Lynn Valley Trail – A Celebration of Nature
To celebrate our 30th Anniversary, we are presenting a series from well-known Naturalist, Mary Gartshore. Below is the first of three submissions.
A stroll along the Lynn Valley Trail reveals the beauty and diversity of Norfolk County’s wild nature. The old rail bed and adjacent lands are shaded forest. Native plants form a matrix of weed-free forest understory.
|Fig. 1. Every plant in this image is native to Norfolk and these companions provide a weed free ground cover full of life.
Fig.2. Eyed Brown, a forest butterfly, the caterpillars of
which feed on broad-leaved sedges.
These areas offer a glimpse into the past and can act as reference sites for today’s global aspirations including the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030.
Natural ecosystems provide many services, both popular such as pollinator habitat, but also carbon-capture and earth surface cooling. Plants feed many insects including caterpillars that are then fed to young songbirds. Insects feeding on foliage help to create spaces for more species of plants. The rain of caterpillar droppings called frass, returns significant nutrients to the forest floor.
A highlight for me on this walk was a series of open sedge fens with Marsh Horsetail and Small Forget-me-not on a backdrop of tall tamarack trees. Around the edges of these wet meadows were Purple Angelica and Cow Parsnip both native swamp species. These two species are not to be mistaken for the seriously invasive Giant Hogweed. These wet meadows are well worth seeing along the stretch of trail between Norfolk County Rd. 3 and Prospect Street in Port Dover.
|Fig.3. Sedge fens with h Marsh Horsetail (stems) and Small Forget-me-not.
|Fig. 4. Close-up of Small Forget-me-not.
Since the trail is near to the Lynn River tree species such as Black Maple and American Elm can be found. Look for a maple with large, somewhat droopy leaves with a downy under side. For American Elm look for striped brown and white layers on small pieces of bark. Red Elm bark strips are solid red. Both elms seldom reach old age due to Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus accidentally introduced from southeast Asia.
Figs.5/6. A piece of bark of American Elm in cross-section shows red and white bands. Black Maple has droopy leaves with downy underside.
Fig. 7. Purple Angelica has globe-shaped flowers and purple stem.
Fig.8. Cow Parsnip is a native plant that looks similar to Giant Hogweed but is much smaller
Evident everywhere along the trail is the incredible seed set on nearly every shrub and tree. Little is known about what may trigger a crop of wild seeds, but we did experience around six weeks of warm weather and clear skies due to low humidity. More sunlight is essential for plants to set seed. Notable seed set was observed on Blue Beech, Chokecherry, Spicebush and Alternate-leaved Dogwood. It will be interesting to see how seed production plays out over the coming months in Norfolk County, but to date it appears to be exceptional. Stay tuned for an up-date on wild seed production in my next post.
|Fig. 9. Wild Yam is a Carolinian vine that is just beginning to flower. Its tropical relative is the huge tuber offered in grocery stores.
|Fig.10. The damselfly Ebony Jewelwing resting and feeding along the trail through the forest.
Bio – MARY GARTSHORE
“I grew up on a livestock farm with a large forest in the Dundas Valley, where I was encouraged by my parents to explore nature. I graduated in Honours Zoology, Guelph in 1973. I have carried out biological inventories in Canada, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and elsewhere. In 1990, with partner Peter Carson, purchased a 80ha farm in Norfolk County. Currently, we focus our efforts on nature conservation and ecological restoration in southern Ontario.”