In total, Thomas, our field trip leader, led us to six species in bloom and one–the pink lady slipper–that had just finished blooming. My favorite was the grass pink orchid, below. An especially interesting plant was the narrow-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia), one of several carnivorous plant species–bladderwort and pitcher plant are others–that make a living in the bog. The narrow-leaved sundew (pictured below) is a tiny, prostrate plant that is easily overlooked. It lives on the top of the sphagnum moss bog mat–literally under our feet–as a small rosette of basal leaves that are glandular-hairy and sticky to attract and capture insects. It was a real treat to experience the bog environment, walk on the quaking bog mat, and see one of Wisconsin’s natural treasures. I am encouraged to visit more state natural areas later this year.