Northern White Cedar Swamps, Late May

Northern White-cedar swamps are one of the most interesting natural resources that I’ve explored in northeastern U.S. I’m fortunate to live near two in central New York, one about 1500 acres and largely State-owned, the other about 700 acres. Both are federally protected wetlands. These sites are low and poorly drained, with saturated soils that are fed and enriched by springs and mineral-rich groundwater. Wet, organic muck soils, downed trees in various stages of decomposition and scattered hummocks characterize the forest floor. Northern White Cedar is the dominant tree. Common associates include Red Maple, Tamarack, Balsam Fir, Black Ash, Eastern Hemlock, Yellow Birch and White Pine trees.


Forest understory site in a protected Northern White Cedar swamp


Large wetlands like these are mysterious, pristine, biologically rich places that afford unique opportunities for observing and photographing nature through the seasons. I usually hike into a cedar swamp looking for something in particular, perhaps an orchid in bloom, but end up on a “discovery walk”, investigating everything that catches my eye, ranging from fungi to rotting logs and ancient White Pines.


Old growth White Pine tree (double-stem), hundreds of years old, growing on a hummock


Goldthread (Coptis), a common wildflower in cedar swamps

My knowledge of non-flowering plants – fungi, ferns, etc. – is not nearly as impressive as my reference library, so in many cases I leave those images unlabeled.


Mushroom; Wild Lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum) leaf in front


Royal Fern (Osmunda) fiddlehead


Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema)


Horsetail (Equisetum)



Fern fiddleheads


Bracket fungus (1 of 2)



Photos by NB Hunter   ©All Rights Reserved


13 thoughts on “Northern White Cedar Swamps, Late May

    • You’ve commented on something that has been on my mind since I started my photo journal, i.e. the need to carve out a niche that embraces the entire experience, capturing thoughts, struggles, victories, the surrounding environment, etc., as well as an image. I appreciate that.

    • Thank you. Agree – fern fronds are hard to pass up. Unfortunately, the shot I really wanted didn’t work out – a spider on a strand of silk, attached to a frond. I just couldn’t get everything composed in the same plane and in focus. Maybe next time!

    • Always appreciate your feedback Jim. Thanks. These big swamps are near and dear to my heart – the solitude, the muck, the surprises – I must get back in there this year. After you commented, I revisited that post for the first time in a couple of years and quickly realized that I’ve learned a lot since 2013. Had to resist the temptation to go back and clean up some of the photos!

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