Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shaw Woods

Went for a walk in Shaw Woods yesterday. Millions of blackflies were delighted.

Shaw Woods (Shaw woods) is an outdoor education centre located South of Pembroke, Ontario, and West of Cobden, Ontario. It includes a beautiful stand of mature Beeches, a grove of Hemlocks, a Pine plantation, a wetland area, a rocky ridge, and some mixed woods. Just about every native plant habitat you could wish for!

I parked in the small parking lot, taking a bit of care not to get stuck like I did last time.... the ground is soft, and the truck sinks in a bit. (I wasn't stuck for long.) Clouds of blackflies immediately arrived, but I decided to soldier on, and headed off towards the Pine plantation. I wanted to see if the Pink Ladyslippers were showing their noses above ground. On the way I walked past a large patch of mixed Violets growing in a sunny part of the trail.

Didn't find any Pink Ladyslippers.

Then I headed over to the Trillium Loop Trail. What an amazing number of Trout Lilies there were under the trees! And so many flowers. Some years not so many bloom, but this year there is a bumper crop. Gardeners puzzle over how to get Erythronium americanum to bloom in their gardens, but I am starting to think they just need good soil, enough moisture, and time to mature. And enough sun in the spring.

The Trilliums were also out in full force. A lot of fine Red Trilliums, T. erectum, including one group of three stems with cream and pink blooms. White, pale yellow and cream flowers are not all that unusual for this Trillium, but I have never seen one this shade before.

Near the Hemlocks there are a lot of Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides. The dark foliage shows up well in the bare Spring woods. The flowers are rather goofy, but the berries later in the Summer are a beautiful dark matte blue.

After this I could hardly wait to get back into the truck to escape the flying fauna. Hot, sticky and itchy only begins to describe how I felt. But a peanut butter sandwich, a drink of water and 5 minutes with the air conditioning on in the truck did wonders and I decided to check out the other part of the Shaw Woods, across the road. This isn't really part of the main area, but there are trails there so I went over. I drove there, all of about 200 feet, so I wouldn't have to walk back later. I parked over to one side in the short driveway.

There is a Hydro dam there, with a large pond on one side and a rushing stream on the other. After this the path goes up fairly steeply, up to an interesting rocky ridge. The glacial erratics in the Woods on the other side of the road apparently came from this Ridge. The ridge face has interesting lichens on it, including several kinds of Rock Tripe.

Up on the ridge the Early Saxifrages were blooming. These always seem to grow in lines. I guess they root into cracks in the rocks. The seeds that don't fall over cracks probably can't get established. I looked at them with some envy. I've been trying to get this plant, Saxifraga virginiana, in my garden and so far I have managed to lose all but one tiny plant. The first batch of seeds drowned when I forgot and left the pot out in the rain and the flat filled with water.... the second batch didn't make it through the hot dry summer we had that year, and the third batch, which only gave me a half-dozen plants, the darn squirels dug every one of them up. I re-planted them but the damage was done. So this Spring all I have in the rockery is one tiny plant. At least it is growing in a crevice!

Barren Strawberry, Waldsteinia fragaroides, was spread like a carpet under all the trees and shrubs.The flowers are much like a Strawberry flower, only yellow. The leaves are a fine fresh green. This is a great ground-cover in a lightly shaded garden. Just for fun, I took a picture of a real Strawberry to put beside the look-alike.

In among the Waldsteinia I found a number of plants of Hooked Violet, Viola adunca. This is a violet that likes dry places - a bit contrary of it.You think of Violets wanting a damp spot, but not this one.

Also on the ridge was a plant of Rusty Woodsia, Woodsia ilvensis, it's fresh fiddleheads covered with long white hairs and looking like little furry balls. That's another plant that you'd think would like a shady damp spot, but like Viola adunca, it thrives in sunny, rocky spots.

 When I got back down to the hydro dam, a white truck with the Ontario Hydro logo on it was parked right behind my truck. I looked around and sure enough, there was a fellow on the dam, fiddling with the winches and things there. I dropped my pack in the truck and moseyed down. I said 'Hi', which didn't impress him. He just scowled. 'Fine', I thought, 'be that way'.

'How long are you going to be?' I asked.

'Oh', he said, 'about half an hour'.

So I figured, well, he parked behind me, now I'll get some revenge. So I hung around and showed great interest (feigned of course) in what he was doing. It backfired, though, because he became quite chatty and explained everything! They use the winches to place large square logs on top of the concrete weir to raise the dam level. Somewhat ingenious, and somewhat awkward, I thought. He admitted that occasionally a log would get away on them and have to be dragged back up on to the dam.

We parted friends.

Sort of.

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