Flora: Pinetree Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park - June 2009 Camping Trip

I am back from portaging, canoeing and camping at Pinetree Lake in Algonquin Park. I only spent a couple of hours with my camera taking pictures of plants - there were lots that I simply walked or portaged or canoed by and admired. And no doubt there were a lot more that eluded my blackfly plagued eyes.

The image above shows a fairly inconspicuous looking plant, Oxalis stricta or Yellow Woodsorrel (also known as sourgrass or Lemon Clover), with a markedly conspicuous taste (caused mostly by the Oxalic acid found within). I munched bunches of these as I stood at the shoreline fishing (but not catching) fish. They taste lemony and bright. Had I caught a nice lake trout, I would have stuffed it with Yellow Woodsorrel. It contains lots of Vitamin C, in case you develop Scurvy while camping in Algonquin Park. Ain't got no scurvy on me.

The beastie above is a most amazing plant. I came across a few patches of these Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) plants while looking for frogs on the portage entrance on the way out of the lake on the last day. The first 'colony' I saw surprised me. It was so tiny, and contained so many of the intricate leaves.

A closer picture shows (see the far-right, middle of the image below) an insect that has been caught by the sticky exudate on the modified leaves. Shortly the leaves will curl in and begin to digest the creature. I kept well back. You never know.

Speaking of carnivorous plants, the Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) above (tucked amongst some Arctic Willow branches and leaves, along with some Sphagnum moss) is attractive to flying insects that drop in to sample the wares suggested by a rotting smell and cannot make their way out of the pitcher-shaped modified leaf due to the fine hairs that line the inside of the structure. They fall down, get stuck in a mixture of rain water and digestive fluids and slowly become a liquid delight.
"Most species [of Sarracenia] use a combination of scent, drugged nectar, waxy deposits (to clog insect feet) and gravity to topple insect prey into their pitcher. Coniine, an alkaloid drug narcotic to insects, has been discovered in the nectar-like secretions of at least S. flava. Once inside, the insect finds the footing very slippery with a waxy surface covering the walls of the pitcher. Further down the tube, downward-pointing hairs make retreat impossible, and in the lowest region of the tube, a pool of liquid containing digestive enzymes and wetting agents quickly drowns the prey and begins digestion. The exoskeletons are usually not digested, and over the course of the summer fill up the pitcher tube."
I kept well back. You never know.

Here is some Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). I misidentified it earlier by calling it Spruce. Whoops.
"The eastern hemlock grows well in shade and is very long lived with the oldest recorded specimen being at least 554 years old."

The Devil's Paintbrush or Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is just getting ready to bloom.

Walking in on the portage - and again as seen in the images I took from a distance sitting in my canoe from the shoreline - I came across these remarkable looking orchids: Pink Lady Slippers or the Moccasin flower (Cypripedium acaule). While not carnivorous, they have an unusual structure. The modified flowers are constructed like pouches that trap insects for a short period of time, forcing them to brush past the structures within so that the the plant becomes fertilized with pollen. Have a look at this page showing hundreds of varieties of Slipper orchids.

They do not transplant well, as they have particular needs for acidic soils, groundcover scattered with pine needles, and a special fungal association within the soil. They exist all the way up to the Arctic Circle. So don't take any - they won't survive.

The ground was thick with blueberry bushes, but alas the blueberries were not yet ready. The flowers were beginning to emerge, and as we all learned in botany class, pollinated flowers precede the development of the fruit. Most of the bushes are a bright green, but a few leaves are a vibrant red, similar to that of a Japanese Maple. I wonder why.

You can see a blueberry flower above. It would have been great to have blueberries to add to the biscuits we cooked by the fire. Or even to make a tea or simply as snacks.

This dwarf Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) was growing in the crack of a boulder at the camping site. It might be 10 years old, I would only know if I cut it down with a knife and examined the growth rings. I wouldn't do that. I would be worried that in some karmic alternate reality, I would have my legs cut off and examined by a menacing white pine.

The rock faces in Algonquin Provincial Park are being slowly, almost infinitesimally, broken down by the acidic secretions of lichens.

I like lichens - I remember from grade 10 biology that:
"Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga (commonly Trebouxia) or cyanobacterium (commonly Nostoc)."
Very cool. If you are into fungi (as I am) and into alga (which I'm not), you'd have a heyday with lichens.

I came across many of these neat-looking flowers, of the Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). I didn't see any of the berries (which are drupes like olives or peaches) - maybe it is too early in the season for them. They have a taste reminicent of apples.

Sedges provide edible 'nutlets' or seeds that can be gathered either by sweeping your cupped hands through large growths of it, or by gathering them and winnowing the seeds. You'll know if it is a sedge or a grass by the following popular saying:
"Sedges have edges, and rushes are round,
But grasses have nodes from their tips to the ground."
If you roll a sedge leaf in your hands and look at the cross section, you'll notice a triangular shape that gives an 'edged' feeling. I find the seeds quite tasty, but better when they are brown and dried - ready to drop. A good way to cook these seeds is to winnow them, crush them up slightly to remove the seed covering, mush it up with water and put it into a container. Then you drop stones that you have heated in the embers of a fire into the container and shake it about. The pleasant smell will indicate the cooking of the seeds into something savoury.

This is a nice soft moss. Dunno what kind. It would be good to fall asleep on a bed of this.

Rock tripe is an edible lichen. You pull it off the rock, wash the sand and grit away. Then you can roast and then boil it up in a soup. I just ate some raw and chewed away. It has a mushroomy/cracker like sensation/flavour. Not bad at all actually!

In amongst the pine trees of Pinetree lake, a few deciduous trees like birch and maple grew. You can see a brilliant red maple seed above. These are known as maple keys or samaras.
"A samara is a type of fruit in which a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue develops from the ovary wall. A samara is a simple dry fruit and indehiscent (not opening along a seam). They are winged achenes. The shape of a samara enables the wind to carry the seed away from the parent tree."

These little guys are called Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry, Boxberry or American Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). I call them Wintergreen. If you macerate a leaf between your teeth and wait a minute or two, methyl salicylate (wintergreen flavour found in chewing gum) is created and released. Minty fresh. It is also known as the Spice Berry.

The berries are small and hide under the leaves, but are delicious. I grabbed piles of them as I wandered through the woods. They too have a wintergreen taste to them, and are mealy/bland also.

Chipmunks nibble on them, and squirrels eat the leaves.
"Its fruit persists through the winter and it is one of the few sources of green leaves in winter."

Finally, here are some mushrooms. I don't have my Algonquin Park mushroom identification guide book with me presently, but once I do, I will update this page to explain what they are.

All I know is that this little guy is an LBM or little brown mushroom.



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