Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 29 May 2016

More than just birds!

The peak of the spring bird migration is now behind us for another year, much to the chagrin of keen birders. There are still some species heading north, but in just a few short weeks, others will be heading back south!

During the last couple of weeks or so, there have been some lulls in the bird activity, and then it is time for me to get out a different camera and lens combination to focus on plants. I am almost glad for these lulls in birds, since the parade of spring wildflowers is nothing short of amazing in its own right.

Exploring the forest is a rich and rewarding experience, especially on a quiet day with little wind and after a cleansing rain. This post will highlight, in no particular order, some of the more recognizable herbaceous wildflowers one can see in the woodlands or adjacent areas. Perhaps some of you were noticing these plants in your quest for birds, but didn't know what they were. The ones shown here are fairly typical of similar habitats across southern Ontario.
There are many sloughs at Rondeau, which is perfect habitat for the Yellow Water Crowfoot/Buttercup (Ranunculus flabellaris), a member of the Buttercup family. This year was a particularly good one for this species. I don't think I have ever seen it as profuse as what it was this year. Even though it started flowering early in May, it is still in flower in small numbers. It shows up towards the back of the image above. My main purpose for taking that photo wasn't for the flowers, however, but because I like the large Silver Maples in the slough with the green setting.

A similar species, but one which didn't start flowering until a few days ago, is the White-water Crowfoot/Buttercup (Ranunculus longirostris). It tends to be in the quiet, shallow water of cattail marshes. The submerged leaves of both of these species are very finely dissected, as they appear in this next image.

Everyone knows the trillium. But this next one is a rarity. It is the yellow form of the Red Trillium (Trillium erectum).

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a delicate wildflower found especially at the edges of pine oak forests. Hummingbirds love them. On occasion you will see a hummer hovering below, sticking its long bill up to get the nectar at the top of the flower tube.

This first image is what it typically looks like.
 Sometimes you may find a paler version.
 This year I found a creamy yellow version, only the second time I have seen it in Rondeau.

I expect that everyone knows the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Large-flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) is abundant. Since its flowers hang down, the yellow colour gets lost on the bright, sunny days. It is much more showy on an overcast day and when you get down to take a closer look.

Wood Betony, a.k.a. Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis), is common in the sandy pine-oak forest. It can be mostly yellow....
 ....or sometimes mostly burgandy.

Also at the edges or openings of the forest is the Starry False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum stellata). It is a member of the Lily Family.

This Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum) is not very noticeable unless you get a close look. Contrary to its name, it is not a grass at all, but a member of the Iris family.

White Baneberry, a.k.a. Doll's-eyes (Actaea pachypoda), is scattered throughout the hardwood forest. If you see these plants in fruit, you may notice the hard, bright white berries with black dots. Pioneers used the fruit as the eyes for their home-made dolls.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) is widespread in forests of all types, as well as in very open habitats.

Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is also abundant. It can be almost pure white, pale blue or even pinkish purple.

Mayapple, a.k.a. Umbrella Plant, (Podophyllum peltatum) is dominant in the hardwood forest under storey.

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is very local at Rondeau.

The forests of Rondeau support orchids of many types. In fact there are at least 19 species of orchid that occur in various parts of the park. Some are relatively showy, such as this aptly named Showy Orchid (Galearis spectabilis). It doesn't get very tall...seldom getting over 10 cm high, but its flowers are indeed showy.
 Being relatively short, this orchid is challenging to get a ground view look at. Hence I dug out my P&S camera with the swivel screen and macro sure is a lot easier on the back!

The Large Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium calcelous var pubescens) is an orchid that most people would recognize. It occurs in several locations at Rondeau. This one grew no more than 20 metres from one of the common trails in the park, and is quite visible from the trail. I imagine that hundreds of birders and other hikers walked by it without seeing it.

Violets are abundant, colourful, and sometimes confusing. Some of the most common ones are
Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata), accurately named because of the long spur protruding behind the front of the flower.

Yellow violets are abundant as well, including this Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens).

Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) is local but widespread in the deciduous forest. There are much rarer violets which I intend to highlight in a future post.

An intriguing plant that most people have never really seen is Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla). The flowers are tiny....really, really tiny. The overall plant may get 15-25 cm high, but there are only a couple of small leaves on its single stem, and a very tiny cluster of delicate flowers at the top. Individual flowers are extremely tiny....typically only about 4-5 mm across. But if you take a close look, they are amazing! For this next image I used a full frame camera, a 100mm macro lens with extension tubes totalling about 68mm, and then I cropped it heavily. Did I mention that it is tiny??

In the last few days, Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii) is starting to appear. This plant doesn't have large showy flowers, but is better known for its seeds. If you are walking through a patch of this plant after the seeds have formed, you will discover long black seeds with very sharp points stuck in your socks, your pant leg, or you!

Not all plants are green. This next plant, looking like a pale coloured pine cone sticking out of the leaves, is called Squawroot (Conopholis americana). It does not have chlorophyll, but gets its energy from tapping in to the roots of other plants. This species is most often found in the pine-oak forest.

There is always something to see!


  1. Nice shot of the Mitrewort, well worth hunching over to appreciate these fine details!

    1. Thanks, Patrick. It truly is an amazing little flower, but a magnifying glass or a macro lens is a necessity.

  2. Great bunch of flower pix. Amazing picture of the Miterwort!

    1. Thanks, Furry Gnome....fortunately if the birds aren't cooperating, as you know, there is a multitude of other things to enjoy, isn't there.