Buddy’s Bear Wallow Field Trip

Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Paul Harwood


Six participants of the Torrey Botanical Society and the Olive Natural Heritage Society met on Saturday, June 8, 2013 for a joint field trip into the Sundown Wild Forest. An interesting ecological feature called a bear wallow in a Catskill high elevation bog was our goal. A bear wallow is a depression in a wet area caused by bears, namely the American black bear (Ursus americanus), wallowing in the mud to keep cool on hot summer days. Over the years, the wallowing of the bears deepens and widens the depression, affecting the ecology of the area.

Buddy’s Bear Wallow, the target of our expedition has long been known and appears in an 1845 map by John B. Davis, a surveyor.  The wallow is located in a sphagnum bog on a topographic saddle at ca. 2160 ft. at the base of Spencer’s Ledge in Denning Township

A slightly rough ride on a dirt road, where colonies of stump sprouting American chestnut (Castanea dentata) grew and a mile bushwack into the mixed northern hardwood forest  (Tsuga canadensisAcer saccharum, Acer rubrum, Fagus grandifolia, Quercus rubra, Fraxinus americana, Tilia americana ) were necessary to reach the bog where the wallow was situated.  Along the way goldthread (Coptis trifolia), indian cucumber (Medeola virginiana) and skunk currant (Ribes glandulosum) were  found in abundance.

Upon reaching the bog, we noted that Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sps.) with stands of hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) interspersed with great laurel (Rhododendron maximum) and braces of cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) and sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) on hummocks dominated the landscape.   Some early carices were also present (Carex crinita, C. gynadra, C. arctata, C. debilis) but it was still too early in the season to see many sedges fruiting in the bog.  A small stand of marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) was also found along with large populations of marsh blue violets (Viola cucullata).  Sam Adams and Steve Parisio of the ONHS had been here on an earlier field trip and noted the Sphagnum as being two feet thick.  On this trip, Sam pushed a walking stick 5 feet in length fully into the moss, perhaps denoting a much deeper bog than was previously thought.

Unfortunately for us, we found that we had navigated across the bog without actually finding the wallow.  So it was decided to visit a wet meadow, situated nearby that was also on our agenda and then find the wallow on our return out of the forest. Along the way we discovered some lady-slipper orchids (Cyprepedium acaule) and a rich area of lycopods (Lycopodium complanatum, L. digitatum, L. hickeyiHuperzia lucidula). A very tough bramble of hemlock, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and white pine (Pinus strobus) had to be traversed to get to the meadow and there was some intense bushwacking before we broke through to the meadow.

Bright sunlight greeted us as we looked over the meadow over a late lunch.  Bulrushes  (Scirpus sps.) abounded but it was still too early in the season to identify the species.  Tearthumb (Persicaria arifolia )  was sighted as well as ?  Again, because of the unusually cool spring, much that we saw was in a sterile condition so ID’s were in short supply.

By this time the shadows were lengthening and the sun was close to setting behind Spencer Ledge.  So it was decided that we should start heading back and forego the bear wallow till another time.  Disappointed a little by our failure to see the wallow, we were nonetheless content to have seen some beautiful, pristine landscapes


Buddy’s Bear Wallow Plant List
 Acer pensylvanicum L. – striped maple
Acer rubrum L. – red maple
Acer saccharum Marshall – sugar maple
Amelanchier arborea (F. Michx.) Fernald – common serviceberry
Anemone quinquefolia L. – wood anemone
Aralia nudicaulis L. – wild sarsaparilla
Arisaema triphyllum(L.) Schott – Jack in the pulpitBetula alleghaniensis Britton – yellow birch
Brachyelytrum erectum (Schreb.) P. Beauv. –  bearded shorthusk
Caltha palustris L. – yellow marsh marigold
Carex appalachica J.M. Webber & P.W. Ball – Appalachian sedge
Carex arctata Boott – drooping woodland sedge
Carex debilis Michx. – white edge sedge
Carex gynandra Schwein. – nodding sedge
Carex prasina Wahlenb. – drooping sedge
Carex scabrata Schwein. – eastern rough sedge
Carex stipata Muhl. ex Willd. – awlfruit sedge
Carex trisperma Dewey – threeseeded sedge
Castanea dentata (Marshall) Borkh. – American chestnut
Chelone glabra L. – white turtlehead
Chrysosplenium americanum Schwein. ex Hook. – American golden saxifrage
Clintonia borealis (Aiton) Raf. – bluebead
Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb. – threeleaf goldthread
Cornus canadensis L. – bunchberry dogwood
Cypripedium acaule Aiton – moccasin flower
Cystopteris sp.
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (Michx.) T. Moore – eastern hayscented fern
Dryopteris carthusiana (Vill.) H.P. Fuchs – spinulose woodfern
Dryopteris intermedia (Muhl. ex Willd.) A. Gray – intermediate woodfern
Dryopteris marginalis (L.) A. Gray – marginal woodfern
Epifagus virginiana (L.) W.P.C. Barton – beechdrops
Eurybia divaricata (L.) G.L. Nesom – white wood aster
Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. – American beech
Fraxinus americana L. – white ash
Gaultheria procumbens L. – eastern teaberry
Hamamelis virginiana L. – American witchhazel
Huperzia lucidula (Michx.) Trevis. – shining clubmoss
Ilex montana Torr. & A. Gray – mountain holly
Impatiens capensis Meerb. – jewelweed
Kalmia latifolia L. – mountain laurel
Laportea canadensis (L.) Gaudich. – Laportea canadensis
lex verticillata (L.) A. Gray – common winterberry
Lonicera canadensis Bartram ex Marshall – American fly honeysuckle
Lycopodium complanatum L. – groundcedar
Lycopodium digitatum Dill. – fan clubmoss
Lycopodium hickeyi W.H. Wagner, Beitel & R.C. Moran – Pennsylvania clubmoss
Lycopus virginicus L. – Virginia water horehound
Maianthemum canadense Desf. – Canada mayflower
Maianthemum racemosum (L.) Link – feathery false lily of the valley
Medeola virginiana L. – Indian cucumber
Mitchella repens L. – partridgeberry
Mitella diphylla L. – twoleaf miterwort
Oclemena acuminata (Michx.) Greene – whorled wood aster
Onoclea sensibilis L. – sensitive fern
Osmunda cinnamomea L. – cinnamon fern
Oxalis montana Raf. – mountain woodsorrel
Panax trifolius L. – dwarf ginseng
Persicaria arifolia (L.) Haraldson – halberdleaf tearthumb
Pinus strobus L. – eastern white pine
Polygonatum pubescens (Willd.) Pursh – hairy Solomon’s seal
Polystichum acrostichoides (Michx.) Schott – Christmas fern
Potentilla simplex Michx. – common cinquefoil
Prunus serotinaEhrh. – black cherryQuercus rubra L. – northern red oak
Rhododendron maximum L. – great laurel
Ribes glandulosum Grauer – skunk currant
Rubus allegheniensis Porter – Allegheny blackberry
Rubus canadensis L. – smooth blackberry
Rubus hispidus L. – bristly dewberry
Rubus pubescens Raf. – dwarf red blackberry
Rubus strigosus Michx. – grayleaf red raspberry
Sambucus racemosa L. – red elderberry
Scutellaria lateriflora L. – blue skullcap
Sorbus americana Marshall – American mountain ash
Thalictrum pubescens Pursh – king of the meadow
Thelypteris noveboracensis (L.) Nieuwl. – New York fern
Thelypteris palustris (A. Gray) Schott – eastern marsh fern
Tiarella cordifolia L. – heartleaf foamflower
Tilia americana L. – American basswood
Trientalis borealis Raf. – starflower
Trillium erectum L. – red trillium
Trillium undulatum Willd. – painted trillium
Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière – eastern hemlock
Uvularia sessilifolia L. – sessileleaf bellwort
Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton – lowbush blueberry
Veratrum viride Aiton – green false hellebore
Viburnum lantanoides Michx. – hobblebush
Viburnum lentagoL. – nannyberryViburnum nudum var. cassinoides (L.) Torr. & A. Gray – withe-rod
Viola cucullata Aiton – marsh blue violet
Viola macloskeyi F.E. Lloyd – small white violet

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