Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Genus Acer - Fall Colours

Went walking with E. along the Eardley Escarpment over the weekend. The fall colours are particularly spectacular this year and just getting started. The maples (genus Acer) tend to start changing colours first.

Surprisingly little poplar (genus Populus) on our walk, so none of the early yellows that they provide are shown here. Sorry about that. They're more common a bit further North than the Eardley Escarpment, which is basically the Southernmost tip of the boreal forest (and Canadian Shield).

Looking East along the Eardley Escarpment
There are some great walking trails in Gatineau Park, one of which meanders along the top of the escarpment, providing a number of opportunities to look out to the South.

Acer rubrum - red maple - just starting to turn
Acer saccharum - sugar maple - in peak colour
The maples set the hills ablaze, brilliant and transient against the smooth blue sky.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bur-Reed - Sparganium erectum

Les fruits du Sparganium erectum sont extrèmement distinctes; la boule couverte de genre d'épines ne se prend pas facilement pour autre chose. Je suis tellement occupée les dernières semaines que je n'ai pas pu rien écrire ici. Mes excuses. La vie ne laisse pas toujours du temps de loisir. J'adore mon nouveau programme et je suis contente d'avoir aussi un bon emploi comme assistante de recherche.

La plante présentée ci-dessous pousse dans les marais et est génétiquement proche aux quenouilles. Les espèces variées du Sparganium sont communes dans la région; je peux en compter trois par mémoire.

Sparganium erectum - fruit
Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) is an easily identified plant in late summer and early fall because of its extremely distinctive ball-of-spikes fruit (pictured above). This genus of plants is relatively common in the area; I can recall three species off the top of my head that grow in this area. It's the closest genetic relative of the cattail, if I understand correctly.

I haven't been able to blog in the last few weeks because I've been ridiculously busy. Life has been extremely hectic. The good news is that I'm loving my new program and I have a research assistantship that's helping to pay the bills and keep me and E both in school. I'm struggling a bit with a number of things, but I've managed somehow to keep my head above water.

At least I have a couple of super-cool field laboratories this week!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ebony Jewelwing - Calopteryx Maculata - Demoiselle

When we were climbing Mont Cayamant I saw a number of odonata I don't usually see at the lake where I am generally, which is interesting considering that they're within a bare 15km of each other. In any case, I spotted a female ebony jewelwing damselfly, Calopteryx maculata. She was fortunately not very shy at all and it was easy to photograph her quite extensively.

Female C. maculata
 This is a good shot that shows the creature pretty well, I think. I know it's a female because it has the white stigma (spot on the wing); males of this species don't have the white spot.

C. maculata face
 I like the fierce, toothy appearance of a damselfly face.

C. maculata eating its prey
In this photo you can see that she's eating a bug that she's caught. Cool-looking creature.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Water Smartweed - Persicaria Amphibia - Renouée Amphibie

I'm finding that there are far fewer easy guides to aquatic plants in the region. I was very lucky to stumble on the identification of this plant. I present: water smartweed (fr: renouée amphibie), Persicaria amphibia.

P. amphibia inflorescence

I found this to be quite a lovely flower, with very long ovoid leaves. The flower stalk rose out of the water about eight to twelve inches and the pink flower stalks were each growing off a single branch of the plant.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Yarrow - Achillea Millefolium - Herbe à Dinde

A. millefolium inflorescence
Cette plante est très commune dans la région. Elle est facile à identifier et préparée comme thé était utilisée part les aborigineaux pour réduire la fièvre et pour aider à dormir. Je met cette plante dans mes tisanes, mais elle a un goût très fort donc je conseille les gens de l'utiliser de manière restraint. Avant d'y goûter, on devrait s'assurer qu'on n'a pas de réaction négative à cette plante, auquelle il y a parfois des allergies. Je suggère qu'on frotte la plante délicatement sur la peau et attende plusieurs heures; si la peau réagit, ne pas ingester la plante. Il faut toujours faire attention en ingestant des plantes sauvages et je n'encourage à personne de consommer des plantes sauvages sans s'assurer de n'avoir aucune allergie dangereuse et d'avoir aucun doûte de l'identification de la plante.

L'herbe à dinde est utilisée pour traiter de divers conditions et maladies. Un petit dix minutes avec Google montre que le monde crois à toutes sortes de bénéfices à cette herbe. Je vous encourage à évaluer les prétentions avec caution; beaucoups de ces prétentions ne sont aucunement prouvés et il faut exercer son jugement pour évaluer l'évidence. Nous savons que l'herbe à dinde contient de l'acide salicylique, qui peut réduire la fièvre et réduire la douleur. Il faut se souvenir qu'il est très difficile de contrôller la dose d'une substance qui se retrouve dans une plante sauvage et que ceci n'est pas un bon substitut pour des médicaments à dose controllée.

A. millefolium lateral view
Yarrow (also called: arrowroot, bloodwort, nosebleed, soldier's woundwort, & many other names)  is a very common plant in this region. It's easy to identify and as a tea was used by aboriginal people to reduce fever and help with sleep. I put this plant in my herbal teas, but it tastes quite strong so I suggest that people use it only moderately in tea unless you want your tea to taste like nothing else. It can cause allergic reactions so I would suggest that you rub some on your skin and check back in a few hours to see if you have a reaction before ingesting it. Also, the usual disclaimer about not ingesting wild plants if you have dangerous allergies and never to ingest a plant you don't have an absolute positive identification of.

There are a lot of claims all over the internet about the various (semi-miraculous, to hear some tell it) properties of yarrow. I would recommend that these claims be judged on their merits and on the weight of the evidence. We know that yarrow does contain salicylic acid, so the fever reduction and pain relief properties are likely to be true. All other claims need to be similarly evaluated on their merits. It's important to remember that even when we know that a plant contains a compound with known medicinal properties, the wild plant will always be a worse form than the pill because of issues controlling dosage; yarrow tea is not an improvement over acetaminophen, it's a step down because dosage is not known (less effective and less safe;  if you have the pill, don't substitute the herb).

A. millefolium bottom view
I'm taking time at the lake to try to recuperate. I'm working away at a number of things. Saw a deer with two young this morning. I'm snuggling my grumpy old Molly cat, who seems old now in a way she didn't last year. Still, I suppose she had to start acting like an old cat sometime and I guess if she starts in her 20th summer I shouldn't complain. I have a sense of permeating loss, the feeling of summer fading away into autumn... It's a strange feeling to experience combined with the excitement of changing my program and pursuing what I really want out of life.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Black-Eyed Susan - Rudbeckia hirta - Rudbeckie

The black-eyed susan (this one is: Rudbeckia hirta) is a very common and recognizable flower, which many find very showy and attractive.

R. hirta inflorescence
Black-eyed susans are a very distinctive class of flower, easy to spot and identify.

R. hirtaserotina inflorescence lateral view
The conical shape is quite evident in a lateral view.

Black-eyed susans are a good cut flower.

Today, I'm planning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

White Baneberry - Actaea Pachypoda - Actée à Gros Pédicelles

Cette plante est toxique à manger! Ne jamais consommer, s'assurer que les enfants ne consomment pas cette plante. La tige devient rouge et le fruit devient blancs avec le point noir au bout quand mûr.

This plant is toxic! Never eat this plant and make sure that children do not eat this plant. When ripe, the stalk turns red and the fruits turn white with a black point at the end.

A. pachypoda
White baneberry is a reasonably common plant in the region where I grew up. It is a strange-looking plant, all told. 

Unripe fruit of A. pachypoda
The fruit looks like it's watching you. As I understand it it is also called Doll's Eyes, a name I find quite appropriate, especially when the fruit has ripened and turned white.

Today I'm tired.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shoya Long Eggplants

So I just had the most delicious eggplant I have ever eaten (yes, for breakfast; breakfast eggplant is awesome). I planted a number of varieties of eggplant in the garden this year, among them the shoya long eggplant, which came highly recommended for yield and flavour. Boy is it ever delivering on both counts! The plant I have is blooming still and also has about 40 developing eggplantlings on it. Yep. So this morning the first one was ready to be picked. I picked it, and cooked it up right away.

And it was the most phenomenal eggplant experience I have ever had. It was so silky, and so richly flavoured, that I couldn't quite believe at first that I hadn't accidentally ingested a hallucinogenic eggplant. To be clear, I love eggplant. I eat it at least once a week and spend a lot of my cooking endeavours trying new ways to eat eggplant. So when I say that this eggplant was the best eggplant I've ever had, I mean it was practically a transcendental experience.

I may be exaggerating slightly.

So, without further ado, here's the eggplant, and instructions for how to cook it the way I did this morning.

Shoya long eggplant
 So I wanted to cook it in a way that would bring out the flavour of the eggplant, since I'd never had this eggplant before and wanted to know exactly what it tastes like. As a consequence, the following recipe is very simple and takes about 5-10 minutes. Also, it's in my cooking style, which means I measure exactly nothing.

-Olive oil (enough to coat your pan lightly)
-Garlic (to taste)
-Basil (to taste)
-Oregano (to taste)
-Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
-Salt (to taste)

-Cut eggplant into rounds about 1/4" thick
-Mince garlic and let air for a few minutes
-Chop basil & oregano up finely (about 1/10th as much oregano as basil)
-Heat frying pan with a dollop of olive oil; hot pan, for sautéeing
-Toss eggplant rounds into frying pan & cover
-When the rounds start to soften, toss them around a bit
-Throw on a dash of balsamic vinegar and stir it through the eggplant (be sparing at first! that stuff tastes strong and you don't want to overpower the delicious, delicious eggplant flavour)
-Pitch in the herbs and a dash of water (no more than a few Tbsp of water, just enough to deglaze the balsamic off the bottom of the pan so it can be redistributed onto the eggplant)
-Once the eggplant is soft, remove cover, stir, and cook until the water is evaporated from the pan
-Salt to taste

End result:
The most delicious eggplant I've ever eaten
Pour les francophones:

Je vais juste remarquer que je ne mesure rien en préparant mes plâts (à l'exception de la cuisson au four), préférant plutôt de me fier au goût et à la scenteur pour ajuster les quantités. Par conséquence, je ne peux pas vous fournir des mesures de quantité dans mes recettes. Mes excuses.

-Huile d'olive (assez pour couvrir le fond de la poêle)
-Ail (à son goût)
-Basilic (à son goût)
-Origan (à son goût)
-Vinaigre balsamique (à son goût)
-Sel (à son goût)

-Couper les aubergines en rondelles d'environ 1/4'' de large
-Hacher l'ail et laisser à l'air pour quelques minutes
-Hacher le basilic et l'origan (l'origan devrait représenter environ 1/10ième de la quantité du basilic)
-Rechauffer la poêle avec l'huile d'olive dedans (assez chaud pour sauter)
-Y jetter les aubergines, remuer, et couvrir
-Quand l'aubergine commence à amollir, remuer encore
-Ajouter un peu de vinaigre balsamique (faire attention! Ce vinaigre goûte très fort et on ne veut pas déguiser le goût délicieux de l'aubergine)
-Ajouter le basilic, l'origan, et l'ail avec un peu d'eau (pas plus que quelques cuillères à table, juste asser pour déglacer le vinaigre)
-Quand l'aubergine est devenue molle, découvrir, remuer, et laisser cuire jusqu'à temps que l'eau a toute évaporie
-Ajouter du sel à son goût

Bon appétit! Le résultat final est présenté ci-haut.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Leafcutter bee - Megachile - Mégachile

This morning has been quite exciting for bees. We've confirmed that there are at least two bees in the B. impatiens hive (no photographs yet), and I've discovered that my bee solitary bee houses are being put to use.

I can confirm only that it's a leafcutter bee (fr: mégachile), genus Megachile. Unfortunately, I'm not able to pinpoint the exact species any more precisely, as I'm not a specialist in the leafcutter bees. Nevertheless, I can provide a photograph of a nest cell, and of the leafcutter bee. Enjoy!

Occupied Megachile nest cell, with distinctive cut leaves

As I understand it leafcutter bees favour the leaves from roses or lilacs for their nest cells. I think that the leaves here must have come from the lilac tree, which is within six feet of this nest cell (there are no roses nearby).

Megachile - leafcutter bee on mustard flower
I was very pleased to get such a clear photo of this bee. She's got the distinctive colour and stripe pattern of a leafcutter bee, as well as the distinctive outward resting position of the wings. Unfortunately I don't know encough about leafcutter bees to be able to identify what species she is. I don't know if this is the same one who built the nest cell photographed above, but I do know it's the same genus of bee, at least.

It's a beautiful day to be out in the garden.

Friday, July 26, 2013

White Pine - Pinus Strobus - Pin Blanc

While I was out for a stroll in the early morning (went looking for chanterelle mushrooms with my father), I realized I hadn't put any tree photographs on this blog. Want to remedy this. Below is a photograph of the branch tip of a white pine (fr: pin blanc), pinus strobus. It's a very common species in Quebec, and in the area where I took this photograph it is usually one of the largest; conditions are quite rough and most trees grow very slowly (the ironwood is usually around 50 years old at a 4" diametre).

The cones are just barely starting to form.

P. strobus
As I was taking my early morning meandering, I also saw a common mallard (fr: mallard), anas platyrhynchos. There was a mother and one duckling; likely she started with more and the rest have been eaten or died of other causes. I particularly like the look of the water in this photograph, with the patterns of refraction along the wave peaks. Also, I just think the fuzzy duckling is cute.

Immature a. platyrhynchos
Today I'm struggling.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wood Frog - Rana Sylvatica - Grenouille des Bois

So this is another one spotted at Mont Cayamant. There were some stray puddles along the path (vernal pools), and they were filled to the brim with tiny little frogs and tadpoles. In the photo below, notice that the frog is sitting on a leaf. That's a pretty normal maple leaf, about four inches across or a little less. So the frog is teeny tiny. Note that wood frogs habitually breed in vernal pools, so this was by no means an unexpected finding. What I loved was their sheer number. Just as well, because they wouldn't stay still for photos! I got my feet very wet photographing this little guy.

Immature R. sylvatica
Though the light conditions were rather poor for photographing into the water, I managed to get a shot of a tadpole in its late stages of development:

R. sylvatica tadpole
It was a fun hike.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Squawroot - Conopholis Americana - Conopholis d'Amérique

Squawroot is an achlorophyllous (non-photosynthesizing) plant which grows as a parasite on the roots of oak and beech. We encountered several of these in our hike up Mont Cayamant the other day. I think it's a rather strange-looking plant. Visible in the picture below is the above-ground infructescence; at this time of the season, the flowers have been replaced with seed pods.

C. americana infructescence
Today I'm feeling impatient.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Twistedstalk - Streptopus amplexifolius - Sceau-de-Salomon

This one is comestible, but because it resembles a lot of toxic plants in the region, don't eat this plant unless you're absolutely positive about identification (somebody who knows for certain shows you, rather than just comparing to a picture). Large quantities of the fruit can give diarrhea as well, so be light on eating them once you do have a positive identification.

S. amplexifolius from below
Nous étions allés à Mont Cayamant hier. Sur la piste il y avait beaucoup à voir; j'ai pris un tas de photos. C'est un très bel endroit et du belvédère le paysage est extrèmement beau. Ne pas aller sans de bonnes chaussures ou bottes! Le chemin est ménagé, mais s'agit quand même d'une piste dans une forêt. Faire attention aux falaises.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mallard - Anas Platyrhynchos

Of course no trip to a Canadian waterway is complete without a sighting of the mallard duck, the ubiquitous water bird. This particular group was swimming through a patch of water which was particularly interesting-looking from my angle, so I ended up being able to capture a beautiful effect in the water as well as the ducks themselves. Enjoy.

A. platyrhynchos juveniles
Today, I'm getting things in order.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Milkweed - Asclepias Syriaca - Herbe à la Ouate

Here's a common, easily recognized one: common milkweed (fr: herbe à la ouate), Asclepias syriaca. It's very attractive to butterflies and as such is wonderful to have around, but it's important to keep it out of pastures as it is toxic to a number of grazing animals.

A. syriaca on the shore
There's a hint of red clover and some grasses and hawkweed in the bottom of this image, too, but the focus is on the milkweed. Quite a dramatic plant. I like the effect of the milkweed against the backdrop of the rapids.

Ants collecting nectar from the flowers of a. syriaca
Not only does this flower appeal to bees, it also appeals to ants. I hardly ever see them blooming around here without ants crawling around on them seeking nectar. I like the umbrel shape of the milkweed inflorescence.

A. syriaca inflorescence
I love how thick the flower is. The petals are proportionately extremely thick for their size, giving this flower a stiff, chunky appearance that I find really cool and unusual in a flower. It's quite a dramatic flower even up close. There's a drop of dew visible between the two nearest petals of the flower in the centre here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

St John's Wort - Hypericum Perforatum - Millepertuis Perforé

St John's wort, hypericum perforatum (fr: millepertuis perforé) is another introduced species which now flourishes at the lake. It is a fairly well-known herbal antidepressant. It's worth noting here that herbal antidepressant just means it contains neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors and it's an herb, not that plants are magical and better than proper pharmaceuticals. Dosage is inexact with herbs (as opposed to pill-form SSRIs, which have dosage controlled) so I wouldn't recommend that everybody go running out to make St John's wort tinctures. At least in Canada, measured doses of St John's wort extract are available over the counter anyway, so if you want to try it go try that. Disclaimer: talk to your doctor, St John's wort interacts with a number of common medications (eg oral contraceptives) in ways that can be extremely bad for you. Self-medication is dangerous, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about this option.

H. perforatum inflorescence
This flower isn't always easy to spot; it tends to grow close to goldenrod at the lake, and the two have a very similar colour while goldenrod is generally taller, making it a tough spot at the lake. The plant itself is very easy to identify, however; I've never seen anything else that looks like it growing at the lake, so if it looks like this it's probably St John's wort.

H. perforatum inflorescence up close
I love the form of the filaments & anthers on this flower. It's like a koosh ball cut in half. It's a very wibbly (I swear that's a word) sort of flower. Pretty and delicate, with the perfect rich golden colour that I'm glad has come out here very well. It's not a very large flower, at least at the lake; usually 1-2 cm across.

I'm making big changes to my life right now. My anthem right now is Chris Hadfield's rendition of Space Oddity because to me this is an incredible symbol of the triumph of the human spirit and human innovation. Decades ago, this song was sung looking up at the stars from Earth; now Chris Hadfield has sung it back to Earth from the stars. That's so incredible I have a hard time believing it sometimes. Also, I've never gotten over the childhood hero-worship I had for astronauts. Astronauts are incredible people; if my eyes didn't suck I would have tried to become one myself (but you need to be not totally useless in an emergency if you can't find your glasses, and my eyes suck without some form of intervention; I discovered the hard truth at 12 years old and I still wish I were eligible for laser eye surgery). Anyway, this song makes me think of just how incredible humanity can be. Steels the guts for hard work.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Snapper - Chelydra Serpentina - Tortue Serpentine

Sur la rivière où j'étais durant la fin de semaine au chalet de mon amie, il y avait une crique où se trouvaient de diverses insectes et animaux. En entrant, j'ai surpris un héron qui s'est envolé avant que je puisse sortir ma camera, et un castor qui a frappé l'eau avec sa queue avant de disparaître sous la surface. J'ai vu aussi une tortue serpentine.

La tortue serpentine est très commune, mais le monde a souvent des idées incorrectes par rapport aux habitudes de cette espèce et mon amie me disait que, il y a 50 ans, le monde ont fait l'éffort pour éradiquer les tortues serpentines dans la rivière, étant peur de se faire mordre en nageant. La tortue serpentine, chelydra serpentina, est extrèmement non-agressive dans l'eau et même sur terre où elle est plus vulnérable n'attaquera pas sans provocation. En tout cas, cette espèce est vieille, ayant pré-éxisté les dinosaurs dans la forme que  nous reconnaissons aujourd'hui. Pour moi, rencontrer une tortue serpentine, particulièrement une grosse, c'est comme recontrer un dinosaur. Ce sont des créatures fascinantes. J'ai été chanceuse durant la fin de semaine; cette tortue voulait prendre un petit peut de soleil et a donc sorti un petit peut de la boue, juste assez que j'ai pu la voir.

Celle là est grosse pour son espèce mais pas la plus grosse que j'ai jamais vue (cela est une autre histoire, une que je ne compte qu'au monde qui adore aussi la nature). J'estime 12-15 pousses dans la carapace, qui représente une tortue dans la cinquantaine ou plus. Ci-dessous est une photo de la tortue, qui était bien cachée dans la boue.

C. serpentina
Above is a photo I took of a snapper (common snapping turtle), chelydra serpentina. This is a very common acquatic animal in North America. Unfortunately, people have some strange ideas about snappers which make them more nervous and aggressive about snappers than need be. Snappers are very peaceable creatures and shy in the water, preferring to flee than to confront when met with humans. On land, they are only aggressive if provoked -- and that's because they have no alternatives; they can't run and this variety of turtle can't hide in its shell for safety. If you see one on land it's probably a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. Leave her be and she'll leave you be.

This one was very well-hidden in the silt at the bottom, taking a bit of sun but trying to be more or less invisible. It's a reasonably large one for its species; I estimate 12-15 inches in the shell, which is quite respectable and means it's probably about 50 years old or a bit older. The inlet where I spotted this turtle is full of silt, where my friend says the snappers like to hibernate in the winter, buried in the silt. And no wonder; I tested the depth with my paddle; my paddle sank all the way down without touching the bottom, so all I can say for certain is that the silt is deeper than 5 feet. Plenty of room for turtles to bury themselves in! Mind you, it does mean that it's a good thing I didn't hop out of the kayak in this seemingly shallow water; the moral of the story is to check your surface before hopping out of your boat, in case the bottom isn't what it seems.

This is the type of sighting that happens by being quiet; take a kayak or a canoe, no motors! Paddleboats are pretty noisy, too. This turtle would've been gone long before I arrived if I'd been in a noisy boat.

Today, I'm making changes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dragonflies - Odonata - Libellules

So when I was at my friend's cottage, I went out kayaking on the river. There was a small inlet not far downstream of us, where I found an unbelievable variety of dragonflies, many of which I had never seen before. The two most abundant types were a red one I have finally been able to identify as the calico pennant, Celithemis elisa.  The second is a black one with ice-blue markings, which I believe is the chalk-fronted corporal, Ladona julia. There were also quite a lot of monstrously huge dragonflies with ultra blue abdomens and dark green thoraxes which I didn't get a chance to photograph; they never seemed to land anywhere. I will say tentatively that they were probably common green darner dragonflies.

These dragonflies were incredibly difficult to photograph but I'm glad I succeeded in getting even these few shots.

C. elisa lateral view
I found this particular dragonfly to be a stunningly beautiful creature. I like this shot a great deal because it shows just how vibrantly red it is.

C. elisa top view
My kayak was unfortunately drifting, and you can see from the shadows of my hands that I was already reaching a point where I could simply not reach with my right hand anymore when I took this shot. I was so disappointed to see that I had clipped the wings on one side in this photo, which is otherwise perfect. I suppose I'll just have to try again sometime. At least in this photo the wing patterns are very clear. Aside from the lower wing near the thorax, the spots are not quite red, looking more muted and brownish to me.

 L. julia
I think at this moment I really must give my thanks to the folks over at Discover Life, who regularly make it possible for me to identify fauna that I wouldn't be able to without their excellent searching tool. Super cool resource, very usable. It's my go-to resource for identifying interesting insects.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blue Flag Iris - Iris versicolor - Clajeux

J'ai été au chalet d'une amie durant la fin de semaine, sur une rivière près de Lac Simon. La rivière diffère beaucoups du lac où je reste d'habitude, particulièrement du côté faune et flore. La diversité d'espèces de libellule, par exemple, était absolument extraordinaire. J'ai pris beaucoups de soleil en sortant sur la rivière en kayak et je suis devenue très bronze. C'est chanceux que je ne brûle pas facilement! Ci-dessous se trouvent des photos de l'iris versicolore (autrement: clajeux), Iris versicolor. Ceci est la fleure-emblème du Québec. Pour moi, qui passe mon temps au Québec sur les lacs et les rivières, cette fleure est associée à la beauté du Québec et à ses eaux claires et vertes.

I. versicolor inflorescence, lateral view
I went to a friend's cottage on a river near Lac Simon (Quebec). I found it to be a gorgeous place. One of the most wonderful things about the river, as compared with the lake where I usually conduct my explorations, as the diversity of flora and fauna. The variety of dragonfly types was particularly stunning. Above is the blue flag iris, iris versicolor, which I associate with Quebec's beautiful waters. This was a particularly fine specimen, glistening with dew and richly coloured.

I. versicolor inflorescence, top view
Here's a blue flag iris from above. In the photograph below, the path toward the nectaries between the lower and upper portions is visible.

Iris versicolor
Indeed, if we look at the next photograph the place where the nectar is, as well as the pistil (the hard ridge curving over the top of the opening), is visible. The pollen gets spread over the surface leading down to the nectar, which would of course ensure that any pollinators seeking nectar at this flower would pick up plenty of pollen as well. A good system. I like that the dew on the petals is visible and sparkling in this shot.

I. versicolor pistil (centre)
 And, just because this flower is incredibly beautiful, here's a shot of it from below:

I. versicolor inflorescence, bottom view
I got particularly damp and muddy taking this shot, as the blue flag iris likes to grow in marshy areas. Lying down under one (they're not very tall, either) therefore meant getting quite mucky.

I'm gathering my courage today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Flowering Raspberry - Rubus Odoratus - Ronce Odorante

R. odoratus influorescence
The flowering raspberry (fr. ronce odorante), rubus odoratus, is one of my favourite edibles at the lake. Though it's called flowering raspberry, it doesn't have the same flavour or texture. It's produces a deep red, opaque, slightly velvety fruit. My brothers and I used to call them thumberries as children because the fruit fit onto our thumbs neatly, like little red caps. They're a bit dry in comparison with the wild raspberry, but delicious. The seeds are less present vs the wild raspberry, too, so there's an advantage in that sense. I love the chiffon-like appearance of the petals of this flower. Also, it's quite sticky and hairy on the back; as a kid I used to pluck the flower off the stem and stick it to my shirt, like a pin. Now, before you go thinking I must have been a sweet, pretty kid, I also did that with empty dragonfly nymph shells (actually, I liked those better because they were cool).

Today, I'm dreaming...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Oxeye Daisy - Leucanthemum Vulgare - Marguerite

L. vulgare inflorescence
Lovely flower, isn't it? I love the double spiral pattern in the heart (spirals in both directions). This species is invasive and is considered problematic in may parts of North America.

I'm remembering and nurturing childhood dreams today.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cinqfoil - Potentilla Recta - Potentille

This is another introduced species - I'm starting to feel like most of the wildflowers I like seeing at the lake are introduced species, actually. Anyway, cinqfoil (fr: potentille), potentilla recta, is a rather unassuming and undramatic flower at least where I've seen it, likely because growing conditions are very harsh at the lake.

P. recta inflorescence
For perspective, this flower is less than 1cm across. Tiny thing, really. They don't bloom or grow particularly profusely at the lake, either, so they're rather easy to miss. The fun of this flower is getting closer to it and starting to see the small details, like the wedge shape of the petals and the way they don't touch each other, forming a sort of inverse star, an asterisk of negative space. And the shaky-looking dots of the anthers on the near-invisible filaments, or the slightly fuzzy-looking pistil. I like the base five form of this plant a lot.

P. recta inflorescence after pollination
The petals have fallen off of this blossom, likely because it's been pollinated. The base five shape is still very much in evidence, with the base five sepals (leaves under the petals) visible. The anthers are more clearly visible here against a greener background. I like the subtle gradation of yellow to green from the centre of the flower outward along the sepals. The rather spiky appearance of p. recta's leaves is visible in this shot. I really like the foliage of this plant; angular and slightly aggressive but still lacy and delicate.

I find myself daydreaming about childhood today...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bumblebees - B. impatiens - Bourdons

So I suppose it's about time I talked about the garden a bit. This year, E and I are trying something new. Back in a post on July 5, 2012 (Pollination Station), I illustrated my method for ensuring pollination of some of the plants for which pollination is necessary for production. It involved running around with a brush, a decidedly inefficient and inelegant state of affairs. The garden I maintain is on three levels: ground level, second floor, and third floor. Pollinators are unfortunately quite rare on the third floor, presumably because bees well-laden with nectar and pollen don't have any interest in flying up two stories to look for more.

So this year we're trying something new. E is doing some bee research at a lab at the university, under the supervision of a researcher who has been invaluable in her assistance to get us started. Basically, we're raising a bumblebee colony. Bad. Ass.

... The process is surprisingly sensitive. We ran around with nets and pill bottles early in the season, capturing bumblebees (bombus impatiens), because early in the spring all the bumblebees are queens; the queen comes out of hibernation and flies around collecting pollen and nectar and looking for a suitable nest site, then eventually starts laying eggs. Actually, there's a rather low success rate for b. impatiens colonies, so it was necessary to capture multiple queens in hopes that one would reproduce, so I should say that only some of them eventually start laying eggs.

So. We caught some bees. Watched and waited. Finally, one of them appears to be incubating eggs. The rest have been released, and Gardenia (that's the name we gave the successful queen) has been moved outside and we've opened up the incubator for her in case she wants to forage. We've supplied her with nectar and pollen, as well as cotton to use in forming the initial nest, so she doesn't actually have to leave. Eventually her workers will leave the hive to forage. And then they will pollinate our garden goodies and I won't have to run around with a paintbrush anymore.

Peeking into the nest
 You'll notice right away while looking at the above shot that b. impatiens doesn't make the organized honeycomb that people generally expect when thinking of bees.

The incubator
 This is the exterior of the incubator. The closer portion is where the nest is; the further portion is where we're putting a capful of nectar for Gardenia, which prevents the need for her to venture outside in order to support the colony (the pollen we've provided her with is visible in the photo of the nest).

Location of the incubator
We've tucked the incubator into a quiet corner of the deck for now, with the exit facing directly into the planters where I've put some of the flowers I planted this year in order to supply the colony. We are anticipating the possibility that we'll have to provide them with nectar or pollen as the season wears on, but we'll be monitoring the colony closely.

We'll be moving the nest into its proper box soon so that the hive has the chance to grow and spread.

But of course, social bees aren't the only bees who pollinate the garden. Far from it; solitary bees (bees who do not form colonies, but rather forage & reproduce individually) are extremely common and also very important for pollination. Fortunately, keeping solitary bees is considerably less time-consuming and difficult than trying to establish a colony. Solitary bees just need to be provided with a suitable nest site, and they'll move right on in!

This is where my dad kicks ass. I was doing some research on solitary bees (I'm less familiar with them), and found out exactly how to set up for solitary bees. My father, once I explained the process to him, pulled out his drill bits and got some wood and helped me set up some solitary bee space.

I'm not really expecting to get any solitary bees this year (it's a little late for nesting), but at the very least we should get some next year. Since we have an apple tree in the back yard, that's to the good.

Close-up of part of the bee house
 Solitary bees are of varying sizes, so need tunnels of varying sizes to accommodate them. My dad drilled some holes of varying sizes on two sides of two of our fenceposts (total of four sides drilled). Solitary bees look for tunnels of the right size to nest in; holes in wood are appealing enough, so that's what we've put up here.

One of the bee houses from a distance
My dad then sheltered the bee houses, to keep the rain out (wetness prevents the bees from prospering).

So there we have it.  My dad rocks. So do bees.

Of course, this blog just wouldn't be what I've always envisioned it to be if I didn't take a moment to also share a photo of something I thought was particularly beautiful today. Enjoy.

Browallia speciosa