Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pics of Summer Flowers ... The Wetlands

It's easy to overlook the smaller flowers in favour of their gaudier cousins, but one does so at the risk of missing the breadth and diversity of life, the multitude of species that have evolved and adapted in so many different ways to the same environment by way of the sieve of countless years of natural selection. (OK ... millions, not "countless" years, but one also runs the risk of being poetic contemplating, in the words of Douglas Adams, "Life, the Universe, and Everything" ...)

Like many others of its family Kalm's Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii) likes to get its feet wet and may be found in a variety of wetland habitats. These photos were taken at the Stoco Fen.

Another denizen of (but not restricted to) the Stoco Fen is the Marsh Bellflower (Campanula aparinoides). While not the largest or showiest of our wetland flora, it nonetheless has a delicate charm and beauty all its own. Overcast skies and a paucity of color and contrast made this blossom a difficult subject to photograph.

I first stumbled across these tiny yellow flowers along the sandy north shore of Stoco Lake two summers ago and until today their identity was unknown to me. Today I blundered across my mystery plant while researching other wetland flora on the Internet ... this is Water Stargrass (Heteranthera dubia), a member of the family Pontederiaceae, related to the much more conspicuous Pickerelweed.

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) is common wherever there is still or slow moving shallow water along lake or river shorelines. This is a view just to the east of the boat ramp on Stoco Lake.

Closeup shots of the flower spike

Today I encountered another "new" wetland plant growing in nearly the same place I found the Water Stargrass. This one didn't take too long to identify, it's a Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica). The flowers look similar to those of Arrowheads and Wapato (members of the same family, Alismataceae, a.k.a. Water Plantains) but are much smaller and grow in a panicle.

A closeup shot of the leaves ...

... and the flowers.

A couple of Water Plantain's more visible cousins, Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) ...

... and Arumleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata); these emergent plants also prefer quiet, shallow waters.

Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) is a cousin of the dreaded Purple Loosestrife. This specimen was photographed at a marsh about one kilometer east of Actinolite and seemed to be the sole representative of its species at this locale. However, I later chanced upon several of these flowers along the shore of the Clare River near Otter Creek.

The colorful flowers of the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are hard to miss. A favourite of many species of insects, this is obviously a plant that relies on pollinators to reproduce.

On the other hand the flowers of Pondweed (Potamogeton) are anything but showy. But since pondweeds can reproduce asexually by turions (overwintering buds) and broken off pieces of the stem the flowers are little more than an afterthought, nature's backup in case all else fails.