In spring Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) blanket the floodplain of this creek with flowers like large golden buttercups. Marsh Marigolds thrive in swamps and wet meadows where there is shallow, slow-flowing water.
Well-shaded creeks like this one are important habitats in themselves and also supply clear cool water that helps sustain the fish, rare freshwater mussels and other creatures in the Ausable River. The shade and the muck soils of the creek bed, help to clean, cool and filter the water running off the surrounding farmland. If the creek was muddy it would carry silt down to the river. If sand and gravel bars in the river were buried in sediment it could smother fish eggs and kill the mussels that live there. If the water heated up in full sun, the temperature balance of the river could be altered, like running the wrong water into your bath. Many aquatic creatures have very narrow temperature limits and might not survive.
Take a look down the creek and you will notice that some trees have died. Death is an important part of the life of a forest. Dead trees and branches, known as “coarse woody debris” provide habitat for numerous insects, fungi and other organisms. The rotten wood also acts like a sponge holding moisture and preventing nutrients from being washed away. These important nutrients will be returned slowly to the soil at a rate that can be used by other plants. Gaps caused by falling trees allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, stimulating the growth of regenerating trees and shrubs.