20 Jul

Carnivorous Plants of Ohio

Sarracenia purpurea - Brown's Lake Bog Preserve

One sad part of living in Southwestern Ohio (besides the weather) is the region’s distinct lack of carnivorous plants. We envy folks fortunate to have native species growing practically in their back yards, or within a short drive.

One day we headed north to hike at John Bryan State Park.  Inside the visitor center, there was map of all the state parks in Ohio hanging on the wall, several of which had the word “Bog” in the title. Bogs in Ohio?! This was worth checking out.

 

Turns out, Ohio does have bogs

In fact, Ohio used to have a ton of bogs, many of which were part of The Great Black Swamp until it was drained to make room for farmland. Today only a few bogs remain, spread throughout the middle and northern parts of the state. Not every bog has carnivorous plants, but to our excitement some of them do! Ohio’s bogs are home to several species of carnivorous plants including Sarracenia purpurea, Drosera rotundifolia, Drosera intermedia, and a few types of Utricularia.

 

Cedar Bog err… Fen

The first stop on our expedition took us to Cedar Bog on the east side of Dayton. Cedar Bog is the largest fen in Ohio.

Cedar Bog

Why the state decided to call a fen a bog is a bit confusing.

What’s the difference between a fen and a bog?

In short, bogs are closed systems and typically very acidic. They get most, if not all, of their water from rainfall.  Fens on the other hand, tend to have a neutral or alkaline pH and get their water from surface and underground sources.  As a sign in the visitor’s center bathroom so nicely put it…”Fens flush, bogs clog.”

Cedar “Bog” has a boardwalk that allows visitors to explore the area while minimizing damage to the environment.  From our research, we knew that D. rotundifolia and a species of bladderwort were in the area…but didn’t know where exactly to look. We moved slowly, but eventually transitioned from the  wooded area into a grassland with plenty of sun. A little green flash in the sea of brown caught our eye, it was Drosera rotundifolia!

Drosera rotundifolia - Cedar Bog

Drosera rotundifolia next to the boardwalk in Cedar Bog

Drosera rotundifolia - Cedar Bog
Drosera rotundifolia - Cedar Bog
Drosera rotundifolia Flower - Cedar BogD. rotundifolia Flower
Drosera rotundifolia - Cedar BogChowing down on a bug

Soon, we were seeing the little guys everywhere and even found a patch of sphagnum moss growing nearby. A group of college students wandered by and asked what we were looking at. We explained we were looking for carnivorous plants and had found some!  With a lifeless tone, one of the students said, “Oh yea, I heard those types of plants were out here” and walked away without even looking. The lack of enthusiasm nearly crushed us. Despite soulless college students though, we enjoyed the rest of our time in the fen before pressing on to the next stop.

 

Brown’s Lake Bog Preserve

Brown’s Lake Bog Preserve is an actual bog near Wooster, Ohio. It’s unique in that it is a kettle bog. Kettles are large holes left by receding glaciers. Kettle bogs form when the hole fills with rainwater and then becomes acidic from decomposing plant matter.

Brown's Lake Bog PreserveWe made it to the bog in the early evening and were the only ones there. After walking a short ways through the woods on a rickety boardwalk, we arrived at the kettle portion of the bog which was mostly covered in a mat of Sphagnum Moss and ferns.

Brown's Lake Bog Preserve

It didn’t take long to find what we came for. Dozens of Sarracenia purpurea were poking out of the moss near the boardwalk!

Sarracenia purpurea - Brown's Lake Bog Preserve

A Sarracenia purpurea clump on a mound of Sphagnum Moss

Sarracenia purpurea - Brown's Lake Bog Preserve
Sarracenia purpurea - Brown's Lake Bog Preserve

Some grew as individual plants and others clumped together in mounds of Sphagnum Moss. Most were bright green, but several had beautiful purple and red veining. Once again, we were blown away that these plants grow in the wild right here Ohio.

 

A note on conservation

The fens and bogs of Ohio are beautiful and each is unique. We’re glad there are still a few to visit, but most of these fragile systems are extremely small and threatened.  Some suffer from natural processes like forest encroachment and others are affected by agricultural runoff which changes the water chemistry. If you’d like to help preserve these unique places and the amazing carnivorous plants living within them, please see The Nature Conservancy for more information.