Wetlands and Fiddleheads

Although mostly cool, overcast and rainy, the month of May is yielding a rich assortment of scenes and subjects. Where to begin?! I’ll start with a recent trip to a small, swampy site where fiddlehead ferns and marsh marigolds were the dominant visual element.

A common wetland scene like this has marsh marigolds carpeting the low, waterlogged places, while dense clumps of cinnamon ferns occupy the high ground – raised tussocks of dense roots and emerging fronds.





Young ferns with developing fronds aren’t limited to swampy sites….there are many species adapted to almost any site imaginable.


Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.


Fiddling with Fiddleheads

The developing fronds or fiddleheads of ferns are always a point of interest in spring. Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) is an easy target because it’s abundant in most wetland habitats and the root stalks, fiddleheads and fronds are all prominent.

Dense clusters of fuzzy fiddleheads, each with a unique configuration, present one of the more pleasant spring scenes in a wetland habitat.





Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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