Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sedges are habitat forming...

In the lowland area at Mission Creek Woodland Park there is an area of northern hardwood swamp with a canopy of mostly Red Maple (Acer rubrum) trees.  The floor of this swamp is dominated in part by tussocks of sedge (Carex spp.).

I love photographing these tussocks- they are just so photogenic.

Besides their obvious photographic value, they do serve other functions.  Once these tussocks are established, they serve as a habitat for other plants.  If you look in the picture below, you should notice stalks projecting from many of the tussocks.  Most of these stalks belong to Rough-leaved Goldenrod plants.  The goldenrod plants would probably drown if they tried to grow directly in the water of the swamp, but the sedges have provided little micro-habitats that elevate the goldenrod above the water and allow them to grow.

Many of the Red Maple trees in this swamp also started their life on the tussocks.  Seeds that were lucky enough to land on a tussock found conditions just right for growth - rich soil, just enough moisture, and warmth (the green tussocks warm up in the sunlight and are warmer than the surrounding soil and water).  Eventually some of these trees may grow to adulthood.

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