If you live where I do, you might as well go to a place like this:
Cranberry Glades, taylor
Cranberry Glades, taylor
Cranberry Glades, taylor
Cranberry Glades Ferns, taylor
The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area protects the largest area of bogs in West Virginia. The Bogs here are acidic wetlands more commonly found in the northern areas of this country and in Canada. The ground in a bog is spongy and consists largely of partially-decayed plant material known as peat. Because of the bog’s unique conditions, some unusual plants grow here, including carnivorous or insect-eating plants like the pitcher plant. This life spread southward with the changing climatic conditions that allowed glaciers to creep across the northern part of our continent during the last ice-age. Several species ended their migration here, and the Cranberry Glades are now the southern-most point in North America where some of these life forms are found. Many of these unique plants are descended from seeds that took root here over 10,000 years ago! The Botanical Area encompasses 750 acres.
Pitcher Plant Flower, taylor
The Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea venosa) is a native perennial which may live up to 20-30 years. They have adapted to the acidic bog water with roots that now function mainly as support. The nutrients normally obtained from the soil come from insects, amphibians and snail prey. The red veined lip of the “pitcher” is apparently attractive to insects and guides them downward to fall into the rain water and a digestive enzyme. These enzymes, along with a community of bacteria living in the vase of the pitcher, slowly dissolves the victim so the nutrients can be absorbed by the plant’s cells. The flower is solitary and rises one to two feet above the rhizome. It is suspected that this arrangement keeps the bee pollinators from falling victim to the vase below.
Vase of the Pitcher Plant, taylor
If you step off the boardwalk you’ll find yourself in a SPONGY situation, no need to panic though, that’s just how it is here in the bog! A half-mile boardwalk has been constructed through two of the bogs so you can enjoy the area without disturbing this fragile community. The bog is actually a wetland covered with all sorts of decaying vegetation, this is the reason for the spongy ground. The peat and decaying organic matter is more than ten feet thick! under the dense plant cover. Some describe the ground like quicksand or swampy, but it’s actually just plain spongy.
The natural history of the Glades has been traced back at least 12,200 years. Apparently, a forest of conifer-northern hardwoods replaced tundra with the end of the last Ice Age. Over time the Glades formed into what it is today. Now, most of the bog is underlain by that ten foot layer of peat with a layer of algal ooze underneath. Since a limestone source in the surrounding rocks is found here, an ample amount appears to be present in the underlying formation, a circumstance that contributes to the interesting Glades’ flora.
Coal enjoying the view
Many animals that live in the Glades are at their southernmost breeding grounds, including birds such as the Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes, Nashville and Mourning Warblers, and Purple Finches. Other, less exotic, birds like ravens and hawks are common as well. Other familiar animals including white tail deer inhabit the Glades. Black Bears have been seen in the skunk cabbage growing along the boardwalk. In the evening, you have a good chance of hearing beavers working; they are mostly inactive during the day. It is hard to see the beavers because of little light, and their dark color. They also reside submerged or are building their homes.
small beaver dam on yew creek, taylor
Many of the plants found in the Glades resemble those in the northern region of North America. They are descendants of seeds that took root over ten thousand years ago before the last glacial retreat. Among these are two unusual species of carnivorous plants that thrive in the area — the pitcher plant which I’ve already discussed and the native sundew. They evolved carnivorous habits because of the scarce root food in the spongy soil. Much of this area provides a home for many species of mosses. These include a cover of sphagnum moss, bird-wheat moss, bog moss and reindeer lichen. Over top of these grow prostrate cranberry vines that bloom nice pink flowers in the summer and a bunch of fruits in late September.
sundew image by squirrel
I’ve been to many beautiful areas throughout this region, but I can say that Cranberry Glades is one of the most unique and special places I’ve visited. I keep coming back to the Glades time and time again. If you’re ever in this area this is a MUST visit. It feels like your taken back in time or on another planet while you’re here in the bog, deep in the wilderness amongst all these exotic plants. Other treasures await you on this mountain top as well, like the picturesque Hills Creek Falls, just 6 miles away, and the beautiful Scenic Highway with it’s endless views and trail heads. Happy Trails!