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Monday, August 10, 2015

A Walk Through the Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog.

Off the cuff, the remark "hey, let's go look at a bog!" when it's 89 degrees outside in southern Alabama may sound a little off. After all, aren't bogs what trolls hang out in? Few would be excited to spend their midmorning ankle deep in muck, right?

However, bogs are important eco-systems that often get overlooked. They're fragile, and even footprints can cause problems for plants who need the spongy, water-filled soil to grow.

The Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog between Magnolia Springs and Fairhope, Alabama is meant to help preserve a unique area, part waterscape, part landscape, where carnivorous plants can grow.

When I explained where I'd been to my daughter, we opened up a dialogue about plants that eat things. At the age of six, Hunter has never encountered a pitcher plant or a Venus flytrap. Facilities such as the one at Week's Bay are meant to educate people about these sorts of organisms.

Our kind host, David from Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, suggested the visit while we were in the area covering barbecue. It was a welcome diversion and a nice warm walk to get everything going (especially
after the fantastically large breakfast he had served!).

After parking in a gravel lot, we crossed the road and stepped onto the boardwalk that courses through the reserve. The boardwalk allows for distance between our feet and the delicate root systems of the plants. A
pavilion not far from the entrance offers shade and interpretation of the plants at this facility.

Carnivorous plants obtain some of their nutrients by capturing and digesting insects and other small creatures. With the pitcher plants, prey are attracted to the sweet smell and fall down into their tubular, modified leaves. The sticky hairs on those leaves trap insects, and they are slowly digested.

The raised boardwalk continues on, first encircling a large open area in the center of the compound, then running off for some distance into a lightly wooded wetland.  The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible, and pets are allowed, provided that they are on a leash.

But due to the nature of the bog, there's very little cover (hence the need for the pavilion).

Periodically, the bog must be burned so the plants within it can renews.  That's probably pretty alarming, but it's a perfectly normal part of the life cycle here.

See what I saw as we walked through the bog.

You can learn more about the Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog and the estuary system it's in, by checking in at the Reserve Interpretive Center nearby. There's also information on this website. The Center is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pitcher plant bog boardwalk, along with another boardwalk in the area, are open daily.

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