Rhodora-in-Bloom on the Heath

Text and photos by Jim McCarthy

What a privilege it was to join Dr. Fred Cichocki on May 19 as he led a guided nature walk to see the newly bloomed Rhodora and other acid-loving plants that make their home in and around the Cathance River Nature Preserve’s Heath Fen. A retired professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Fred freely shared his wealth of knowledge about that unique sphagnum moss wetland ecosystem and the amazing plants that live there — including wild calla lilies, carnivorous sundews and high bush blueberries.

At the start of the walk, he emphasized that it was important to “have fun” … which it certainly was as we slowly walked along the Heath Trail, checking out bluets, star flowers and other spring-blooming wildflowers on our way to the heath. A natural historian who is generous in sharing his knowledge, Fred gave participants a “provisional list” of plant species likely to be found at the Cathance River Nature Preserve Heath Fen. He also provided a very detailed handout explaining the ecological differences between heaths, bogs and other sphagnum wetlands. Both will be good resources for future explorations of this unique part of the preserve!