Sherpa Guides > North Carolina Mountains > The Natural History of the North Carolina Mountains > Mountain Bogs

Mountain Bogs

One of the rarest habitats in the Appalachian Mountains is an area called a mountain bog. In many respects, mountain bogs resemble lowland bogs but are hundreds of miles north. Like all bogs, they are waterlogged areas covered with unique plants, primarily sphagnum moss (also known as peat moss, Sphagnum spp.), bog laurel (Kalmia carolina), golden club (Orontium aquaticum), swamp pink (Helonias bullata), cinnamon fern (Osmuda cinnamomea), and a variety of insectivorous plants such as sundew (Droscera rotundifolia) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.). The latter two trap and digest insects and are among the most unusual plants in the world. Interestingly, some pitcher plants contain living insects called midges. The midge larvae swim and develop in the "pitcher" part of the plant that holds open water.

A bog may develop on any flat area with poor drainage. This causes decaying vegetation to accumulate, resulting in very acidic conditions that only a few species of plants can tolerate. Indigenous bog animals are rare, although bogs may be visited by a variety of birds including northern warblers, as well as raccoons (Procyon lotor) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Threatened or endangered bog animals include the bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii), bog lemming (Synaptomys cooperi), and water shrew (Sorex palustris). In fact, more than 90 species of bog plants and animals are considered rare, threatened, or endangered in North Carolina by state and federal agencies, and only 10 percent of the original southern Appalachian bogs remain, covering probably fewer than 500 acres.

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