the Fen

You might wonder, what’s a fen?  It is a type of wetland, but different from most because it is fed by mineral-rich ground water, which makes the soil pH mostly neutral to alkaline, compared to the acidity of bogs.  Seasonal changes in water levels and peat build-up mean that plant (and animal) distributions can be quite clumped, depending on soil moisture and nutrients.

Prairie Blazing Star occurs in dry prairies, too, but it must not be too fussy because this soil was quite damp.

Prairie Blazing Star (Liastris pycnostachya) occurs in dry prairies, too, but it must not be too fussy because this soil was quite damp.

Fens can be dominated by marshy meadows of grasses with clumps of perennial forbs scattered about,

Pink flowered Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) in a grassy part of the fen.

Pink flowered Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) in a grassy part of the fen.

but prone to invasion of woody vegetation, especially where the soil is drier.

Willow and Aspen were the dominant trees in this fen shrub-meadow.

Willow and Aspen were the dominant trees in this fen shrub-meadow.  The vegetation is so dense it is difficult to walk through.  Joe Pye weed (pink) and Meadowsweet (white) compete for space with Goldenrod (faint yellow) here.

With so much plant diversity in this area, there were quite a few pollinators out.  I saw more butterflies and bees than any other place I have been this summer.

Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) with bumblebee and yellow jacket pollinators.

Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) with bumblebee and wasp pollinators.

A Bog Fritillary on an early blooming Goldenrod

A Bog Fritillary on an early blooming Goldenrod

An Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly warmed up in the sun.

An Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) butterfly warmed up in the sun.

This Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) sat in the middle of the trail until I practically walked on it.

This Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) sat in the middle of the trail until I practically walked on it.

This little acreage in the middle of the Blaine, MN suburbia is definitely worth a second (or third) visit.  It has just recently been acquired by the state Department of Natural Resources and designated a Scientific and Natural Area (SNA).

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