WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Are you bored with your landscape? Looking for a garden feature that will fascinate you and get your children outdoors? Why not install a bog garden in your yard?
Naturally occurring bogs are special types of freshwater wetlands – important natural habitats that are disappearing at a rapid clip as developers fill in these wet areas. As bogs disappear, so do many of the native plants that depend upon them, and the pollinators that use those plants.
Bogs are distinguished by waterlogged soil that is primarily made up of decaying plant matter. Usually very acidic, bogs have low oxygen and nutrient levels, making for tough growing conditions for most plants. But, some bog plants have evolved a special way to thrive in the challenging environment – they are carnivorous.
In the New York/Connecticut region we have four basic types of carnivorous plants -- pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts and butterworts. (The well-known carnivorous plant, the Venus Flytrap, is found mostly in the Carolinas). These carnivorous plants capture insects, passively or actively, depending on the plant, and “digest” the insects as a source of nutrition.
Perhaps our showiest native carnivore is the Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea). Each red and green flower of the Purple Pitcher emanates from a single, tall stalk, hovering well above the ground. Full of nectar, the flowers attract numerous pollinators including native bees, butterflies, moths and wasps. The height of the flowers protects pollinators from the fate that may lie below.
Sitting at the base of the plant, far from the flowers, you find the pitchers - modified leaves that look like showy trumpets. The lip of each pitcher secretes a sweet, slippery nectar that attracts insects. If an unlucky insect falls into the pitcher, it usually lands in a watery pool of rainwater and special plant enzymes that serve to break down the insects, allowing the plant to absorb the resulting nutrients. Some feisty insects, like larger bees, may successfully bite their way out – but these are the lucky ones. It’s nature’s food web in action.
Bog gardens can be artificially created in any landscape – it’s similar to creating a pond – but with a different soil profile and water level. To learn more about bog gardens and how to make them, check out the short video and podcast from EcoBeneficial.
Once you create a bog, you create a mini ecosystem, with the potential of supporting many challenged creatures in your landscape, not just pollinators, but songbirds, salamanders, frogs and turtles. Get outside and watch the action!
Kim Eierman, a resident of Bronxville, is an environmental horticulturist and Founder of EcoBeneficial. When she is not speaking, writing, or consulting about ecological landscapes, she teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center and Rutgers Home Gardeners School.
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