Muskegs, a colloquial term for peat bogs, blanket 10 percent of the Tongass National Forest. These wetlands range in size from a few square feet to many acres. Over the ages, muskegs formed as Sphagnum mosses, rushes and sedges grew and built up spongy carpets in these very wet, almost treeless areas.
The few species of plants that thrive in muskegs are tolerant of the acidic, supersaturated soil. Low-growing evergreen shrubs, such as Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia), bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), dwarf bilberry (V. caespitosum) and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) are abundant. Occasional irregularly sized pools and a few gnarled, stunted beach pines (Pinus contorta subsp. contorta) break the hummocky carpet of low vegetation.
During the early summer, colorful arrays of flowers, such as bog orchids (Platanthera species), Jeffery shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), Rocky Mountain pond lily (Nuphar lutea ssp. polysepala), swamp gentian (Gentiana douglasiana), and Lapland cornel (Cornus suecica) enliven the muskegs.
With the onset of autumn, a blaze of colors erupt in the muskegs as the foliage transitions from summer green to autumn yellows, oranges and reds. The colors are particularly impressive with the coniferous trees of adjacent forests providing deep green backdrops.
(Note: The accompanying photos were taken in a muskeg behind the town of Sitka, Alaska, adjacent to the Tongass National Forest. To locate this muskeg in a mapping application, such as Google Earth, paste in this latitude and longitude: 57° 3.499'N, 135° 19.694'W.) For many more 2012 fall colors photos, visit the USDA Flickr site!
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Thank you for the AK gallery. One of these years I will get there.
I enjoyed your photos and descriptions very much , thanks! I don’t think many people are aware of the beauty of these strange wetlands, I suppose because of their inaccessibility and buggy nature. I appreciate the ids of the typical plants with the photo. I’ve always especially liked lichens.