One of the guided walks I lead at Glenmore passes this small area of bog woodland. I find many of the visitors are enchanted by it, just as I am each time I see it. Maybe it’s because it’s like a model in which we can feel like giants – as we did when visiting model villages when young! Or maybe it’s simply because it is such a surprise to find these trees literally metres away from the giant Scots Pines towering 100+feet above us (on the right in the above photograph). Many remark on how this is like giant bonsai.
The trees in these two pictures are approximately 2 – 4 meters tall.
Bog woodlands are areas of peaty ground on which the high water table and shortage of nutrients restrict tree growth. The unique character of this open habitat is defined by the scattered trees which are gnarled and stunted, with twisted branches. The principal tree species in this form of Bog woodland is Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Some of the Scots pines can be up to hundreds of years old, but deceptively small in size.
Scots pine Bog Woodland has developed here within the forest because the irregular glacial topography has led to marked variations in geomorphology and drainage pattern. The drier slopes and knolls support mature pine woodland and in the hollows between, wet mires with abundant bog woodland have developed.
The grasses found here include purple moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), cotton grasses (Eriophorum vaginatum and E. angustifolium), bottle sedge (Carex rostrata) and soft rush (Juncus effusus).
The most striking feature of bog woodlands however is the mosses, particularly species of Sphagnum, which cover the ground to form a thick, spongy, hummocky carpet making walking difficult. The commonest species are the green or yellow-green Sphagnum palustre, S. recurvum, S. squarrosum and S. fimbriatum and the often red-tinged S. capillifolium.
In the summer we often see tiny, wee Sundew (Drosera) growing among this moss. Sundews supplement the meagre nutrients found in the acid, wetland soils by absorbing minerals from insect prey.
Each Sundew leaf boasts a multitude of hair-like tendrils. Those at the margins are quite long, whilst those towards the centre are far shorter. All, though, are tipped by droplets that, just like dew, glisten in the sun, giving these plants their common name. On contact with these sticky hairs, insects quickly become trapped; the surrounding hairs bend towards the victim to prevent escape, and the whole leaf eventually curls over to enclose the unfortunate creature.
The dew drops also act as digestive juices that dissolve the softer parts of the insect’s body before the resultant liquid is absorbed by the plant – a gruesome fate, indeed.
Small insects are the most frequent Sundew victims, insects too tiny and without the muscle power to escape. At Loch Morlich, this is most often midges which are abundant is huge numbers.