Sunday, May 24, 2015

Looking for Licorice, no dice.

Back in March I wrote a post about a historic plant record that I planned to follow up on this year.  The plant, Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) was known from a 1902 record on an island in the Grand River near the border of Waterloo and Brant Counties, "4 miles below Galt" to be exact.

Alyssa and I packed a lunch, donned chest waders, forded the Grand and spent a couple of hours searching the island.  As this post title suggests, we didn't have any luck.  That's not to say that it no longer occurs on the island, but in a spot subject to seasonal inundation, ice scour and, as it turns out, a tonne of Garlic Mustard, Bouncing Bet and a couple of well-fed deer, I don't have much hope that it's still there.

Break [need to dispose of this dog tick crawling up my leg]
Crossing the river, gonna put my brand new butterfly net to work.

A nice view southward toward Glen Morris from the southern tip of the island.  A couple of Spotted Sandpiper were foraging on the island spit to the left, Warbling Vireo, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Baltimore Oriole provided the soundtrack for the morning.

The open areas were dominated by Bouncing Bet, Late Goldenrod and American Stinging Nettle. 

Beneath a canopy of Sycamore, mostly Garlic Mustard and more nettle.

This area, probably totaling 0.1ha in size, seemed to me the most likely place for Wild Licorice, I spent a good while here looking for the vetch-like, deep green leaves or the bur-like seed heads from last year, but came up empty-handed.  Assuming the topography/form of the island hasn't changed too much since 1902, I would hazard a guess that the licorice would have occurred in this high-and-dry opening.

Oh well, it was worth a shot.

There were a few locally interesting species including Moonseed (Menispermum canadense).  A vine with bluntly lobed leaves; you can often find this along rivers or in wet thickets.

 Tonnes of Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). 

Carpenter's Square (Scrophularia marilandica) grows in among the Sycamore, the second photo shows the 90 degree square stems which give the plant it's common name.

 White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima).  Which always brings this song to mind.

Silvery Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) grows along the active banks of the island and thrives on disturbed soils.

 A couple of isolated pools were chock full of tadpoles.

I bought a few glass vials with my butterfly net; as it turns out the glare on glass makes for crap photos so here I try to lure the duskywing out and back into the net.
   Based on my resources I'm going with Juvenal's Duskywing but if anyone thinks otherwise feel free to leave a comment.  I'm new to this.

Alyssa and I headed down to Paris for an ice cream cone at Chocolate Sensations then hiked another trail for a couple of hours.  This trail follows the last couple of kilometers of the Nith River before it meets the Grand.  When we finally got to the good stuff, rich deciduous forest slopes, bluffs, and limestone flats, it was looking like rain and we were starting to feel a bit tired.  For another time.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Buckthorn Wild

I was working in Wingham the past two days and came across a shrub that I don't see too often.  Situated in saturated mucky organics, this patch of Alder-leaved Buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia) was a pleasant find.  This species of buckthorn is native to Ontario; it grows about knee-high and can be found in wetlands, roadside ditches or hydrocuts, usually in a dense monoculture like the one in the picture below.  I could see a patch of Cottongrass (Eriophorum spp.) off in the pasture in the background but couldn't get to it for a definitive ID.

The leaves of Alder-leaved Buckthorn, I find they have a lime tinge to them and are most similar to New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) (also in the family Rhamnacea but on the opposite end of the moisture spectrum).

Also present was the aggressive and widespread European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).  My fondest memories of this species involve stalling a drip torch an extra second over one, coating cut stems with Garlon or running the brush through a chipper.  How does the saying go?  If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all.

Another non-native buckthorn (I had all 3 growing within 10m of one another), this is Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus).  You'll find this species often at the fringes of swamps, kind of at that upland-wetland transition.  Like Alder-leaved, the leaves are lime-coloured, but the margins are smooth and the venation fairly distinct.  Where the bark of young European Buckthorn is kind of silvery and dark, that of Glossy Buckthorn is a lighter gray and faintly speckled.

Another non-native species that seems to be doing well in lawns and along roadsides in the Wingham area, English Daisy (Bellis perrenis).  A co-worker grabbed a handful and told me she used to make crowns by perforating the stem and stringing the flowers together.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A stroll through the garden

I've been out in the garden all morning and thought I'd post a few shots of what's in bloom.

Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) adds a nice patch of yellow to the backyard.  It was quite popular with the bees this morning.

Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) is an uncommon wildflower typically found in alvar habitats here in Ontario.  My efforts of sprinkling Tall Cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta) seeds over the soil for  a couple years have paid off with a few seedlings established including one in the top of the photo.

The first Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) in bloom.  These wildflowers have a neat seed dispersal mechanism in that once the flower has borne fruit, the seed capsule dries out and splits which releases a catapult-like arm launching the seeds some distance.

A never ending groundcover of Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).  If I can keep the squirrels at bay I'm looking at strawberry parfaits in a month or so.

After a rough start last year, this Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is looking better than ever.

Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra

The somewhat similar-looking blooms of Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

A Large-flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) which I salvaged from a site which now exists as a Walmart parking lot (sad eh?) alongside a few patches of Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia).

 Last year my Alternate-leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) has a single flower on it (which miraculously has produced 2 small seedling beneath the shrub this spring).  Today I counted upwards of 100 flower buds.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Great Weekend on the Island

I was on Pelee Island this past weekend with a bunch of co-workers and had a great time as per usual (we've been going every May for a few years now).  I didn't tally any bird lists but needless to say my year count certainly got a boost.

Lighthouse Point yielded a good assortment of warblers including this Black-throated Blue.

Plenty of Red Admiral across the island.

As well as my first American Lady of the year.

The similar Painted Lady which lacks the blue centers in the spots on the hindwing and has 'sharper' forewings.

Herping yielded some good results including this Dekay's Brown
 A camera-shy Blue-spotted Salamander.  The rare Small-mouthed Salamander is also present on the island and somewhat resembles the Blue-spotted but has a stout head and slight differences in colouration.

Walking along the rocky shoreline I was happy to come across this big ole Foxsnake.


While unsuccessfully trying to find an access point to the Verbeek Savanna (in search of Yellow Corydalis and generally wanting to see the site which I've read about), I did spot this Lake Erie Watersnake.


Squatting my way through some Prickly Ash thickets at Stone Road Alvar I got a close up with this melanistic Eastern Gartersnake.

A tonne of Painted Turtles were out basking at Lighthouse Point.  No Blanding's for the weekend (although co-workers did find some).  Alyssa may have spotted a Snapping Turtle but I spotted a Margaret Atwood at Fish Point for the win.

Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) flowers along the beach.

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica) is pretty common on the island and added a dash of tennis ball green to the forest edges and alvars.

I all but gave up on photographing the jittery warblers with my point and the time I'd zoomed in or focused I often found myself looking at an empty branch.  Northern Mockingbird unobstructed and content to peck at the ground on the beach, I got this.

This House Wren had a nice spot picked out; we heard/saw it within 20m of this tree on all 3 days.

Palm Warbler

The green lores (patches extending from beak to eye) of this Great Egret show up each year during the breeding period.

Soooo many Tree Swallows!

As well as a few bird houses chock full of Purple Martins.

A Veery waiting for me in the parking lot at Lighthouse Point.

Alum-root (Heuchera americana), a rare species found throughout Stone Road Alvar.

Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) in the early stages of sending up a flowering stalk.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) contrasts the lush herbaceous greenery in savannas, woodlands and thickets on the island.

Downy Juneberry (Amelanchier arborea) blooms were quite active with bees, flies and the occasional butterfly. 

Although maybe not as busy as this Wild Crabapple (Malus coronaria), wow!

Violets and strawberries comprise most of the blooms in the open habitats at this time of the year.

The rare Miami Mist (Phacelia purshii) not yet in bloom.  This species carpeted some areas of the Smokies in white during my trip a few weeks back.

A large patch of Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale) in an area of open alvar.

One of my favourite spots, off the beaten track is a glade comprised of Big Blustem (Andropogon gerardii), Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginica) and a few hundred of the plant below, White Camas (Anticlea elegans), otherwise known as Death Camas.

That's a nice alvar.

Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) is starting to sprout up.
Rock Sandwort (Sabulina michauxii) can be found in some of the gravelly limestone pavements.

 As with many plants on the island, Florida Lettuce (Lactuca floridana) is vulnerable in Essex County.  The deeply lobed leaves help distinguish it from other species of the genus in Ontario.

Scratch-and-sniff, here are the early leaves of Yellow Hyssop (Agastache nepetoides).  The tall forked seed heads from the previous can often be seen at a distance.

Purple Cress (Cardamine douglassii)

I am fairly certain this is Sartwell's Sedge (Carex sartwellii) which grew in abundance at the edge of Stone Road in the shallow pooled water over limestone.

Tonnes of it in bloom, I turned my hiking boots a shade of yellow throughout the day from all the pollen.
 Virginina Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).

While the Dutchman's Breeches at Fish Point have passed their prime, the White Trillium (Trillium granndiflorum) and Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) were still pretty spectacular over the weekend.