Southern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Middle Branch Bog
Forest: Kisatchie National Forest
District: Kisatchie Ranger District
Description: Middle Branch Bog is a highly diverse hillside pitcher planter bog surrounded by open pine forest. The sandy upper soil allows water to easily flow downhill from the surrounding pine forest, while a deeper water-tight clay soil layer in the bog helps retain the moisture. Over 150 plant species are found in this 3.5 acre bog. One of the dominant plants is the yellow pitcher plant, Sarracenia alata. Other dominant species are grasses, primarily panic grasses and bluestems (Dichanthelium sp., Panicum sp., and Schizachyrium) and sedges (Rhynchospora sp. and Scleria sp.). Along the drainage at the base of the bog, woody shrubs such as baygall holly (Ilex coriacea), big-leaved waxmyrtle (Morella carolinensis), sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginica), all interlaced with the green briar Smilax laurifolia, predominate. Scattered through the bog are both longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). The bog is managed with prescribed fire so that it does not become crowded with woody shrubs and trees. Currently, prescribed fire is applied to the bog every three years. In recent years hand tools have also been used to remove some of the woody plants in this bog.
Wildflower viewing: There are a variety of wildflowers to view from late March through September in Middle Branch Bog. March and May are the best times for the casual wildflower enthusiast to visit, because many of the carnivorous plants are blooming then. Even before March, in winter, you will be able find the white-pinkish flowers of sunbonnet (Chaptalia tomentosa) nestled beneath the dried stems of last years sedges and grasses. In spring, carnivorous white-flowered sundews (Drosera brevifolia and D. capillsaris), butterworts (Pingulicula pumila) with their pale purplish flowers, three species of bladderworts with yellow flowers (Utricularia cornuta, U. juncea, and U. subulata) and the dominant yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia alata) bloom. Sundews, butterworts and bladderworts are small plants, each with a flower stalk only a few inches tall, so you will need to brush aside the taller grasses and sedges to see them. In middle to late summer, the pink blooms of sharp gay-feather (Liatris acidota) will brighten the bog.
In late summer the yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris sp.), with their yellow flowers protruding from what looks like a miniature pine cone sitting at the top of a stalk, and the red milkweed (Asclepias rubra) are readily observed. Make sure to take a close look at the milkweeds and other blooming wildflowers as you may see monarch butterflies as they pass through this area on their way to their winter roosting areas in Mexico.
Safety First: The bog is wet, so rubber boots or at least hiking boots are advisable. Boots also provide some protection in the event of snakebite; water moccasins are present near the drains in the bog. In the unlikely event of snakebite, seek medical attention immediately and do not attempt to suck out or otherwise remove the venom. Mosquitoes and chiggers will be active from early spring through the fall, so insect repellent sprayed on trouser cuffs, arms, neck and head is advisable. Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), which has the same irritating chemical in its foliage as does poison ivy, is present. Remember your mother’s saying: “Leaves of three let it be.” Thorn-covered green briars (Smilax sp.) are present in the bog and as such long pants are necessary and long sleeves are advisable.
Be prepared for hot, humid weather starting in May. Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat.
Directions: From Interstate I-49 south of Natchitoches, Louisiana, take the exit onto LA 119. Go south on LA 119 about 5.6 miles south until you reach the Longleaf Trail, FH 59. Turn west onto the Longleaf Trail and drive about 10 miles until you reach the intersection with road 321. You will see a sign for Kisatchie Bayou campground at this intersection. Turn south onto 321 and drive about 0.7 miles until you reach the intersection with road 380. Turn west onto 380, and drive about 0.2 miles and then park on the roadside. The bog is on the north side of the road.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Kisatchie National Forest, Kisatchie Ranger District.
Nearest Town: Provencal, Louisiana.