ABC's of Bog Species

Aliya Khan

Ever wonder what type of creatures dwell in Burns Bog? Here are some of the species that live in the largest raised peat bog on the west coast of North America.

Autumn meadowhawk: This blue-listed dragonfly species breeds in small ponds in Burns Bog. They are shades of red and brown. Autumn meadowhawks are carnivorous and prey on insects ranging from mosquitoes to moths.

Black swift: These blue-listed birds forage around Burns Bog during migration. They tend to feed on flying insects, catch- ing their prey in midair. The only other known black swift population in British Columbia is within the North Shore Mountains.

Chum salmon: Fish species are not found within Burns Bog due to its low-oxygen and high-acid water content. However, the bog plays a critical role in cooling nearby streams. This is important for rearing and spawning of chum salmon, which are found in Lower Cougar Creek, a stream adjacent to Burns Bog.

Deer: Black-tailed deer are a common mammal in Burns Bog. Deer communicate with each other via pheromones that are released by different glands. For example, the deer’s metatarsal gland produces an alarm/danger smell which alerts neighbouring deer that there is a threat nearby.

Eagle: The bald eagle is spotted feeding and roosting near the Vancouver Landfill on the South end of Burns Bog. The bird can be recognized by its white head and large orange bill. Bald eagles feed on waterfowl and fish in BC’s Lower Mainland.

Funnel spider: These spiders make a funnel-shaped web that prey fall into. The arachnid then waits for its prey at the bottom of the web. Their funnel-shaped webs can serve as burrows too.

Greater Sandhill crane: These cranes construct their nests on piles of vegetation in shallow wetlands like Burns Bog. The vegetation provides shelter and protects against predators. Sandhill cranes mate for life and perform a mating dance yearly to show love for their partner.

Hutton’s Vireo: The blue-listed Hutton’s vireo is known to nest in parts of Burns Bog. This small songbird feeds on insects and spiders.

Inky cap mushroom: These mushrooms are found growing in clusters on rotten stumps. They have a smooth conical, greyish cap. Dripping from its cap is a black, ink-like liquid. Mushrooms are an important part of the food cycle; they assist in the decomposition dead materials.

Jointed rush: This plant grows in wetlands and marshy sites like Burns Bog. The rush has many bunches of flowers that are attached to long, thin stalks. These stalks grow at various points along the main stem.

Knit beard: There are five “beard” species identified in Burns Bog. This yellow-green lichen has long, stringy branches and can be found growing on other plant species like Labrador tea.

Long-leaved sundew: This carnivorous plant is one of the two sundew species found in Burns Bog. Its leaves contain tentacles that excrete a sticky liquid containing digestive enzymes. Insects land on them, mistaking them for water. Once it lands on the leaf, the bug becomes trapped and the plant slowly sucks nutrients from the insect.

Mosses: There are many moss species present in Burns Bog. Sphagnum is one moss species and is known as a “bog builder” in different parts of the world. Air channels in its stem allow the plant to breathe under water. Sphagnum mosses can retain up to 20 times their weight in water. Without sphagnum moss, peat bogs would not be formed.

Northwestern salamander: Salamander egg masses and larvae hatch and live in aquatic habitats like Burns Bog until they reach juvenile/adult stages. The length of time it takes for the eggs to hatch is dependent on the temperature of the water. The larvae take about one or two years to develop into the salamander’s juvenile form.

Owls: Many species of owls live in and around Burns Bog. These nocturnal creatures hunt for food in neighbouring fields. Some of the species of owls spotted in Burns Bog include the barn owl, great horned owl, snowy owl, and barred owl.

Pacific water shrew: This species of shrew is the largest of the North American shrews. The endangered animal is known to live in riparian areas close to the water. Pacific water shrews are insectivores that have acquired many adaptations suited for aquatic life.

Quercus robur: This flowering plant is more commonly known as the pedunculated oak. It is an old-world species that was introduced to Burns Bog. It is found in the woodland ecosystem of Burns Bog, which lies in the bog’s transitional lagg zone.

Red-legged frog: The northern red-legged frog is a blue-listed species that lives in wetland habitats like Burns Bog. The red colouring on the backside of their hind legs give them their name. Female frogs tie their fertilized eggs loosely to plant stems just below the water’s surface. The eggs then hatch four weeks later.

Subarctic darner dragonfly: These dragonflies are found in Burns Bog and only one other area in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The subarctic darner is a blue-listed species in BC. They are able to shoot out the lower part of their mouth in order to latch onto passing prey (smaller insects).

Trumpeter swan: This large waterfowl bird can stretch its wings up to six feet wide, and can weigh up to 25 pounds. These birds breed in wetlands like Burns Bog and winter on ice-free coastal and inland waters. Trumpeter swans need at least a 100-metre runway of open water to take flight.

Utricularia vulgaris: More commonly known as bladderwort, this vascular plant grows in aquatic habitats. It does not lay down roots; thus, it gets nutrients from its leaves. Nutrients come from insects that get stuck on its leaves.

Voles: One species of vole that has been spotted in Burns Bog is the Southern red-backed vole. These voles feed on plants, seeds, mushrooms, and some insects. Its dietary choice is critical in dispersing fungal spores and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These two elements are needed to make mycorrhizal links that maintain forest health.

Western bog laurel: This plant species is found abundantly in Burns Bog. The small shrub has smooth and slender branches. It blossoms into beautiful, rose-pink flowers. Bog laurel’s leaves and flowers contain a toxin that is poisonous to sheep and cattle.

Xylaria hypoxylon: This macrofungi was collected in Burns Bog during the Ecosystem Review in 2000. It is commonly known as the candlesnuff fungus, candle- stick fungus, carbon antlers, and staghorn’s fungus. This inedible mushroom species is bioluminescent – at night, it emits a faint light due to a reaction of phosphorous with other compounds in the mycelium of the fungus.

Yellow pond-lily: This species of Lily is found floating on many ponds in Burns Bog. Its green leaves are oval or heart-shaped with a glossy finish. The flowering plant rises from a thick, creeping rootstock that grows under water. Expansion of gases in the seed pod leads to the seed capsule exploding. The seeds then scatter in a spray, being dispersed for new lily plants to grow.

Zenobia pulverulenta: This bog plant is not found in Burns Bog, but we needed it to finish off our ABCs! Also known as the dusty Zenobia, it is found in wetlands on the southeast of the United States. It blossoms into bell-shaped creamy white flowers that give off an anise scent.

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