The habitat of the bog is special because the water is trapped in an invisible clay bowl where it has been collecting for numberless years. A limited number of plants and bugs can endure the bog’s acidic, oxygen-starved water and austere conditions. Plus, the roots of the plants must like being wet or underwater.
The pace of change is very slow, except that the seasons sweep life along there in the usual way. In the deeper parts of the bog, the inky water reflects the sky, its surface spangled with stray leaves and algae.
The plants suited to the bog–the spaghnum moss, twisty ferns, tamaracks, cattails, chokeberry bushes, and wild cranberry–tend to be low-growing, but they grow in great profusion. Repetition of a small palette of plants swarming with bees (but free of mosquitoes) makes the bog the intense place that it is.
Below the level of the boardwalk, the pitcher plants grow out of the moss in clumps. These plants eat insects that fall into their tubular “pitchers” or throats, which are lined with needles that make it impossible for the bugs (or even salamanders!) to climb out. The throats or pitchers are filled with enzymes in which the insects dissolve. The proteins from the bugs make up for the dearth of nutrients around.
In late summer, the pitcher plants flower. The opposite of delicate, their petals are stiff and leathery. According to Scientific American, the various species of pitcher plants around the world are remarkable in that, over time, despite their geographic alienation, they have all evolved to produce similarly lethal enzymes. This fact so fascinated Charles Darwin that he wrote an entire volume on Insectivorous Plants (1865).