A June visit to the Puntledge Bog

From an email by Jocie to members of the Botany Group on June 27.

A winding boardwalk, edged with lush salal and huge, shiny skunk cabbage leaves, leads to a small bog, known as the “Puntledge Bog” on the east side of the upper Puntledge River. A bench offers a place to contemplate this special place. There are stunted pines, and shrubs such as cascara, black twinberry, and sweet gale, as well as many small plants tucked in mats of red and gold sphagnum moss.

Bogs form in wet places that have poor drainage, leading to deep accumulations of sphagnum moss or peat. Due to highly acidic and nutrient-poor conditions, many plants and trees are not able to survive in a bog. However, other plants thrive under these conditions, and bogs are home to many interesting and unusual plants. 

Bogs act like a filter to purify water, and they also trap and store significant amounts of carbon. Conservation of bogs is extremely important, and integral to the health of the wetlands that connect to our watershed.

Here are a few botanical highlights from the bog in June:

1. Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) is a common bog shrub with attractive round clusters of white blooms. The leaves have wooly, rusty hairs beneath and were traditionally used to make medicinal tea.

2. Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) is an insectivorous plant with round leaves that are fringed with dew-tipped hairs.

3. Arctic starflower (Trientalis europaea) has beautiful star-shaped, pure white flowers.

4. Bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) has runners that criss-cross over the sphagnum moss. In the spring they have a lovely, inverted pink flower which later develops into plumb cranberry. 

5. Slender rein orchid (Platanthera stricta) grows right along the boardwalk but is easily missed due to the green colour of the flowers. Miniature orchid flowers bloom along the tall, slender stems.

6. Chamisso’s cotton-grass (Eriophorum chamissonis) is a sedge with rusty-blond, fluffy seed heads that were called “eagle down” by some First Nations groups. 

The Puntledge Bog isn’t on a map, but it can be easily accessed from Comox Lake Main Rd. The trailhead, on the east side of the river, is just before the bridge that leads to the dam parking and picnic area. It is an easy, flat trail downstream along the river and about a kilometre to the bog. 

The upper Puntledge River has an extensive trail system with hiking, biking and multi-use trails. For more information, check out our online nature viewing guide. Information is also available on the BC Hydro website.

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