The Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) have matured and the flowers have have turned into long thin stalked brown seed pods that have splitting at the tip. The two half’s of the seed pod then curl backwards and releasing numerous small seeds that have long white hairs attached to catch the wind. When all the pods have opened the top of the plant looks like a fuzzy mess. A single fireweed can produce up to 80000 seeds. The fuzz was used by native peoples as fibre for weaving and for padding. For example, Salish people wove fireweed with the down of mountain goat wool for making blankets. The seed are also an excellent fire starter.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and we had made our way to Whitemud Ravine south of Snow Valley to Look for some rose hips. I was not sure about the timing as some online resources claim one should wait with harvesting rose hips until after the first frost as they are supposedly sweeter that way. They appear ripe, however, with some of them starting to turn to soft and mush so we decided to try out both versions; harvest some before the first frost and then compare these to rose hips harvested after the first frost. There is certainly no shortage of rose hips along the trails so I think there will be plenty left to harvest later in the season. We ended up with about two cups of rose hips. We washed them, pinched off the old rose petals and now have them out to dry. Once they have dried up a bit we will try making rose hip tea.
The prevailing view of lichens for the last 150 years or so has been that they a composite organism resulting from a mutually beneficial relationship between a fungus and an algae. It turns out that recent research from the University of Alberta (which is in my neck of the woods) has found that this relationship is more complex than previously thought. Researchers found that a lichen may be made up of up to three different fungi and that no two lichens necessarily have the same mix of fungal partners. Most lichens are rather plain looking, not particularly flashy and are easily overlooked. What this research shows is how little we know and understand about nature that is right under our noses. One could easily spend an entire lifetime understanding and studying nature that is right outside ones doorstep without needing to go to any more exotic locations.
The Identification Guide for Alberta Invasive Plants has nearly 90 species listed. Twenty one of the species have yellow flowers. The other flower colours include white, purple, pink, red, green, blue and orange. Today’s invasive plant is the Perennial Sow Thistle (Sonchus arvensis), a member of the sunflower family. It has yellow, dandelion-like flowers that are grouped in loose clusters at the ends of stem. Like most invasive species in Alberta it was introduced to North America from Europe and Asia. It reproduces prolifically through underground rhizomes and wind dispersed seeds. Apparently a single plant can produce up to 13000 seeds and each seed can remain viable for 3-6 years. Along the Whitemud Creek there are still large stands of flowering Perennial Sow Thistle
Lichens are cool critters. They are a composite organism consisting of an algae or bacteria living in a mutualistic relationship with a fungus. The resulting lichen has properties different from those of its component organisms. While lichens share features with plants, e.g. growing in a specific location, the inability to move and sometimes a plant-like shape, they are not plants. A mutualistic relationship is characterized by two different organisms coexisting and working together, each benefiting from the relationship. It’s sort of reminiscent of a marriage. Lichen s can be tricky to identify, but this one appears to be a species of shield lichen, possibly a Common Greenshield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata).
The water level has been dropping in the Whitemud Creek and the flow of the water has slowed down substantially from oily a week ago. It is remarkable how the level of the water and speed of the flow closely reflects the current precipitation regime. As soon as there is a break in the weather, it does not take long for the creek to adjust. On a few occasions I have tried to track the upstream meandering and branching network of creeks in Google maps but once one gets past the airport (about 30 kilometre away) there has been so many bifurcation and the creeks are so small that one is starting to loose track of them. What this exercises has revealed, however, is that the watershed of the Whitemud Creek is quite large and much of of it spans agricultural fields. This probably also means that there is likely quite a bit of fertilizer and herbicide run off ending up in the creek. In addition to this I have also come across several outfalls that flow into the creek… so, yeah…, I would pass on drinking the water or going for a bath.
I have seen the pretty violet and yellow flowers in the Whitemud Ravine all summer long, but have somehow not stopped to try to identify them yet. Since they are likely to going to be astound for much longer + because most other flowers are gone by now I figured I better do something about this omission before it is too late. Identifying these flowers was not hard. They are Smooth Blue Asters (Symphyotrichum laeve) and is found throughout North America in fields, open woods and along roadsides. They have composite flower heads where each flower actually is made up of smaller flowers consisting of ray flowers (petals) surrounding disk flowers (the yellow centre). The asters are often one of the latest plants flowering after all other species are past their flowering stage.