Last weekend, while working on my own on-going project of finding and photographing native orchids, I walked into a deep, dark bog where I met the Devil and a Serpent...
I visited the Bemidji area and stopped in at the Pennington Bog SNA. There weren't any mosquitoes, so that made it a very pleasant experience. Armed with my GPS app and backup battery, I felt I could safely explore a bit more of the bog than I usually do, and while I still haven't seen more than a fraction of its 108 acres, I did go just a bit farther into those woods, which are so "lovely, dark and deep" (a lot of us have Robert Frost on the brain these days).
|You can see the path, right? It's not exactly a yellow-brick road...|
In doing so, I discovered that the best way to make progress through the thick vegetation is not to step on the big raised mounds of sphagnum moss, but rather to follow the many narrow deer paths that meander through the area. Although those paths are wet, they're not as soft and squishy as I thought they might be. The deer have discovered where the stable ground is...
|Yep, I know I'm on the right path.|
Following the little trails of
|Rattlesnake Plantain--I think it gets its name from the snakeskin-like pattern of the leaves...|
|Looks like a Stemless Slipper.|
Mostly, though, what I take pictures of in the Pennington Bog are the carnivorous Pitcher Plants. They are big, plentiful, and very beautiful. I have to work hard not to step on them because they're everywhere.
|I love the colors!|
|Note the bug trapped inside this carnivorous plant.|
|They grow in a circular pattern.|
|Budding Stemless Slipper in the State Park.|
It finally occurred to me to ask a Duluth botanist, Josh Horky, for more info. Sometimes, to meet your goal, you have to ask for help. He generously gave me a great tip. Josh "dropped a pin" on a Google Map for me, and I used the Google Maps app to direct me to the spot. It wasn't the large colony I had been looking for earlier--I still haven't located that exact spot--but it was a large enough group for me to get a good sense of what this threatened species looks like.
|The Ram's Head is a very tiny Lady Slipper.|
|Ram's Head plant, with bud just starting to open. You can tell from this photo how hard|
it would be to see these flowers from standing-height.
I was pretty excited to see these Slippers. I'd been telling myself all day that I should expect to be disappointed again. Earlier this year, I was wondering if I'd ever be able to find them, having failed several times over the last couple years to locate even one.
|The Ram's Head, just beginning to open up. Look at all the hairs on its chin!|
|Ram's Head with dorsal sepal just beginning to rise.|
|Showy Slipper seedpods, almost four feet off the ground!|
I didn't see a single tick the whole day, but then on Monday, I got into my car and immediately found a tick. All throughout Lady Slipper season, now, I'll be wondering how many ticks are lying in wait for me in my car.
But that's part of the deal. If I want to get photos of these plants, I have to put up with the bugs. As I've said before, when you're doing what you really love, you don't mind dealing with delays, false leads, or a few bugs. In the end, it's all worth it, especially when you meet the sweetest Rattlesnake and the cutest little Devils in the process.
|Ram's Head bud just poking out from the leaves.|