Back to Nature (Published on - Sept. 2, 2005)
When bogged down is a good thing
Photo by Rick Tremmel
The Florida native button bush naturally thrives near wetlands and bogs where it attracts wildlife such as butterflies and bees.
Bogs: A distinctive type of wetland, a bridge to the ancient past.

One of the more pleasurable pastimes of mine, as a child, was to wander along the hills and banks of the mountain spring fed bog near my home.

There were always new discoveries. Many fascinating creatures lived in the forest surrounding the bog.

The bog provided a ready supply of frogs, salamanders and fishes, mussels and crayfish for raccoons, opossums, the occasional bobcat and more. Some of the plants that only grew near those banks are endangered or extinct today.

Bogs still remain one of my favorite eco-systems to study. Bogs are one of North America’s most distinctive kinds of wetlands. They have provided me with opportunities to see animals and plant life that I might not have seen anywhere else.

A bog is a wetland, formed where the soil is soggy, made up of spongy peat deposits or peat-filled wetland (peatland), strongly acidic waters, a floor covered by a thick carpet of sphagnum moss. It is low in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium. Bogs receive all or most of their water from precipitation rather than from runoff, groundwater or streams.

As a bog has limited external drainage, the surface is frequently covered with small ponds. There are many different types of bogs around our globe: raised (domed) bogs, flat bogs, sloped bogs, blanket bogs. The two types of bogs in the U.S are; northern bogs – mostly found in the glaciated northeast and Great Lakes regions and pocosins – found in the southeast.

The bog near my home was referred to as a cranberry bog, a pocosin, an Algonquin Native Indian word, literally translates to “swamp on a hill.” Pocosins provide large tracts of land for wildlife such as, the black bear, red and gray fox, coyote, badger, weasels, deer and more.

One of the plants I most admire that grows on bogs is the button bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis linnaeus, the madder family. Button bush is a host and nectar plant to several butterflies, such as the monarch and the great spangled fritillary.

The adaptable button bush is perfectly at home if integrated into your backyard garden and can be purchased at local native plant nurseries. Button bush is a shrub and can grow up to 10 feet. The white flowers are fuzzy and pincushion like, possibly the origin of its name, like fuzzy buttons.

Although the leaves are poisonous the tiny seed like fruit is considered a delicacy attractive to wildlife. Button bush naturally grows along the banks and streams, lakes and sinkhole ponds, swamps, wetland prairies and bogs throughout Florida.

Bogs are in danger all over our planet. Humans seldom realize the value of bogs. About 1,400 square miles of pocosins still remain in the United States, but more than 3,000 square miles were drained between 1962 and 1979.

Bogs help to maintain reliable supplies of clean water to rivers. Bogs hold rich archives of our history preserved in the peat and surrounding terrain. Rare and protected species of plant and animal are found on bogs and nearby forests, because many of these wildlife species depend exclusively upon bogs for water, food and materials for shelter.

Bogs provide a unique insight into a natural community that at one time covered much of the gulf states, and allow us to take a look at nature as it was, a still moment in time, an ancient bridge back to nature.

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