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Fens

Fens, like bogs, are home to very unusual ecosystems.  Always wet, with nutrient-poor soil, fens are a horrible place for most plants.  Finding an available ecological niche, however, a few plants have managed to thrive in fens.  The two, main plants found here include stunted, twisted tamarack trees which look more like bushes than trees when they grow in fens and bogs, and also carnivorous plants, most visibly the pitcher plant.

Fens form in areas where you have a large number of springs coming up through soft, porous soil.  The soil is saturated nearly year-round with this water, preventing the decay of plants which die and fall into it.  Those plants, especially the needles of the tamarack trees, turn the soil very acidic, preventing many plants from growing.

DANGER: Fens, being full of springs and porous soil, are occasionally home to quicksand.  Even where there isn’t quicksand, walking through a fen can still be dangerous, as they routinely form muck several feet deep or more.  Stepping in either one probably will not kill you (that’s limited to the fictional “lightning sand” featured in some movies), but will be very, very hard to get out of.  Also, finishing up your hike covered in smelly muck to your waist is only topped by having your hiking companions throw you in the lake to avoid getting that muck in their car.  If you find yourself in either quicksand or deep muck, just move very slowly, and, if needed, gradually lay back onto your back and “swim” backstroke out of it.  You’ll be wet and dirty, but you’ll probably get out ok.

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