Friday, October 22, 2010

Camosun Bog Pro-D

Despite dire predictions the night before, the weather was cooperative for the first Pro-D hosted in Camosun Bog. Around 25 teachers from around the district attended the session. Presentations were given by Pat, Susan, and Vanessa that were both informative and interactive. Hopefully this spring we will be seeing classes from schools around the city visiting the bog.

Vanessa and Shelly cooking up a bog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grand Opening of the Camosun Bog Nature Walk

After 13 years of effort our nature walk is finally complete (more or less!)
Ed and Susan showing Labrador tea to visitors

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Unusual Lichen

Lichenomphalina umbellifera
Yes. This is a lichen. It is a symbiotic relationship between a blue-green alga and a fungus. This symbiosis is inconspicuous and probably can only be seen under the microscope (thin filaments of hyphae woven around balls of algae). However you can see the algae in this photo as it is the green stuff covering the yellowish coloured sphagnum moss. The fruiting body of the fungus is the white (or cream-coloured) mushroom. It fruits every spring and fall on the ground or on rotting logs. It is my belief that it grows in nutrient rich areas of the bog, such as those near the edges, or in newly restored plots that still contain nutrients from the layer of top soil that was removed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Traditional Labrador Tea during cold and flu season - a recipe to try, if you dare

Labrador tea with flowers:  photo: Marian De Gier Design
therapeutic labrador tea: note fuzzy brown hairs underneath leaves

poisonous bog laurel, shiny leaves, no fuzzy hairs
Camosun bog is part of the territory of the Musqueam  X'muzk'i'um.  150 years ago,  in the Pacific Northwest, your grandma might have sent you to the Bog to pick Labrador tea if your little brother was coughing.  You had to be careful, because if you picked Kalmia instead, your little buddy would be vomiting. 

Now that many of us are suffering the effects of a seasonal cold or flu, a hot cup of Labrador Tea sounds very attractive... until you read this from the "Alberta Plant Watch":
CAUTION: The tea can cause drowsiness and can act as a strong diuretic, cathartic or cause intestinal disturbances. The tea should be used infrequently and strong tea avoided.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sphagnum Moss from Camosun Bog

All photos copyright Gerry Mignault,  CBRG
The keystone species in Camosun bog is Sphagnum moss, sometimes called peat moss.  Without Sphagnum , the bog would not exist. Sphagnum maintains the wet and acidic conditions favoured by bog plants.  It has the incredible ability to absorb water like a super sponge and it pumps hydrogen ions into its surroundings, thus creating a very acidic environment. 

Sphagnum moss is a Bryophyte, one of the earliest plants to colonize land in evolutionary history. It doesn't have many of the adaptations shared by more recent land plants:   Lacks a cuticle (no shiny waxy protective covering - lip balm for plants!) Has no vascular system, the xylem and phloem (the "arteries and veins" of later land plants - maple syrup is tree "blood" drizzled on our pancakes!).

Sphagnum shares many characteristics with its close relatives, the aquatic plants.  like seaweed, it has swimming sperm. Thus sphagnum requires constant water for sexual reproduction.  Observe Gerry's  photos of Camosun bog's range of Sphagnum moss varieties.
more pictures below

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Healing Bog: "Bog Restoration", redefined, by Garth Thomson

Garth Thomson, from Kelowna  sends greetings and thoughts of just what kind of restoration is going on when we stand ankle deep in peat, pulling deer fern and salal. Read on...

Hello fellow Crazy Boggers,

I've been watching from a distance via email updates for the last 7 years (yikes time flies!) and visited the bog briefly on my only visit since 2003 to Vancouver last year. I was active in the bog from 2000-2003 and spent almost all my weekends during that time weeding, digging, and planting along with you.  My frog still watches me from behind my desk and my wooden badge is still in my box of "special things". 

The bog attracted me because it was such an interesting and beautiful place so close to where I lived at the time. I had spent many many years doing work related to the natural environment and had trained in forestry at UBC in 1985. In 2000 I had just finished the course work related to a diploma in Restoration of Natural Systems at UVic. I had also recently been diagnosed with Crohn's disease and was going through a major struggle to keep myself functioning at all. On the surface, it just looked like a quiet place to get away from the struggles but I think at a deeper level there was much more going on that wasn't said. I've really only been able to adequately put words on it very recently.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Camosun Bog featured on "Our Sustainable Region" and Parks Newsletter

camosun bog featured in Our Sustainable Region TV
see year 2010 episode 46, regional parks, "Camosun Bog".  And I recommend Laurence getting into the documentary film biz 'cause he's a natural.
Bog Buddy program , the photos,  and the bog children's stories also got featured on the Parks Newsletter too.  Cool.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

bog buddy pics

Biology students lead elementary students on a tour of Camosun bog

Monday, June 28, 2010

Youth Involvement

Hello everyone:

I hope to post more in the future, but for now I will write briefly on youth involvement.

While I generally do not separate people by age-- the last time I checked such things, I noticed I have friends from age 9 to 85-- I think Camosun bog a is wonderful community (ecological and social) for young people. I see Camosun bog as a safe place where youngsters can learn about nature. Furthermore, youth Crazy Boggers are learning from mentors as well as acting as mentors. I think mentorship can have lifelong positive impacts on those involved, with positive effects on their intellectual and emotional development. The physical exercise for restless youngsters is also an asset of bog restoration; for example, the pulling out of roots and old stumps can get a teenager's endorphins rushing ("happy hormones" at this age are a plus!).

Anyways, while there are many other ways I think the bog benefits young people, I would like to pass the following question over to others:

How do you think being a Camosun Bogger positively impacts the lives of youth?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tree Frogs vs Bullfrogs

It is very easy to know if you are looking at a tree frog or a bullfrog.

   Tree frogs are very small – 2-4cm long. They come in two colour phases – either brown with dark blotches or bright green. They always have a black stripe running from their nose past the eye and down to the shoulder. They make a “ricket-ricket” sound way out of proportion to their size
  Bullfrogs make a quite different sound, rather like a rapidly repeating foghorn They are far bigger than tree frogs – up to 25cm and can weigh up to 2kg.. They expand like balloons when attacked and have teeth on their lower jaw to hold their prey. They eat almost anything. They were introduced from Africa and are a thoroughly nasty species in this area.

A Frog in the Bog

When I moved into my home near Camosun Bog over 30 years ago, the sound of frogs in the spring was deafening. Over the years the sound decreased and in the last few years the bog has been silent.

One major reason for the loss of tree frogs has been bullfrogs. These were introduced to this area in the 1930s to produce frog legs for French restaurants. They didn’t catch on and were released in the Langley area. They have almost no predators – possibly herons – and each female produces 20,000 eggs every year. They can travel 1½ km in an evening and jump 2m high. There are reports of them eating cats! (see

They arrived in Camosun Bog 7-8 years ago and very quickly eliminated the remaining tree frogs. Having eaten them all, the bullfrogs then moved on to happier hunting grounds.

Over the last couple of years, the tree frogs have started to move back into the bog. This may be due to us expanding and deepening the pond and particularly this year it may have been helped by the very wet spring we have had. At one work party in April we were deafened by their sound and had to shout to be heard. The inevitable male-female thing happened and now we have lots of tadpoles swimming around in the pond!

Let’s hope the tree frog population continues to increase. It is essential that we do not disturb the tadpoles and we must not allow anybody to collect them. There is a real danger that the sound of the peepers will attract the bullfrogs and they will return to wipe out the population again. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to stop this. We tried to catch them some years ago but we were never successful as they disappear as soon as someone approaches them. Probably we will get into a long-term cycle of gradually increasing population followed by a crash. Rather similar to the lemming – snowy owl cycle in the arctic. We will see…..

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Poem for the Bog

Greetings fellow crazy Camosun bloggers!

The following is a short piece I composed for my creative writing course. We were asked to compose a poem on a moment in nature. I chose to write mine about the precariously leaning tree that had been damaged by the big storm we had earlier this spring.


Acrobatic droplets slice like liquid silver razor blades.

Wind whips from the west, wet and wild off the water.

Gravity is a suckling leech, resistance ferments in its belly.

Weather is a pitbull: teeth gnashing, tether snapped.

Trunk exhales like a bullfrog being flattened under workboots.

Lacking leaves, this living log leans and lists lower.

Bark is corrugated cardboard, clapboard for a slovenly hovel.

Pestilence the only resident: a squatting vandal.

Taut roots snap with a pungent puff of rancid apples.

A dank drape of detritus and decay: the dark, dense dirt.

Roots are worms, living carcasses embedded in the soil.

Robins pluck them one by one with a rusty pair of chopsticks.

The workman's hands are smooth as encrusted barnacles.

His choking chainsaw chews: chipping, chopping, chiseling.

Metallic teeth hyaenas snorting and chortling about their kill.

But they forfeit their slaughter, a feast for scavenging locals.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Time travel to bogs, fens, flats, by inchmeal - how deep is Camosun Bog?

This is a bamboo stick, about 1.6 metres, buried in the peat.  Let's pull it out.  (look closely at the moss near the stick.  Can you spot the sundews?)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Birth of a Sundew

Gerry's picture of a tiny sundew, its tendrils surrounded by sphagnum moss.

"Sundews have tiny cylindrical seeds, with a diameter not much greater than a human hair. The photo shows the seed on the right, with the shoot coming out near the end and splitting into three tiny leaves. Neat!"

--emailed to me from Laurence Brown

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bog Preservation, literally

Denmark's Tollund Man, found in a bog with barley and flax in his stomach and a leather belt around his waist.

"We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books."
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Brothers Emil and Viggo discovered a body in their bog and called the police.  The police examined the clothing on the body and phoned the museum...
What is a bog and how is it able to preserve things for so long? Find out here
Nova's interactive on Tollund Man
The Crazy Boggers also found some artifacts, though no body has turned up...yet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Storytelling and getting dirty

Biology students finished some amazing stories.  This is a sample and a fraction of what was produced for the Camosun Bog Buddy project.

Place Based Education and Complexity

Whatever you
can do…begin it
First and Most Important Question: Why should we change?
What is purpose for rejecting the status quo?
High School Biology in British Columbia is a survey course. Students are encouraged to systematically study life cycles, and the gross anatomy of protazoa, bacteria, fungi, plants and invertebrate animals. Major themes include evolution and ecology. Biology courses tend to be reductionist. Every phylum is dissected in both lecture and lab, in form of a (preserved) specimen sectioned, pinned and labeled.

Blueberry or Huckleberry?

“Blueberry or Huckleberry?”
Prince of Wales students are poring over a fine textured bush with thin, oval leaves. Sunlight filters through a stand of Hemlock and the air is deliciously fresh.
“Feel the stems, if they are round, it’s blueberry, squared, then it’s huckleberry”. Students strain to see carnivorous sundews nestled amongst the sphagnum moss. Some are examining Bog Laurel, and Labrador Tea, and that fine high arctic plant, Arctic Starflower. But they are nowhere near the arctic. They are doing a species inventory in biology class, in the middle of the city in a tiny bog rescued by the Camosun Bog Restoration Group.