Thursday, October 6, 2016

Slightly Hirsute Sedge

This summer I came across a sedge I had never encountered before.  One of those which immediately upon seeing it, is clearly something weird and different.

I didn't identify it in the field, rather I resorted to one of my favourite evening activities, surrounding myself with books and a microscope and hashing it out.

With a bit of paging through my resources to find an ID and later corresponding with Mike Oldham and Tony Reznicek, sure enough I had found Slightly Hirsute Sedge (Carex hirsutella), listed as S3 (Vulnerable) in Ontario.  Now, this name doesn't have the punch of say Mad Dog Skullcap or Bastard Toadflax, but it certainly is blatantly descriptive.

Below are a few shots I took (don't worry, there's still lots of plant left at the site).

Moving into the fall I'll be doing some invasive brush cutting at a couple of savannah/woodland sites in Waterloo Region over the next couple of weeks, maybe I'll set up a time lapse to capture that.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall Botany in Norfolk

I recently took a trip down to Norfolk County for a day of botanizing.  Every time I set foot in a woodlot down there I tell myself I need to get there more often; so many neat and interesting plants to be found.

White Goldenrod (Solidago bicolor), also known as Silver-rod due to it's spike of white (not yellow) flowers is somewhat restricted in Ontario to sandy forests along the north shore of Lake Erie and Ontario.  I found a new population near Pembroke a few years back but a map produced by Semple shows an arm reaching up from New York, so not that surprising.  Unlike some of our other more common goldenrods, this species 'behaves' with plants occurring more or less individually throughout the forest floor.

Exploring some sand blowout areas I found plenty of Round-headed Bush-clover (Lespedeza capitata).

Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum) has seeds which look just like coffee beans.

They don't make common plant names short...this is Fern-leaved False Foxglove (Aureolaria pedicularia).  A species of sandy woodlands and savannahs.  This species, along with 2 other species in the genus which occur in Ontario, is currently being evaluated by COSEWIC and will likely become listed as Threatened or Endangered.
Intermediate Pinweed (Lechea intermedia)
 May is always a great time to spot patches of Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata) in bloom, but the distinct leaves can still be found come fall.

Other rarities like Virginia Goats-rue (Tephrosia virginiana) can be found in high quality woodland and savannah.  Some recent trips to Wisconsin and Illinois have shown that this species is much more common to the southwest, but is still rare throughout much of it's range.

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)
 I had never seen Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) and was happy to put it together that I had stumbled upon some poking up through the leaf litter.  This plant has been adopted by the horticultural industry with various colour variations.  Nature does it best.
A good way to end the day!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wide Open Spaces in Alberta

Last week I did a whirlwind trip to Alberta for work.  The task involved evaluating prairie vegetation, something I quite enjoy doing!  Although brief, I made the most of my short time in the shortgrass.  A couple of public-owned rangelands provided some fun post work exploring options.

The views were gorgeous, a rolling landscape with prairie potholes full of ducks, canola where the land is flat and prairie on many of the hillsides and anywhere else crops weren't an option.  

Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) was widespread, one of my favourites this time of year.

I walked away from this dragonfly perched atop a Tall Cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta) stem still a bit unsure as to whether it was alive or not.

Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) is rather rare in Ontario.  It was fairly common there, albeit this was the single flowering plant I could locate.

Another neat goldenrod, Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis).  I'm not sure how to describe the difference, it has traits of several of our more common Ontario goldenrods.  This S2-ranked species is known from the Kenora, Thunder Bay and Rainy River Districts of Ontario.
Flodman's Thistle (Cirsium flodmanii)
 Silverleaf Psoralea (Pediomelum argophyllum), also known as Indian Breadroot is one of the first prairie plants I learned years ago in South Saskatchewan.  It can be locally fairly common but similar to the sage species that grow in the western prairies it's bluish-green leaves are eye-catching.

Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), the species I was looking to relocate from an old record in Waterloo Region.

One of many prairie pothole formations.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bruce Almighty

Saturday I ventured up to the Bruce for some botanizing.  August is a great time of year to go for a hike up there with the bugs few and far between and alot of alvar species hitting their prime.  Here's a snippet of the highlights for the day...

Soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) is one of the species I was looking for here in Kitchener from my last post.  We have a single record for Waterloo Region but being known from an actively eroding bluff along the Grand River, I'm not holding my breath on finding it anytime soon.  In Bruce County this species is fairly common.

Cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare) is blooming and could be found at the edges of a few trails. 

Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) is one of our most common asters.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is maybe a week past it's prime but still quite a sight.

Kalm's St. Johns-wort (Hypericum kalmianum) was found growing in a calcareous, marl meadow.

Flat-topped White Aster (Doellingeria umbellata)
 Appearing much different from Cardinal Flower, patches of Kalm's Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii) grew along the rocky edges of a beaverpond.

Glaucous White Lettuce (Prenanthes racemosa) is a strange looking plant, covered in dense hairs above and waxy smooth on the lower leaves and stem.

Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) is always a highlight at this time of year on the Bruce.  Unfortunately the dry conditions made for a poor year for flowering (or survival) of many plants.

A nice patch of False Asphodel (Triantha glutinosa) in a meadow marsh.

I was happy to see something new, this is Chestnut Sedge (Carex castanea) which has super long culms (stems) (these were about 90cm) and tiny hairs on the upper half of the culm.  Michigan Flora notes that it is a calciphile of moist coniferous forests.

This is Round-leaved Ragwort (Packera obovata), a species listed as "S3" provincially.  When blooming, the bright yellow flowers of Ragworts are hard to miss.
Getting into the goldenrod world...Hairy Goldenrod (Solidago hispida) resembles Grey Goldenrod (S. nemoralis) but doesn't 'nod'.

Uplands White Aster (Solidago ptarmicoides)
 A showpiece of the Bruce, Houghton's Goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii).  See the restricted range here.

And in among the Houghton's we have the odd Ohio Goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis) with broader leaves (and various differences int he flowering parts).

Grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia glauca)

Twig-rush (Cladium mariscoides)

Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis)
 The song "Your Rocky Spine" by Great Lakes Swimmer comes to mind...

That's a fine looking Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Swamp Exploration in Kitchener

A couple weeks back I decided to check out Homer Watson Park here in Kitchener.  Despite some shady characters that hang out there, seemingly at all times of the day, it is in my opinion the City's best (or most natural) park.  I say that partly due to it's size and location on the west bank of the Grand River, but also just the general mix of rich upland forest, seepage slopes, bluffs, riparian meadow and a good number of marsh and swamp pockets.  Way back when this area was settled by Mennonites travelling north from Pennsylvania, the local bridge crossing of the Grand River comes right up the slope within what is today the park.  In short, it's a fun spot to do some exploring on a Sunday afternoon.

On my last visit I was surprised to see Stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis) in bloom.  I had actually never seen it in flower before so this was a treat.

In some of the marsh and floodplain areas Field Dodder (Cuscuta gronovii) is common, even dominant in small patches.  The twining neon orange stems are hard to miss on a backdrop of green foliage.

Some hummock areas in the swamps are home to high-quality habitat species like American Marsh-pennywort (Hydrocotyle americana)

One marsh area has abundant Turtlehead (Chelone glabra).  This is the first spot I ever saw Baltimore Checkerspot (and remains a dependable location in the right season), Turtlehead is it's larval food plant.

A nice patch of Green-headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), at it's best to round the day off.