Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lady's Slippers, a Slippery Slope and a Stray Swallowtail

A rather odd find along the trail, to the east side of the bridge across the Moira River – a Blue Columbine. Aquilegia caerulea, the state flower of Colorado? Likely a refugee from someone's flower garden.

The Stoco Fen is a rare and unique habitat that sustains uncommon species not apt to be found elsewhere. Standing or slowly moving water in the ditches alongside the road supports Cottongrass (not sure what species this one is, possibly Eriopgorum viridi-carinatum a.k.a. Green Cottongrass) ...

.. and Water Arum (Calla palustris).

Most of the Yellow Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) are at the end of their peak blooming period for this season and every day more of them are wilting. Luckily these two were still in good enough shape (and not powdered with dust) to be photographed.

The Small White Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium candidum), while not uncommon within the fen, has exclusive requirements, growing in very few places in Ontario, and is considered an endangered species.

One of the carnivores of the plant world and a species often characteristic of fens. Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea) grow in nutrient-poor conditions and must make up for the minerals lacking in their environment.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here ... should a hapless insect be lured into the specially modified leaf, the only direction is further down a slippery slope lined with downward pointing hairs to an enzyme filled pool ...

The return of the Giant Swallowtails! Or perhaps Papilio cresphontes has been around all along and I haven't been very observant. Not native to this area, this striking butterfly has been extending its range northward in recent years. I spotted several three years ago but haven't seen any since ... until now.

Decades ago tracts of land along the Potter's Settlement Road were planted with Red Pine. Few herbs seem to tolerate the pine needle littered forest floor and shaded understory, but Lily-of-the-Valley (Maianthemum canadense) seems to not just survive under these conditions but prosper.

The Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) also thrives in this man-made habitat. There were hundreds of these floral jewels growing within a relatively small area of the forest floor.

This flower includes a mosquito, and they, too, are doing quite well and won't likely be on the endangered species list and time soon.

The road is bordered by several marshes, providing favourable growing conditions for another member of the Arum family, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

The Stoco Fen revisted about a month later: the Small White Lady's Slipper and Yellow Lady's Slipper have had their day in the sun, they are now supplanted by the Showy Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium reginae). A one-of-a-kind habitat, and an extraordinary show of color in a brief span of time. I wonder what other orchid species grow here ...