Posts Tagged ‘sedge’

Sedges Have Edges

December 8, 2009

What isn’t there to get excited about sedges?

Quimper Wildlife Corridor, trailhead off Cook Ave/Elmira St, west of Port Townsend, Quimper Peninsula, E. Jefferson County, Washington State, USA.

On a recent walk with docents from the Jefferson Land Trust, I discovered some great wetlands of the North Quimper Peninsula within a 20 minute bike ride or easily accessed from the #14 Jefferson Transit bus.  I was among at least a dozen others that came to explore the “Interconnections of the Forest”.

The Quimper Wildlife Corridor is a stretch of mostly undeveloped land stretching all across the North Quimper Peninsula. The 3.5-miles of native vegetation include a series of wetlands that make up a natural drainage corridor leading to Chinese Gardens near Fort Worden State Park.

The Jefferson Land Trust views the Quimper Wildlife Corridor as a great community asset, one that permanently preserves places for humans and wildlife.  There is more information about the project at their website.

We walk into the forest and our guide points out that it is likely that natives of the area maintained open fields of grasses with burning.  We did find a rather large Douglas fir that has been aged to near 500 years (though its height would have one guess younger).  It is obvious by the diameter of the surrounding Doug firs that the rest of the forest is much younger.

Our first stop is a small pocket wetland.  It isn’t what you might think- open expanse of water surrounded by a variety of native plants.  This wetland doesn’t have water at the moment but likely has at other times of the year or in recent years.  Wetlands were once known by other names such as bogs, swamps, marshes, estuaries and other river or lake shorelines.

When you look at the different kinds of vegetation, this area is markedly different.  Our tall conifers that shade the forest in the winter have given way to primarily deciduous “leafy” trees including willows and alders.  The undergrowth that was just recently salal bushes have transitioned to grass-like plants.  The first that come to my hands have long blades and runs nearly to my mid-thigh (about 3 ft from the ground).  Ok, I know that not all plants with long green blades without obvious flowers are grasses.

I think back to what my botany and naturalist friends would say: “Sedges have edges/Rushes are round/Grasses have nodes from the top to the ground”.  What a neat naturalist trick.

I reach down and feel the blade- sure enough it has very sharp edges and the docent confirms that it is a sedge. What is really meant by edges is that the stem is triangular.  I look at the blade closer and notice the underside is also very rough and likely has a high proportion of glass-like particles within the cell walls.  Sedges have been traditionally used as weaving materials for mats and chair seats.  The pith from one species was actually used as paper; “paprus”.  There are over 100 types of sedge and I am not looking close enough within the constrains of the walk-and-talk offered by the docent to note significant characteristics of this one for proper ID.

We walk through the trails that will eventually connect to ones that are part of Cappy’s Trails woods.  We stop a couple more times to see a couple more wetlands including Winona wetland off Bell and Emerald Streets.

I scan the trees for raptors and look for other signs of wildlife.  I don’t immediately find anything from my quick survey.

What is exciting is there are so many different kinds of vegetation and habitats.  Where you have transitions from one habitat to another, you tend to have the highest concentration of biodiversity.  More different habitat types mean more potential for different types of plants and critters; different soil chemistry and water saturation. There are more places to take shelter, find your food and the type of space you prefer.  This sudden arrival of sedges and new types of tree promises to attract critters to what they need as well- water.  The fact that these wetlands are not to far from one another and the forest is not overly developed, yet provides for a nice pathway or corridor for wildlife to move from one place to another.

I am happy to have discovered this section of the peninsula.

My question that grabs me now is how often to do these wetlands see standing water?  When was the last time there was water?  If the climate continues to change, how will these wetlands change?  What effect would that have one the movement of wildlife through this area?  I am accumulating more questions than I have time to answer- yet again for another time (rainy day)…

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