By Kevin Howe
Swamps, like Dragon Run, have a summer publicity problem; that is, unless you have been there. Talk to most people about swamps and they visualize muddy, murky, dark places, steamy and sweaty, a place full of snakes, mosquitos, flies, gnats, with “stuff” hanging off trees. And, in the case of Dragon Run swamp, maybe even Dragons live there.
By Kevin Howe, FODR Treasurer
Swamps, like Dragon Run, have a summer publicity problem; that is, unless you have been there. Talk to most people about swamps and they visualize muddy, murky, dark places, steamy and sweaty, a place full of snakes, mosquitos, flies, gnats, with “stuff” hanging off trees. And, in the case of Dragon Run swamp, maybe even Dragons live there. The only thing of truth in that description is that the Dragon is muddy; but floating down the Dragon, that is the last thing you notice. When you float through the bald cypress trees, the temperature is cool, you rarely see snakes (all nonpoisonous), and the “stuff” hanging off trees are lichens, mistletoe, and resurrection fern that have developed intriguing adaptations to survive.
While many insects may visit pickerelweed for nectar, it appears that these two bees are the key pollinators, and the pickerelweed provides the pollen necessary for young bees and nectar for the adult. The relationship between the pickerelweed and these two bees is tight and necessary for each to survive – an example of coevolution at its finest.
Swamp rose also ranges throughout eastern North America. We see it in summer along the water’s edge especially on small hummocks created by the bald cypress trunk buttresses where the rose grows in a tiny community usually with mosses and violets. While the swamp rose has thorns, and I always warn kayak guests not to grab the thorny canes, its flower is a real beauty. You must admire the plant for having such a fantastic adaptation as thorns to defend itself.
We often see bumblebees bumbling around in the swamp rose and they may be the best rose pollinators. In the fall, we find the rose hips – the fruit, a seed-filled red berry that reminds me of tiny radishes.
Rose hips are used to make a tea and often claimed to have a variety of medicinal benefits. They are high in vitamins, especially C, but how many do you have to eat to get a benefit – if there is one. Rose hips are sought by many animals especially fall migrating songbirds. The red color is easily seen after a migrator has been flying all night burning all that energy moving south. Rose hips are probably a welcome sight. I’m not sure how the rose hips taste to a bird but they are said to taste like a cross between a plum, a rose petal, and a tart apple. I admit that the one time I tried a rose hip, I only tasted the tart and only long enough to eject it out of my mouth.
I hope you will join us for a summer paddle because it is spectacular, and I have not even mentioned the hundreds of summer dragonflies zipping back and forth, creating an aerial show – a wildlife Cirque du Soleil. OMG, I forgot the blooming Buttonbush, Lizard’s-tail, Cardinal Flower, among others. See you in the Dragon!