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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Midwest Roadtrip 2016 - Part VI

The week had crawled by, which was perfect for being on holidays.  With a big drive to Indianapolis we set out early to get one more prairie in.  I had flagged a group of prairies (Paint Brush, Drovers and Friendly) to the northwest and had planned to stop in on our way home.

We stopped at a lookout near Osceola and enjoyed this view of the Osage River.

I wish I had seen this guy under better circumstances.  One of a few Nine-banded Armadillos we saw in Missouri.

By mid-morning we arrived at Paint Brush Prairie.  Stepping out of the vehicle a Northern Bobwhite was calling from near the forest edge.  Immediately I was struck by the short stature of the vegetation at this site, with very little growing higher than the knee it had the feel of a short grass prairie like what you might see in south Saskatchewan.

Some of my favourites were quickly located including Purple Milkwort (Polygala sanguinea).

Mystery seed pod kind of resembling a Shootingstar (Dodecatheon sp.)
Rough Buttonweed (Diodia teres)
White forms of Blazingstar (Liatris spp.) are fairly uncommon and Paint Brush had a small patch of a haf dozen or so stems.

The first Coreopsis seen since Mnoke Prairie in Indiana.  My Essex County instinct wants to say Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris).  Missouri has a few species in the genus, but Tall seems to fit the bill.

A Robber Fly and some unlucky prey.
...and a behemoth Tall Green Milkweed (Asclepias hirtella)
What a great trip.  I learned alot, built up my heat tolerance (sweated off a pound or two), and saw a handful of some of North America's best prairie.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016 Midwest Roadtrip - Part V

The furthest south we would get on this trip was Linden's Prairie between Springfield and Joplin and about 80km north of the Arkansas border.  This spot was one of my favourites for the trip.  The 171 acre original prairie was purchased by the Missouri Prairie Foundation in 2014 and named after a MPF member and odonate expert Ms. Linden Trial.

Hydrating, sunscreening up and having a snack at the car before heading in, a Hackberry Emperor was interested in the rubber surrounding the windshield.  We offered up a small piece of apple which it quickly took to (and was still at when we returned to the car later that afternoon).

 Red-spotted Purple butterflies were also present along the hedgerow and roadside.

Common Yellowthroat sang in the walnut tree we had parked under.  I watched a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher perch next to a Mourning Dove on the hydro wire and proceed to show of it's acrobatic flight (the Mourning Dove probably thinking "show off!").

Green June Beetles were staging a battle for the ages on the road.

 A Peck's Skipper nectaring on Ironweed.

I think the plant below is Bluehearts (Buchnera americana), a species Endangered in Ontario and a very cool find for the trip.  

That's some nice looking prairie.
A nice patch of Hairy Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum) grows tall among it's surroundings.

I have only seen Venus' Looking-glass (Triodanis perfoliata) a few times, most recently at a sand barren opening near Barrie.  It was fairly common at Linden's Prairie, albeit long finished blooming.  It is also known as Clasping Bellflower and gets it's name from a European species which has shiny mirror-like seeds.

Nuttall's Sensitive Brier (Mimosa nuttallii)
We visited both the Niawathe Prairie and briefly admired a slope engulfed in Prairie Blazingstar at the nearby Coyne Prairie.  Niawathe was another favourite of mine, ascending an interesting slope dotted with botanical goodies then reaching a plateau just plastered in colour.

Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) was common throughout most of the prairies we visited.  It is low growing and easily overlooked.  I have a small patch growing in my garden out front so it was nice to see this in it's natural setting.

A highlight plant for the trip for sure was Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) at it's peak.

Pencil Flower (Stylosanthes biflora) resembles a common Ontario weed Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).  This prairie species can be found in higher quality prairies, usually with sandstone substrate.
Late July is by no means the time to look for violets, but the distinct leaves of Arrow-leaved Violet (Viola sagittata) can be spotted among the thatch and taller vegetation.

I got 1 shot of this bird, don't remember the call (or if it even did call).  Any opinions on an ID would be welcomed. My best guess is Grasshopper Sparrow but I say that with quite limited certainty. [Edit: Henslow's?]

The kind of image I want to reflect back on come February.
Scaly Blazingstar (Liatris hirsuta) was another species new to me.  The scales on the flower immediately stuck out as something new and unlike Liatris aspera.

Some sort of lettuce or more likely a hawkweed that I'm trying to figure out.  The next photo shows dense hairs like nothing I've seen on a plant before which should help in narrowing this down.

Love those Illinois Tick-trefoil flowers!
Grey-headed Confeflower (Ratibida pinnata) was something a little more familiar.  This species is found throughout the Ojibway Prairie Complex in Windsor.  The dried seed heads give off a licorice-type smell when crushed.

A Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe sp.) growing in a rocky area.  There are several species in this genus in Missouri.

Interesting flowers of Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)
On our last evening we decided to head just north of El Dorado to Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie which is the largest protected prairie in the Osage Plains (4040acres!!).  This area is well known for it's population of Prairie Chickens.

Looking down into a pond just beyond the entrance, Alyssa spotted a Green Heron scoping out prey.

Rose Vervain (Glandularia canadensis)
Ever-photogenic White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba)

A nice patch of Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
 A few flowering stems of Narrow-leaved Vervain (Verbena simplex) growing among the gravel along the roadside.  It is a species of dry and gravelly prairies but I suppose a roadside will do.

I don't know what it is but the Eastern Meadowlark in this photo (and others that were seen, for the most part) seemed lanky yet massive in comparison to those I see around here. 

A dust-coated Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) at the side of the road at sundown.  The next day we would head up to Paintbrush Prairie on our way eastward to stay the night in Indiana.