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The Great Saco Heath

 
Welcome to the Great Saco Heath!
 
Maine Natural Saco Splash
 
 

The wetland I visited was the Great Saco Heath. The Heath is located in Saco, ME.

The Great Saco Heath is 1223 acres, and was donated by its private owner to The Nature Conservancy in 1986. The Heath is now state owned and permanently protected, and is accessible to the general public.

The Saco Heath is a peat bog. The Heath itself was once a pair of acidic ponds. (The ponds being left by a receding glacier some 9000 years ago.) As a result of the acidic water, plant decay was slowed considerably, allowing sphagnum moss to accumulate over the centuries. When the huge mats of peat finally grew together, a raised coalesced bog was formed. The Heath contains one of the northern most strands of Atlantic White Cedar, as well as maybe the only place where this Atlantic White Cedar grows on a raised bog.

I chose the wetland because it is well known and accessible. Having been there before, and enjoyed the visit, I was glad to have a reason to go back; I find its history fascinating.

The Heath is a freshwater forested/shrub wetland, according to the NWI (the National Wetlands Survey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

The Maine state rank of this Raised Level Bog Ecosystem is S4; information from:

(http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/features/eco_raisedbog.htm)

 

Soils

Na (Naumberg sand) and Wa (Waskish peat) are the hydric soils and CrB (Croghan loamy sand) is a non-hydric soil of the Heath.

The appearance of the Naumberg sand would  be a darker color; due to the fact that its filtration rate is low when it is wet. As the saturation rate increases, the filtration rate decreases.

The appearance of the Waskish peat would also be a dark, or darker, color because of the slow water transmission rate. These soils consist chiefly of clays, and have a high water table. These clays are mostly of impervious material. Their water transmission rate is very slow.

The Croghan loamy sand has a moderate infiltration rate when completely saturated. Its texture ranges from fine to coarse. The rate of water transmission is moderate.

(http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usds.gov/app/)

 

Hydrology

This area is typical of a bog: poor drainage, no flooding or ponding, no major inflows or outflows of water (rivers, streams, tides, etc.).

Na (Naumberg sand) soils are of fine texture, and have a layer that impedes the downward movement of water.

Wa (Waskish peat) soils in this group have an infiltration rate when they are thoroughly saturated.

CrB (Croghan loamy sand) is not hydric and has a moderate infiltration rate when completely saturated. These soils are both fairly deep and well drained.

(Referenced from class notes/lecture and http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usds.gov/app/)

 

Vegetation

The vegetation was not as sparse, being early spring (when I had went), and with a recent snow. The two areas I had surveyed, PF04/1B and PF04E (NWI classification codes), had the following plants:

 Photos of plant species of PF04/1B:

 

  Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis (L.); this tree was seen in PF04/1B with high abundance.

 

Northern Red Oak, Quercus rubra (L.); this tree was seen in PF04/1B with high abundance.

 
 
 
 
Fir, Balsam - Abies balsamea
 

Balsam Fir, Abies balsamea (L.); this tree was seen in PF04/1B with low abundance.

 
 
 
 
 
New York Fern, Parathelypteris noveboracensis (L.); this plant was seen in PF04/1B with high abundance.
 
 
 
 
 

Sheep Laurel (Lambkill), Kalmia angustifolia (L.); this plant was seen in PF04/1B with high abundance.

 

 
 
 

Crinkleroot, Cardamine diphylla; this plant was seen in PF04/1B with low abundance.

 

 
 
 
Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus (L.); this tree was seen in PF04/1B with low abundance.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Three-leaf Goldthread, Coptis trifolia (L.); this plant was seen in PF04/1B with medium abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

Wheat Sedge, Carex atherodes (Spreng); this plant was seen in PF04/1B with low abundance.

 

 

 

Photos of plant species of PF04E:

 

Groundpine, Lycopodium dendroideum; this plant was seen in PF04E with low-medium abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

American Beech, Fagus grandifolia (Ehrh.); this tree was seen in PF04E with medium abundance.

Eastern Hemlock and Northern Red Oak are found in PF04E in the same abundance as PF04/1B.

 

 

 
 
 

Partridge Berry, Mitchella repens (L.); this plant was seen in PF04E with low abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

Common Green Peat Moss, Sphagnum girgensohnii; this plant was seen in PF04E with high abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

Mountain Fern Moss, Hylocomium splendens; this plant was seen in PF04E with high abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

Hairy Honeysuckle, Lonicera hirsute; this plant was seen in PF04E with low abundance.

 

 

 
 
 

American Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens (L.); this plant was seen in PF04E with medium abundance.

Sheep Laurel (Lambkill) is found in PF04E in the same abundance as PF04/1B.

 

Table of Sources above:

 

 

Common Name

Scientific Name

Growth Form (shrub, tree, herb/forb/non-woody plant)

Wetland Indicator Class (from plants database)

Abundance Based on Site Visit (high, medium, low)

PF 04/1B

Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis (L.)

Evergreen Tree

FACU

High

 

Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra (L.)

Deciduous Tree

FACU

High

 

Balsam Fir

Abies balsamea (L.)

Evergreen Tree

FAC/FACW

Low

 

New York Fern

Parathelypteris noveboracensis (L.)

Non-woody Plant (fern)

FAC

High

 

Sheep Laurel (Lambkill)

Kalmia angustifolia (L.)

Non-woody Plant (shrub)

FAC

High

 

Crinkleroot

Cardamine diphylla

Non-woody Plant

FACU

Low

 

Eastern White Pine

Pinus strobus (L.)

Evergreen Tree

FACU

High

 

Three-leaf Goldthread

Coptis trifolia (L.)

Non-woody Plant

FACW

Medium

 

Wheat Sedge

Carex atherodes (Spreng)

Non-woody Plant

OBL

Low

PF04E

Groundpine

Lycopodium dendroideum

Non-woody Plant

FACU

Low-Medium

 

American Beech

Fagus grandifolia (Ehrh.)

Deciduous Tree

FACU

Medium

 

Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis (L.)

Evergreen Tree

FACU

High

 

Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra (L.)

Deciduous Tree

FACU

High

 

Partridge Berry

Mitchella repens (L.)

Herbaceous Woody Shrub

FACU

Low

 

Common Green Peat Moss

Sphagnum girgensohnii

Non-woody Plant

None Listed for this species

High

 

Mountain Fern Moss

Hylocomium splendens

Non-woody Plant

None Listed for this species

High

 

Hairy Honeysuckle

Lonicera hirsuta

Woody Vine

FAC

Low

 

American Wintergreen

Gaultheria procumbens (L.)

Shrub

FACU

Medium

 

Sheep Laurel (Lambkill)

Kalmia angustifolia (L.)

Non-woody Plant (shrub)

FAC

High

Sources of above information:

http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/wetlands/types.html

http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/

http://plants.usda.gov/wetland.html

Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, 1st edition. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print

Forest Trees of Maine. Augusta, Me.: The Maine Forest Service, 2008. Print.

Haines, Arthur, Elizabeth Farnsworth, and Gordon Morrison. New England Wildflower Society's Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England. [Framingham, Mass.]: New England Wild Flower Society, 2011. Print.

http://www.wikipedia.org

Class lecture notes

Professors Theresa A. Theodose and Michael Mazurkiewicz of the University of Southern Maine.

 

Wildlife and Other Facts

The only wildlife seen were Eastern Gray squirrels.

The surrounding landscape is developed with single family homes; however the heath itself is nicely preserved and wooded.

The disturbances to the wetland are the established walking trails, which include sections of boardwalk extending into and across the peat bog itself.

 

Visiting the Wetland

Directions to trailhead: Drive northwest on the Buxton Road (Rt. 112) for 1.7 miles after passing over the Maine Turnpike. A parking area, marked by a TNC sign, on the right side of the road may be missed as it sits behind a border of trees. Look for a small Nature Conservancy sign at the entrance to the parking lot.

Estimated walking time: 90 minutes.

(sacobaytrails.org.)

 

 

Wetland information and photos by Douglas R Willhite, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine. Graduation year: 2012.

Last Update: (DRW) 04/23/2012

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
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