Stop # 9: Flora

Other than rocks, what grows here?

Take a look at that swamp, not something one expects to see in the middle of all these woods.

This swamp, affectionately named the Dan Haggerty Bog by some camp staff after the former Nature Director, is also home to another type of tree. The Eastern Hemlock likes wet environments, making it a bit harder to find in camp. If you can find one, they are very easy to identify as each needle has two white stripes on the underside. You can spot them near the waterfront or along rivers, but up here next to the swamp there’s a whole forest of them!

Here in Onteora the most common trees you’ll find are the Red Maples, Yellow Birch, Cherry and copious amounts of American Beech. Along this trail you also encounter some of the last stands of Hemlock left in camp along with the occasional Cherry tree.

But the American Beech are everywhere! Red Maples may have green leaves most of the year, but their leaf stems are red year-round! You may recognize one of their three-pronged leaves as the same type of leaf on the Canadian flag. The Yellow Birch, on the other hand, is more recognizable for its bark, which is thin and peeling. This is because Birch trees can photo-synthesize through their bark as well as their leaves! The bark continuously peels and regrows to keep the bark clean and clear to capture sunlight.

Typically, you can recognize American Beech from their very smooth bark. However, a lot of Beeches you’ll find seem to be rough and bumpy. Why? This is diseased bark caused by a type of bark beetle called Beech Scales. That’s right, trees can get sick too! These Beech Scales are invasive, meaning they do not belong here and are actually native to Europe. In 1890, the beetles were accidentally introduced into Nova Scotia, Canada. Without any natural predators, the Beech Scales spread quickly across Canada and the Northeast United States. These beetles dig into the trees to eat their sap, leaving behind white wax and open wounds in the tree’s bark. Once damaged, the trees are open to infectious fungus! This is what causes those sickly bumps on the bark.

DIRECTIONS: Continue hiking on the White Trail until it meets up with the Red. Continue west, to the right, on the Red and White Trails. These trails will soon split. Follow the Red to the south (left).