Posted in Nature, Park review, Southwestern Ohio

Cedar Bog

Cedar Bog is a state nature preserve that’s managed by the Ohio Historical Society due to its historical significance… or should I say prehistorical significance? There are a number of plants and animals in the preserve that were common in this region at the close of the last Ice Age, but which are now found in cooler, North American climates. Because it is such a unique habitat, in 1941 it was the first nature preserve designated by Ohio. Today it is one of Ohio’s 25 National Natural Landmarks.

A view of the Nature Center from the boardwalk

The Habitat

Before going further, I feel compelled to say that Cedar Bog is not a bog. Like Jackson Bog it’s really a fen. I discussed the difference between bogs and fens in an earlier post, Bogged down by wetland terminology, but the key point in distinguishing between a fen and a bog is noting how a particular wetland became wet. Fens are created by water bubbling up from an underground aquifer while bogs are created by rainfall pooling in a low area. The water source has several important consequences.

  • The water in bogs doesn’t flow anywhere. Water enters a bog via periodic rains and leaves via evaporation. In contrast water pressure in an underground aquifer forces water to continually bubble up into a fen. The continual inflow means that there is also a continual outflow. So a mnemonic for remembering the difference between fens and bogs is that Fens Flow. The water in one of the streams at Cedar (really a fen) Bog eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River and via that, the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Because of its underground source, the water in fens is a constant, cool temperature. At Cedar (really a fen) Bog, the water remains between 45 and 50 degrees Farenheit whether its summer or winter. This cool water provides a unique habitat for some unusual creatures, such as the American Brook Lamprey. In contrast the water temperature in bogs varies with the temperature of the air.
  • Sphagnum moss thrives in the stagnant pools of water found in bogs. When the sphagnum moss dies and decays, it releases tannins which make the water look brown. However sphagnum moss doesn’t grow in fens, so this water tends to be clear.
  • Since the water in Cedar (really a fen) Bog has bubbled up through limestone, the water is also hard (full of minerals) and alkaline. Sometimes incompletely dissolved limestone bubbles up with the water; this is called “marl”. If you feel the mud in such a place, the marl makes it feel gritty. However the water in a bog is acidic, and the mud doesn’t have this gritty texture.

For the convenience of visitors to Cedar Bog, there is a wheelchair-accessible, mile-long boardwalk that passes through a variety of habitats: savannah, wet forests (swamps), and wet meadows (sedge meadows). Here’s a sampling of what you see at different points on the boardwalk.

A forest ground cover of skunk cabbage
Transitioning from an open area to a closed-in area
Dark and close
A bench on a deck off the boardwalk. There was seating at regular intervals along the boardwalk.
Skunk cabbage to the left and Irises to the right (too bad they weren’t in bloom).
A wet prairie edged by trees
A sedge meadow with a stream of water bubbling up from underground

The sedge meadow above is edged by Northern White Cedar. This is a plant that normally grows in a colder climate, but which remained in this region after the Ice Age. Unlike the more common red cedar, the white cedars needles are flat and soft to the touch. These cedar trees would readily move into the meadow after the vegetation here develops the soil as part of natural succession; however, to preserve the rare species that live here, the park management prevents the cedar trees from taking over.

The soft, flat needles of the Northern White Cedar

I was delighted by the number of wildflowers. Here is a sample of the ones that I saw during my June 6th visit.

One of two orchids that was blooming during my visit. It reminds me of an angel with outstretched arms.
This was the other orchid in bloom. It tended to grow in little patches.
A closer looks at the showy lady’s-slipper orchid. Can you see a face?
Tuberous Indian-Plantain (Cacalia Tuberosa) – I didn’t know what this was when I spotted it. I turns out that it is a threatened plant in Ohio due to loss of habitat.
Elderberry blossoms
Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata); the flowers on the plant point toward the ground, so I am viewing it from below in this photo.
Tall meadow-rue (Thalictrum pubescens)
Another unidentified flower…
I’m not sure about this one, either. It looks a bit like phlox, but the petals are so wide. May be a type of Vervain.
Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) — this is a relative of the tomato plant!
This is a Cinquefoil . I saw interpretive signs saying Shrubby Cinquefoil grew in the preserve, so that may be the type of Cinquefoil that it is.
Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens pipiens) – he was sitting in the little stream in the sedge meadow pictured above.
This is a Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) . The blue tail and pronounced stripes tip off the fact that it is a juvenile.
This is a mature Five-lined Skink. The adults are nearly bronze in color; if you look at the photo closely, you cans see faint traces of its original lines. In this photo, the little guy is pretending to be a stick like the one beside him. When that didn’t work (because I continued approaching), he ran off.
Common whitetail dragonfly
This is a male Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata — Beauvois). It’s called “Ebony” because light doesn’t pass through the wings of the mature damselfly.
This is a female Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata — Beauvois). Unlike the male above, it has dull-colored body and white tips on its wing. Since light is passing through the wings of this one, it is probably younger.
Additional information


Like many properties managed by the Ohio Historical Society, visitors are asked to pay an admission fee: $5 for adults; $4 for students and children six years old and older; free for children under 6. Admission is also free for members of the Ohio Historical Society. The preserve isn’t open all day, every day. Check the Ohio Historical Society’s web page on Cedar Bog (one of the links above) for operating hours.

Prior to going on to the boardwalk, I sprayed DEET on myself just in case mosquitoes might be an issue. I was untroubled by them while I explored the area.

Here’s the address: 980 Woodburn Road, Urbana, Ohio 43078. And these are the GPS coordinates: 40.055607, -83.792328

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

12 thoughts on “Cedar Bog

    1. Thanks, Emily! From looking at your blog, it looks like we have a lot of common interests, especially the wildflowers.

      When I looked over the your blogs tags, I had to check out the werewolf/dogmen of Silver Creek. Amusing.

    1. Randy, thanks for suggesting a dragonfly species. However, the catch is this one really doesn’t seem to have any white spots on its wings (that’s kind of hard to tell from the bleached wood behind the wings).

      I just learned that the female Common Whitetail Dragonfly doesn’t have a white tail. ❗ After looking at the Wikipedia Article for this species, I think that’s what this is.

  1. What a gorgeous bog.. I mean fen! So is the pH in a fen different than a bog? I would imagine that would affect the species composition.

    1. Yes, the pH in a fen is alkaline, whle the pH in a bog is acidic, and you are right that the distinct habitats tend to support different plant and animal life.

      Just to keep things interesting, we are soon going to post an article on Cranberry Bog, which really is a bog… but it’s floating in the middle of Buckeye Lake. It’s a very interesting story how it came to be there. It is the only floating island in the world.

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