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Into Summer on the Carden Alvar

We gathered on Saturday, June 17th for the second part of our Alvar Flora Tour Walk. Unique flora grows and blooms on the Alvar during the months of May and June. We visited this area in the early part of May, seeing Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), and Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), just to name a few species.

Now in the middle of June it was a wonderful opportunity to see the later blooming flora. This walk was longer than our May walk, approximately 5k. We entered the path at Carden Recreation Centre, located on Lake Dalrymple, walking through Little Bluestem Alvar and then continued on to Prairie Smoke Alvar, exiting through the hay field to the parking lot.

Alvars are globally one of the rarest ecosystems. Alvars are found in Sweden, Estonia, England, Ireland, NW Russia and North America. In North America alvars are specifically found in the Great Lakes Basin in Ontario.

  • Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve, Pelee Island

  • Belanger Bay Alvar, Manitoulin Island

  • Quarry Bay Nature Reserve, Manitoulin Island

  • Misery Bay Provincial Park, Manitoulin Island

  • Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve, Bruce Peninsula

  • Baptise Harbour Nature Reserve, Bruce Peninsula

  • Burnt Lands Alvar, Almonte

  • Balsam Lake Indian Point Provincial Park

  • Napanee Plains

  • Smith Falls Plains

  • Carden Plain Alvar, City of Kawartha Lakes

We observed 17 alvar flora species, along with another 21 species of other flora, sedges, lichens and ferns. Balsam Ragwort, (Packers (Senecio) paupercula),

Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), and Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa) the base of the alvar, were some of the species observed.

Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)

Tall Cinquefoil (Drymocallis (Potentilla) arguta)

We found Scarlet Painted-Cup (Castilleja coccinea) in full bloom. This is an awesome, unique plant. This plant has colour polymorphism, meaning it can be yellow or scarlet, depending on the pollinators. The plants we observed were scarlet in colour. According to Wikipedia:

When pollinators are present, the scarlet C. coccinea tend to have a higher reproductive output, as they have higher seed and fruit set. On the other hand, the yellow C.coccinea would have a higher reproductive output when pollinators are scarce.

Scarlet Painted Cup (Castilleja coccinea)

Seneca Snakeroot (Polygala senega)

Another plant only found in one area on the alvar is Seneca Snakeroot, (Polygala senega). This plant can tolerate different growing conditions from full to partial sun, medium-dry soils that contain rock and clay. It can be used medicinally for earaches, toothaches, sore throats and colds.

Rock Sandwort, (Minuartia michauxii) is Bob Bowles' (Master Naturalist) favorite plant. This hardy little plant grows on bare limestone, in cracks and crevices of rocks, in full sunlight. There are only a few grains of sand to support its roots. A small, low plant, each flower consisting of 5 white, spreading petals called a floral cup.

Rock Sandwort (Minuartia (Sabulina) michauxii)

Photo Credit: Martha Lawrence

We are grateful and thankful that efforts have been made to protect the Carden Alvar and the many insects, birds and flora that depend on this ecosystem.

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