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A Discovery Walk in the Vly with Two Experts

Great Laurel

On June 29, 2023, the Pacama board members met with geologist Steve Parisio and environmental scientist (and vice president of the Olive Natural Heritage Society) Sam Adams. The purpose of the visit was to explore the Pacama property on Lower Sahler Mill Road to produce a cursory inventory of the plants and animals of the Pacama Vly.

As we walked up the hill from the road, and back down again towards the swamp, we discussed the terrain. There are many “hill and pit” locations where a tree has fallen, eventually causing a decomposed hill and a pit where the root structure was. There are many stands of Mountain Laurel in this upland area. Later, we found a newly downed tree where Steve talked about the geological aspects of the presence of iron in the mud that was exposed. He also talked about always looking for the nests of the winter wren in these huge upended root structures. Seems like it’s a preferred nesting site for this particular bird. The species of trees that were noted were Hemlock, Hickory, Maple, and to Sam’s and Steve’s delight, Swamp White Oak. This is a huge tree with a notable buttress to support it. The leaves are a dark green on the face and a much lighter green on the underside -- a defining aspect.

One of the main topics of conversation was of the different aspects of the multitude of sedges found in the boggy area of the property. Steve pointed out that many of these sedges can only be properly identified under a microscope, their different characteristics being so minute. Much attention was paid to the position of the male and female parts of the plants, a clue as to the type of sedge. Sam took many samples to later investigate under a microscope. Other emergent plants that were identified were Arrowhead, American Burr-reed and Sphagnum. Several different and varied mosses were noted. Steve noted the variety of lichens and John Franklin, an expert on lichens, will visit the site later to inventory them.

A discussion was had about whether the Vly was a swamp or a fen. A swamp is inhabited by trees and a fen is not. Although the area we investigated would definitely qualify as a swamp, we don’t actually know if the interior of this wetland might be considered a fen. Evidence of beaver damage points to the possibility of the presence of deeper water.

In conclusion, we discussed the importance of saving open spaces and supporting the idea of land conservation. We acquired this land with the intent of preserving open space. Now we are learning about the richness of the biodiversity.


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