Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ipperwash Dunes Pt. II

If the picture of june grass in my last post didn't grab your attention, hopefully you'll find this post a little more this picture of a pre-flowering wild wormwood (Artemisia campestris)!  Wormwood is a fairly common dune species, generally considered a biennial or short-lived perennial.  Plants in the genus Artemisia are hosts for a rare parasitic plant called clustered-cancer-root (Orobanche fasciculata), it's listed as "SH" or occurring historically in the province, from the Bruce and Manitoulin.  Common wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a European species occasionally found growing wild in Ontario, it is the herbal ingredient which has made absinthe famous for it's hallucinogenic properties.  I went to a bitters distillery in Vienna once and watched some Australians drink a bunch of it, I couldn't tell if they were hallucinating or just being Australian backpackers.

The site has plenty of cylindric blazing star (Liatris cylindracea) which produce beautiful mauve flowers by mid-summer.  This species remains fairly short, maybe knee high while dense blazing star (Liatris spicata) can push 1.5m+ under ideal conditions.  I'll post some actual flowering shots on another post. 

Lack of flowers bugging you?  Check out this stink bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Maybe this will cherry you up?  Sand cherry (Prunus pumila).  There has been research into different varieties and even separate species, it gets a little confusing.

This is more like it, here we have wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) and hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense) teaming up for a photo-op. 

These next two are slender arrow grass (Triglochin maritima).  I found these growing in an interdunal-swale full of goodies and warranting another trip back!  It produces cyanide when chewed so don't try anything.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ipperwash Dunes Pt. I

In 2010 I spent part of my summer doing field work in Lambton County.  I came across a property owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) among the cottages at Ipperwash, just south of the reserve.  The property is largely treed dunes with openings here and there which provide habitat to some really neat dune specialists.  It's a great place to explore.

A common low-growing shrub in the openings, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is also known as mountain tobacco.  The Algonquins refer to it as kinnikinnick.  It's seldom more than ankle-high but can form colonies alongside common juniper (Juniperus communis) throughout the dunes. It's one of few ericaceous shrubs that doesn't require acidic soils.

This gangly looking milkweed is green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora).  If you click the link (does anybody?) you'll see that the leaf shape is highly variable in this species.  I'm not sure if it's reflective of nutrients, time of year, or regional variation within the species; most of what I see in Ontario takes on this thin, droopy look.

This grass is easily over-looked when not in flower.  It's leaves form a short bluish tuft and the inflorescence (seed head. flowering part) sticks up like a bunch of birthday cake sparklers or a pin cushion.  June grass (Koeleria macrantha) is listed as rare in every county which it is found in Ontario.  It has a coefficient of conservatism of 10 meaning that it requires very specific ecological conditions to sustain itself.  Basically, a CC of 0 indicates that a plant could be found growing in a crack in the asphalt, so that gives you an idea of scale (0-10).

 This last grass has an interesting way of spreading and establishing.  Porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea) has a long awn (kind of like the point coming off of the end of each seed) which, when the seed falls form the plant, this awn, maybe 5-10cm, twists up.  Moisture causes it to untwist and another dry period will cause it to twists agin.  By these means it wedges and drills its way into the soil (and my socks).  This species also has a CC of 10 and is rare in every county it is found.

Both june grass and porcupine grass can be found as far north in Ontario as Stanley, just west of Thunder Bay near Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.  There are prairies in and around that area chock full of goodies.  I found this paper on NHIC surveys form the area, it's a good, albeit lengthy read.  I almost got a chance to go check them out last year but I was busy hiking car batteries up a ski hill for work.  Maybe next time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walk this way

A few weeks back after my trip to Hope Bay on the Bruce, the group I was with had expressed interest in seeing walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum).  As the name suggests, this fern is on the move and it spreads by tip-rooting, essentially setting root from the end of the frond.  It's found growing on calcareous boulders and outcrops, largely on the Escarpment here in Ontario, and can be prolific where it occurs as a result of it's growth habit.

The population in the photo was shown to me a few years back and is one of few, if not the only population in Waterloo Region, a couple hundred plants on 2 boulders the size of a desk.

Also, anyone interested in a digital copy of the classic Ferns and Fern Allies of Canada by Cody and Britton, it can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Coral Fungi

One day a couple of years ago on a gravel road somewhere between Chepstow and the Greenock Swamp, I got a flat tire in a rental vehicle.  As it turns out Enterprise forgot to to leave me a spare tire so I booked it to Walkerton.  By the time I arrived at a garage I wasn't quite on the rim, but about as close as you could get.  What does that have to do with this picture?  Nothing, other than after I got the tire changed I found this coral fungi in a forest near the Greenock Swamp.

It's called violet coral fungus (Clavaria zollingeri).  It grows in forests with rich leaf litter and mosses.  In North America this species is restricted to the northeast, but it's also found in Australia, New Zealand, South America and Asia.

Monday, November 24, 2014

John, Paul, George, Ringo and Chysochus

Today when I was up in Grey County getting man-handled by 90km/hr wind gusts I took refuge in the vehicle for a quick lunch break.  The CBC reported that outtake photos from the Beatles Abbey Road covershoot had sold at auction for £180,000.  I'm more of a Stones fan so I shrugged and changed the channel...I forget what was playing but it was probably Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.

This cool beetle is called a dogbane beetle (Chrysochus auratus).  They feed on dogbane and milkweed.  The plant in this photo is indian-hemp (Apocynum cannabinum var. cannabinum); the other common dogbane in Ontario is spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium ssp. androsaemifolium).  Indian-hemp prefers wetter habitats (this one was growing on the floodplain of the Thames), whereas spreading dogbane prefers drier habitats.  Anyways, these beetles are native to Eastern North America, they look similar to Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) which have a brownish wing cover versus the iridescent green on dogbane beetles. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cecropia moth

Back in 2008 I saw my first cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia).  It was resting on a variegated dogwood shrub in the front yard at my parent's place.  These are the largest moths in North America with a wingspan up to 15cm.  They're actually fairly common, but like many moth species they fly by night (it's like a rocket flight, and baby that's just what it's for).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Follow Your Nose!

In September I took a trip to the North Bear Alvar, in the Carden Plain, east of Orillia.  North Bear Alvar is a 318ha property acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and is home to some pretty neat plants.  Golden-winged warbler and loggerhead shrike, two rare bird species are known from the area also.

Remember Froot Loops and Toucan Sam?  "Follow your nose!" he'd exclaim.  Well that's exactly what you do to find Great Plains Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum).  When this orchid is in bloom in the fall, if the spiraling white flowers don't grab your attention, the strong smell of vanilla sure will.  There are friendlier habitats to grow in than a scorching limestone pavement in the middle of July, but these and many other alvar-adapted  species somehow manage to pull it off.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Butterflies, yeah, they're alright.

I'm starting to make an effort on the butterfly front.  I just picked up the ROM Field Guide to Butterflies of Ontario, it looks like a pretty handy field guide to have, good photos, range maps, flight season, similar species.  So hopefully I'll put it to the test in 2015.

Back in 2012 I was spotting a fair number of these guys around Waynco Prairie.  Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) is generally found in Southern Ontario from June through October.  They overwinter in the Southern U.S. and Mexico and during the summer they can be found in Ontario, more or less confined to the Carolinian Zone. Apparently they can make Thunder Bay or Ottawa.  The ROM guide notes that a couple even made it to James Bay in 2012, cool eh?

"The genus Junonia is derived from Juno, queen of the Roman gods; sister and wife of the god Jupiter.  She was the goddess of marriage and the protector of the community"

Well la-dee da, aren't you some hot shit, butterfly?  I started a blog, so I've got that going for me, which I good, I guess.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Master Gardener

There's a monster in the front yard.  A couple years back I planted a root mass of New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), one of the most common aster species in Southern Ontario, you find it along roadsides and in meadows, and have probably seen the purple blooms come fall.  The small piece of root that I planted has grown to an impressive multi-stemmed giant over 2m tall and this year had well over 200 flowers on it.  The neighbour across the street, Old Man Newfoundland I call him, tends gingerly to his row of pansies and marigolds, and I wonder if he misses the past owner of my place who kept a conservative patch of goutweed and daffodils (not to mention a couple of staked and pruned European buckthorn in the backyard).

Speaking of invasive species, Ontario is re-introducing the proposed Bill 167, the Invasive Species Act.  One component of the Bill which is long-overdue (in my opinion) involves banning the sale of certain aggressive invasive species like periwinkle, water soldier, you know, the stuff that inevitably escapes and decimates natural habitats. 

Whoa!  Realtime news, I just discovered this app (iphone/Android) called EDDMapS Ontario that lets you report occurrences of invasive species.  Looks pretty cool.

I digress.  Here are a few pictures of asters from my garden this fall.

New England aster, bees dig it.

Sky blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense).  It's disgusting that I can type out scientific names to asters just as fast as I can type out my own name.  This aster is often found growing in prairies and is a pretty good indicator that you're into something good.

Here we've got a European dronefly (Eristalis tenax) on willow aster (Symphyotrichum praealtum) S2.  Willow aster is listed as Threatened both provincially and federally, I got to know this aster well hanging out in and around the Ojibway Prairie Complex in Windsor.  It looks similar to the common lance-leaved aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) but has glabrous (waxy) stems and a distinct netted vein pattern on the underside of the leaves.

Reading up on droneflies, check out this fact from the Wikipedia page:

"The larva of E. tenax is a rat-tailed maggot. It lives in drainage ditches, pools around manure piles, sewage, and similar places containing water badly polluted with organic matter.  The larva likely feeds on the abundant bacteria living in these places."

If you're looking for a new insult to hurl, may I suggest rat-tailed maggot?  By the way, my backyard is nicer than what's described above.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bluffing in Glen Morris

A couple of weeks ago Alyssa and I biked the Cambridge-to-Paris rail trail to visit the Glen Morris bluff prairie.  This site is a botanical hotspot, most notably for the population of American columbo (Frasera caroliniensis) S2, an endangered species which prefers well-drained oak-hickory woodland and occasionally tallgrass prairie.  At this time of year the 2m+ flowering stalks are pretty easy to spot.  I've done counts for the last few years and 2014 was a great year for flowers with about 100 stalks present at this spot. 

Another cool plant, which I had never seen at this site before, ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).   

Just prior to heading out I spotted a fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) growing among an area of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and indian grass (Sorghatrum nutans).  Fall is a good time to spot gentians as their foliage turns bright red/purple.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Orchids and Ferns on the Bruce

I woke up this morning to a thin layer of snow coating the Hell's Angels parking lot.  They are my neighbours.  I once had a Coors Light in the clubhouse, I took it as a welcome to the neighbourhood. The snow made me realize two things; soon the last diehard biker will winterize his hog and my Saturday nights will involve a lot less motor revving.  The second thing I realized was that I'll soon have a lot more time on my hands to go through photos taken in 2014. 

I decided I would start this blog to share photos and stories.  I've been encouraged by a few people to start a blog, so here it is.  Enjoy.

This past weekend I made a trip to the Bruce with a few work friends.  Saturday's agenda involved conducting a count of Putty-root (Aplectrum hyemale).  I had only seen this orchid for the first time earlier this spring on a Field Botanists of Ontario (FBO) trip to Shining Tree Woods in Norfolk County.  While I didn't manage any pictures of the 21 putty root we found on Saturday (largely due to the never-ending precipitation), I was able to pull up these shots from Shining Tree.

The leaves of this species are distinctly pin-striped, and have a texture that feels similar to the new plastic bank notes.  Leaves appear each year in November and a flowering stalk will emerge the following May/June.
This plant is listed as S2 within the province which means it is imperiled within Ontario, often with fewer than 20 occurrences known.

For the afternoon we headed toward Hope Bay where my co-worker Christy gave us a tour of one of her favourite spots.  After a winded hike up a talus slope we were treated to the diversity of ferns that the Bruce has to offer.  First up was a rarity which Christy had found on a rock face a couple of years back, Wall Rue Spleenwort (Asplenium ruta-muraria) S2.

This species grows on limestone cliff faces.  It's also native to parts of Europe where it is fairly common and grows on limestone masonry.

Lots of Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes) which can be locally fairly abundant on limestone boulders and cliff faces.  The similar Green Spleenwort (Asplenium viride) has a green rachis (stem) and is a little more uncommon.

Holly Fern (Polystichum lonchitis), also fairly common growing up from the rich leaf litter.

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), somewhat similar to Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis), one main difference lies in the sori (the spore capsules on the underside of the pinna) which are more centered and in a double row formation as opposed to marginal where they are at the edges of the pinnae.

And lastly, Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum) S3, a personal favourite and also a Species of Conservation Concern provincially.