Botanist Carrie Radcliffe holds some mountain purple pitcherplant seedlings in a mountain bog in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Rabun County. Because the bogs harbor several rare species, visitors are asked to sign agreements not to reveal the bogs’ locations. CONTRIBUTED BY CHARLES SEABROOK

Rare mountain bogs are ‘precious gems’ in Georgia

Before we explored a rare mountain bog last weekend in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Rabun County, we were asked to sign an agreement not to reveal its exact location.

The reason, said our leader Carrie Radcliffe, an Atlanta Botanical Garden botanist, is that Georgia’s few remaining mountain bogs are some of the state’s rarest and most endangered habitats. They harbor several rare, bog-loving species, including the mountain purple pitcherplant, the endangered swamp pink (wildflower) and the tiny bog turtle.

Keeping bog locations secret helps better protect these “precious gems,” Radcliffe said.

Last weekend’s visit to the Rabun County bog in northeast Georgia was one of 25 field trips offered during the Georgia Botanical Society’s annual 3-day Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, headquartered this year in Clayton.

Mountain bogs, typically between a half-acre and five acres, are associated with old beaver ponds, seeps, springs or small creeks. They occur in relatively flat terrain with mucky, poorly drained soils in the Southern Appalachians, usually at elevations between 2,500 and 3,500 feet. Most are covered by peat (partially decomposed vegetation) and sphagnum moss that can hold 20 times its weight in water.

Over the decades, many mountain bogs were drained for agriculture. Lack of fire and beaver activity also allowed woody vegetation to creep in. Today, mountain bog restoration and protection are top priorities for the state Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance.

A major threat now is feral hogs, whose rooting destroys bog plants. Several hog-control efforts are underway.

To learn more:

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The Lyrid meteor shower will peak this weekend at about 15 meteors per hour in the northeast sky. Best viewing time: about 1 a.m. until dawn. The moon will be in last quarter on Friday. Mercury and Venus are low in the east just before dawn. Mars is low in the west at dusk and sets about three hours later. Jupiter rises in the east around midnight and appears near the moon on Monday. Saturn rises in the east just after midnight.

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