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Bogs of the Northeast.

Have you ever considered why Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, was so named? And did you know that sphagnum, holding as much as 25 times its weight in water, was dried and used by Native Americans as diapers and later by the Allies in World War II as a surgical field dressing? This book is not without its trivia - or its poetry.

In the book's preface, Johnson expresses a concern that in coming to understand bogs scientifically, there is a danger of losing sight of their poetry. This book does not let that happen, but expands the reader's knowledge as it deepens his or her fascination. Johnson, Vermont's state naturalist and an experienced field researcher, ends almost every chapter with a paragraph that brings forth his feelings for bogs, not so much as a scientist but as a person who loves bogs.

Of course, the science is there, as much as has been gathered about bogs and fens of the Northeast. The author defines the Northeast as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the six New England states, although he mentions peatlands in other areas of the nation and world. His distinction between fens and bogs is even more important, so plow through this chapter even if it seems a bit too detailed. From there, Johnson explores each fascinating segment of bogs and fens - sphagnum mosses; carnivorous plants; orchids;sedges and heathes; insects and other invertebrates; fish, amphibians, and reptiles; birds; and mammals - chapter by chapter.

The popular writing style, along with numerous illustrations and tables, make the book very readable. Almost counteracting that is the author's overuse of parenthetical phrases. Not only are scientific names in parentheses, as they should be, but so are other "asides"that would have been easier reading if worked into the text.

Throughout the book, Johnson refuses to name or locate what he calls "rich fens" for fear of "exploration or overvisitation." Yet in an appendix he readily lists bogs, many of which, like the rich fens,are home to state-listed rare and endangered species. Maybe Johnson felt a need to counteract some of the visitation he no doubt knew his book would inspire. Anyway, you'll feel like you've visited a good many bogs and fens in reading this book. You just won't have the mosquito bites and muddy boots to show for it.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Boerner, Deborah A.
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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