Friday, July 10, 2015

Return to Sand Hills

June 14th, 2015 

Cloud with some sun, low 20s.  Returned to walk the Constance Bay Sand Hills with Owen, Hank and 20 others from the Ottawa and Macnamara Field Naturalists' Clubs, building on the surveys we conducted last September. Lots of kids enjoying a Sunday walk.

 Columbine above. Always a lovely wild flower to find.

 Sweet Fern
 Blackberries, promising some tasty trail snacks in July.
New Jersey (Noo Joisy?) Tea, both varieties: Broad-leaved above and Narrow-leaved below. These are not found on a lot of sites in our area. They love the beaches! True sand dune plants like these are a treat to find in this area, and a reminder that only 8000 years ago, there were sand beaches/dunes of the Champlain Sea here and finding discontinuous vestiges of these dune plant communities is exciting to ecologists.  One often finds preserved bones of marine mammals in the area.

 Lady's Slipper above and Blue-eyed grass below.

 Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa, one of the Evening Primroses. The petals had just fallen off this flower leaving the sepals.

These two plants (above and below) are the kinds of identification challenges which makes botany quite challenging. There are "keys' for the flowering plants which require a lot of detailed knowledge to navigate.  Most naturalists use "field guides",  which focus on flowers, especially flower colour and type.  No flowers? Then you need to use a hand lens and a key.  Thank you to Owen Clarkin for keying these out: above, one of the "pussytoes", possibly Antennaria howellii ssp. neodioica or Small Pussytoes. We plan to go back on Sunday July 12th and check out the site. Flowers will be out and we may possibly find this species in flower.  Stay tuned!

Owen's  best guess on the plant below is: Erect Bindweed, Calystegia spithamaea. The bindweeds are common plants in our area. You probably have at least one of them, a vine, growing on your lawn: hedge false bindweed, another plant in the genus Calystegia...with beautiful morning glory type flowers.  The Erect Bindweed is provincially rare and known to grow in these sand barrens,  It is therefore another of the rare plants we were hoping to find the Sand Hills.

There are a couple of species of Aralia in the Sand Hills.  I often do not notice it until it is more mature, so this young plant with its newly-formed flower cluster (green ball at the base of the leftmost leaflets) had me second guessing. This is the less common Aralia hispida, or Bristly Sarsapiralla.  The other more common plant we have all seen on local nature trails in the woods is Aralia nudicaulis, or Wild Sarsapiralla, definitely a favourite common name. You may have heard the Americanized pronounciation: more "saspirilla",in reference to a tea/beer or soft drink called Sarsapiralla, and pronounced as shown. The drink is made from Smilax ornate,  a perennial, trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Mexico and Central America, and also commonly referred to as Sarsapiralla. So, a totally unrelated plant. Once again, the danger of common names!
Owen and I are going on Sunday, July 12, 2015 to check the site again to find more rare plants and to confirm some of those noted above. of course, your loyal correspondent will eventually report on our findings!