Category Archives: Wild flowers of Manitoba

Low Prairie Rose

 

Recently, on the one month anniversary since Chris’ hip surgery when she was doing very well the only pain she had was in her store bought knee. Not in her hip! So she encouraged me to take a day off from my manservant duties and I headed  the St. Labre Road as I call it. This is my spot for one of my favorite flowers–the Low Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana porter).

 I wanted googled “Low prairie rose” and had a psychedelic experience. I found flowers by that name of the Internet. The first one I looked at was from my friend Doris Ames. The first time I ever heard about this flower was on a slide show somewhere (I have forgotten where) and Doris showed a photo by my good friend and best man at my wedding–Eugene Reimer. When I first saw that image I  was smitten with it and was consumed by jealousy that my friend had photographed it and I had never seen it. It actually took me a few years to find it.

In fact today, the second image  on my Internet search was by Eugene from the Native Orchid Conservation Inc. website. The third image was from my own Meanderer blog site. This felt absolutely weird. But actually it fits in with what I have been wondering about. Is there actually such a flower as Low Prairie Rose or is it just a version of the ordinary garden variety Wild Rose? After this search I was still not sure we are right, but I did find another short article on the Qu’appelle Flora website that talked about it. That is good enough for me. I have determined to my satisfaction that there is such a flower. Case closed.

Don’t tell my orchid friends but this may be my favorite flower. I love orchids, particularly wild orchids, but the Low Prairie Rose is a stunner.

I first found it in the area I was at today because Eugene had kindly told me where it could be found. Eventually thanks to his directions I found it. By now I realize it is actually quite common. Often I have found right beside the road as I did today.

 

Even though the flower is so exquisitely beautiful it is often found beside gravel roads covered in dust. What a shame it deserves so much better. I often like to photograph it after a rain, not just because it is so clean from the rain, but because the colors shine and sparkle. Since it does not rain often enough for this purpose, I always carry some rain in a bottle in my pocket just in case I need to give the flower a spritz. Today I needed the spritzer. I think it was worth it.

The Orchid that made Manitoba Famous: Western Prairie fringed-orchid

 

A few Years ago there was a native orchid conference held in Winnipeg which attracted orchid enthusiasts, some might say orchids nuts, from around North America and even some from Europe.  I was one of them. This orchid was the star of the show– the Western Prairie fringed-orchid (Platanthera praeclara).

This is one the flowers listed on the endangered species list  for Manitoba. The Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie is the best place in the world to see these orchids! This prairie contains from 750 to 24,000 flowering plants of this species each year in an area of about 2,000 hectares. It is the only place in Canada where these flowers still grow naturally. It is our treasure. Sadly, this year when I went to my favorite spot I could only find a half dozen in bloom where there should have been hundreds. I did not have time to check other spots.

The primary cause of failure to flower is late spring frosts that can kill the buds of the flowers. This does not usually destroy the plant. This may have happened this year. Fall precipitation may be linked to flowering in spring as well. The more water in fall the better the flowering in spring. Many cactuses follow a similar pattern.

In the United States this flower can be found in 7 states but only in about 500 hectare in total. In the entire US they have only about 50 to 2,000 flowering plants each year. That is a pittance compared to us. That is why so many Americans come here to see them. A few years ago there was a conference on the plant in Crookston Minnesota near their own Tall Grass Prairie but the attendees came to Manitoba to see ours. Who could blame them?

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It was interesting that the first documented occurrence of this plant in Manitoba occurred in 1985. In fact they were discovered in one day by a scientist who also discovered the Small Purple Fringed orchid at Buffalo Point where I have a cottage. It is remarkable that no one knew they were here since at the right time, like early July, they stick out gloriously in fields and ditches around here. It is surprising that such a showy plant lived so inconspicuously. How was that possible?

We should be proud that in Manitoba we have the most of these magnificent plants. They are all found within a couple of miles of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Nowhere else. They can be found on the Reserve, in ditches, and on private land.

It was not that long ago when scientists thought there was only 1 species of Fringed Orchid. In 1986 a scientist Charles Sheviak realized there were 2 separate species of very similar orchids. For one, there was the Western Fringed-orchid that we have here and the smaller Eastern Prairie fringed-orchid that is found in eastern Canada. He realized that they were not pollinated the same way. Therefore they had a different pollinator and must be different species. I had the privilege of walking in the Woodridge bog with Mr. Sheviak when Manitoba hosted the first Native Orchid Conference of North America. He is like the Michael Jordan of North American orchids. Sadly, none of his greatness rubbed off on me.

 

Grass Pink orchid: The flower that made me famous around the world

 

 

 

Grass Pink Orchid

 

This is the orchid that made me famous around the world. That is true—sort of. A number of years ago I captured a pretty good photo of an orchid called Grass Pink (Calopogon Tuberosus) and it appeared in the wonderful book Orchids of Manitoba created by a number of my friends and I. We were all part of an organization called Native Orchid Conservation Inc. (‘NOCI’)  It was produced by Doris Ames, our spiritual leader and President of NOCI, Peggy Bainard Acheson, Lorne Heshka, Bob Joyce, Richard Reeves, Eugene Reimer, Ian Ward, myself, and for the second edition David Toop was added. Most of the photos were supplied by Ward and Heshka with added photos from others mostly all members of NOCI.

I played a small role in the production of that book with an article on the laws of Manitoba and how they affected wild flowers. It also contained one of my photos of this magnificent orchid. That was the photo shown here. It was taken on film and I had it scanned for publication. The photo caught the attention of someone from Canada Post Corp as they were preparing a series of photos of orchids and wanted some images. Eventually, they contacted me and purchased the right to publish my image on a stamp. When the stamp came out, it was for a stamp used for international posts. As a result few people in Canada ever saw it, but it was seen literally around the world.

In truth, I never got famous as my name was not included on the stamp but was part of a display when the series was introduced. To ensure that my fragile echo was cracked they misspelled my name on that display and turned a pink flower into a purple one. I found out quickly that fame is ephemeral and pretty cheap beer.

Wild cactuses of Manitoba

 

This is what Manitoba’s  cactus looks like before the blooms emerge. For a while I thought this is all that I would see.  Manitoba does not have a desert, but Spruce Woods Provincial Park with the Spirit Sands found in them are about as close as we get to that.

Today was my first break from manservant duties since Chris’ hip surgery. The store bought hip was working so well she kindly shooed me away. She promised not to take any radical maneuvers that might lead to her falling. That is her worst fear. Therefore it is also my worst fear. I was very eager to return to the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Provincial Park near Brandon. This is one of the most interesting places in Manitoba.

I want to blog about the Spirit Sands but will do so another time. I need to get some photographs of them. On this day I was too tired to go farther by the time I finished photographing Manitoba’s cactuses and a few other wild flowers. I drove for 3 hours last year to get here only to discover the cactuses were not blooming as I had hoped. I had an excellent spy looking out for them, namely Jennifer, the Park Interpreter, but I think I got there too late in the afternoon. The blossoms had already closed for the night. That was my operating theory. I saw the plants but no flowers. At first I was very disappointed.

After a while I found some flowers in bud. Then miraculously, I found some in bloom. I was a happy guy. This was more like it. I realized that as I was there flowers were emerging. I just had to be  patient. It was marvelous.

 

I also spent a little time photographing some other wild flowers before I left this fantastic place.

 

I think this is one of the most beautiful wild flowers of Manitoba.

 

Some people call this Indian blanket, though for obvious reasons that name is not used much any more. It is time for a better name.

 

Wild rose though by any other name would still be just a sweet.

Searching for Orchids

 

 

Recently I  went on what might be my last botany trip for a while, as Chris went to  the hospital  for hip replacement surgery and after she is released I became her manservant. So I chose to go to one of my favourite places, The Brokenhead Ecological Reserve just north of the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation with whom Native Orchid Conservation Inc. partnered with as well as the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Model Forest to establish a wonderful place for the protection of native plants. Not just orchids.

Every time I got there I learn something. Today I stopped to think about a posted sign created by the First Nation. This is what it said,

Our elders teach us that all nature people and people are all part of the balance of life. When something is lost or taken, the balance is changed. When we lose one part of an ecosystem we put the entire ecosystem jeopardy. There must be a balance for Mother Earth to remain healthy.

Those are wise words. Well worthy thinking about.

 

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It was a beautiful day for a visit.  I had spotted Dragon’s Mouth orchid (Arethusa bulbosa).  It is one of the gems of the reserve.

I also  went to the nearby Stead bog where I was easier to get closer to the Dragon’s Mouth.In the Ecological Reserve we have to stick to the board walk.

I also saw  a little rabbit that was chewing on the leaves of a young seedling. Thank goodness he ignore the orchid right beside it. The rabbit also had something around its neck that I  thought it might be mounds of ticks. I hope not, because I was sure that many ticks would not be good for the rabbit. In any event the rabbit graciously allowed us to take some portraits of it.

 

 

Discovery in the Woodridge Bog

 

On my recent trip to the Woodridge Bog Shortly I made an amazing discovery. I found a new form of a familiar flower. It is called Small round-leaved orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia (Banks ex Pursh) Hultén (Galearis rotundifolia (Banks ex Pursh) R.M. Bateman). This flower now has a new scientific name as it has been placed in a different Genus, namely, Galearis, of which it is the only member in Manitoba. What really excited me though was when I found one plant with flowers with a very unusual colouring. Normally, the plant has purplish-pink petals together with the dorsal sepal that forms a distinctive hood over the column. The three-lobed lip is white with red to purple spots, but this one plant did not have spots, it had dashes or broad, longitudinal, reddish bars. I have never seen one of these before. I was eager to post this to my orchid colleagues to see what they said about it. Fortunately I got a response from Doris Ames my good friend and former President of Native Orchid Conservation Inc. She actually knows a thing or two about orchids. She is not just a wanna be like me. Actually she knows a lot about orchids.

 

 

On my recent trip to the Woodridge Bog Shortly I made an amazing discovery. I found a new form of a familiar flower. It is called Small round-leaved orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia (Banks ex Pursh) Hultén (Galearis rotundifolia (Banks ex Pursh) R.M. Bateman). This flower now has a new scientific name as it has been placed in a different Genus, namely, Galearis, of which it is the only member in Manitoba. What really excited me though was when I found one plant with flowers with a very unusual colouring. Normally, the plant has purplish-pink petals together with the dorsal sepal that forms a distinctive hood over the column. The three-lobed lip is white with red to purple spots, but this one plant did not have spots, it had dashes or broad, longitudinal, reddish bars. I have never seen one of these before. I was eager to post this to my orchid colleagues to see what they said about it. Fortunately I got a response from Doris Ames my good friend and former President of Native Orchid Conservation Inc. She actually knows a thing or two about orchids. She is not just a wanna be like me. Actually she knows a lot about orchids.

She said this orchid is very rare and was called Amerorchis rotundifolia forma lineata but I suspect that its genus name has change as well to Galearis. She said it had been seen in Churchill. I checked the Native Orchid Conservation Inc. website and sure enough there was an article by my old friend Lorne Heshka who had discovered it in Churchill and he mentioned that someone had seen it in Swan River. Now I can add a third spot to that list in Manitoba, the Woodridge bog! For me that was a fantastic discovery. I found this very exciting.

This is what they normally look like:

 

This one had a lot of white and just a few spots.

They are gorgeous little flowers.

One last gem.

 

 

 

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In Search of the elusive Calypso

 

I drove out to the Sandilands near Hadashville in search of the elusive Calypso bulbosa. I went early so I would not feel rushed in my photography. I wanted to see if my new tripod, which I bought last fall would help me get better photos and it helped big time.

This was my third try at finding Calypso this year. It is usually Manitoba’s first orchid to bloom though the Yellow Lady’s slipper had already been spotted by some of my friends. I feared that I might have missed it, but I believed, correctly that this flower had just been reluctant to appear because of a very cool spring. Weren’t we all reluctant to leave our shelters? Patience and persistence is what I needed to find this gem.

Fairy-slipper or Calypso Calypso bulbosa (Linnaeus) Oakes var. americana (R. Brown) Luer is one of my favorite orchids. Its small size provides outstanding beauty. The flower is about the size of a dime. These tiny little orchids flowers usually live in wet forests and bogs.

 

 

I strolled into the cedar woods at my regular spot and found one before I reached the normal place I have been finding them each year. It was a gorgeous specimen in a perfect place for photography. I was radically pleased.  I found a total of 5 at this location. This was a bonanza. Life is good.

Conditions were sensational for photography. First, it was very cool, and this helped to keep the mosquitoes away. It was quite windy outside the boggy forest, but the thick stand of trees kept the wind away. The sky was cloudy so excessive sun was also not a problem. I was ‘little girl’ happy. I took a number of photos of this lonely flower before proceeding to the regular spot. I got my fill of images at both these locations.

 

Then I moved a little farther east to another spot where I have seen these gems. Sure enough I quickly found 6 more. 5 were close together so I managed to get a photograph of 4 of them in close proximity to each other. Again, I was very happy.

After that I explored a little farther. It sure is nice to have lots of time. I found another 2 flowers close together which enabled me to get a photograph of one in focus with another in the background out of focus.

I left the bog immensely fulfilled. Life is good, even in a time of pandemic.

 

Light in the dark: a Second Try

 

 

I went to Sandilands a second time in search of Calypso and was denied again.  Flowers were not excited by the cool spring. Neither was I. But I was rewarded because crocuses were still in glorious bloom. I nearly rejected this first photograph and then paused to save it for future consideration.  Later I wondered why I wanted to discard it because now it is one of my favourites. Lesson: slow down and be careful out there. Now I see it as suggesting light in the dark.

 

The Pasque flower or prairie crocus (Anemone patens), is one of the first plants to bloom on the prairie each year. They are a true indicator that spring is here. It is a time to cheer. It has petals that vary from white, pale pink, light blue, blue, pink, mauve, and purple.

These flowers are often found in disturbed land such as right beside a gravel road. Isn’t that  a strange place to grow? Why in he gravel and why so close to a road where vehicles can end their short lives?

The strategy of blooming early enables  this lovely flower to catch the attention of pollinators such as small bees and insects because there is little competition at this time of year from other flowers. This strategy of course has its risks. Sometimes the seeds are unable to germinate on account of severe cold during flowering, which can severely restrain seed production.   Often they appear before the snow melts completely. If the prairie soil is too dry the seeds will go dormant, then germinate the following spring.

Frankly, I have hundreds of crocus photos and each year I say enough already and then in spring I am so anxious to photograph wild flowers I find I must go out in search of them. I can’t resist their beauty. Only a Cretan would do that. The prairie crocus is a treasure of the prairie spring.

Manitoba Crocus: A Spring gem of a wild flower

 

The first botany trip of the year in Manitoba is always a big deal. Today was no exception. My doctor  called me on the phone yesterday and confirmed I could go outside because the chances of passing on pneumonia were now “extremely low.” That was good enough for me.

 

This has been a crazy year. First, we were driven out of Arizona in mid-March because of the COVI-19 pandemic. This was before I had any chance to see cactuses in bloom in Arizona. In other words, this was a “dreadful pity,” to quote the Red Rose tea commercials.

 

Then when we got back to Manitoba we were basically quarantined. We are not supposed to go out at all except for important matters and then only if we stay a safe social distance from people, which basically means 2 metres or more. I felt Sandilands Provincial forest was a very safe place to go. In fact I only saw 3 groups of people. 2 were in cars that drove past me without stopping. The other was a small group of people cutting some trees for firewood and I drove past them in my car. So I felt no guilt at all about being out and about.

 

I drove to ta site near  Hadashville in Sandilands Provincial Forest and had no trouble finding the crocuses site but found no calypsos. These are Manitoba’s first orchids each year.  This was plenty late enough for them to be blooming but this year has been very cold in spring. Did I miss them? I tentatively concluded that they were late this year, but that might just be wishful thinking.

 

Since I could not photograph calypso orchids the first of the Manitoba orchids I spent the time photographing crocuses. I already have hundred of photographs of crocuses, but I always hope to capture a better image. The fun is in the chase. Crocuses were still in bloom.

Life is good.

No Nature

 

 

Dandelion: friend or foe?

On the last day of our trip, listening to CBC radio I heard about a scandal in Regina. Apparently they have a local bylaw there that if the “lawn” on your yard is more than 15 cm high it must be cut down. What a draconian rule! If you don’t do it the weed inspector will come down and do it for you and send you the bill.  No wild flowers permitted in Regina.

It reminds me of the war that most of us who reside in towns have waged on dandelions.  Such beautiful little yellow flowers. Some say the problem with dandelions is that they take over. They invade the lawn. That is true. Nature hates  monoculture. If we didn’t insist on creating monocultures on our property,  dandelions would have no place to invade. People forget that in nature there are seldom vast fields of yellow dandelions. Dandelions enter where nature has been destroyed. People in towns don’t want nature. So they get dandelions and want to use various horrid chemicals  to defeat them.

Some town folks even think golf courses are nature at her finest! Those wide fairways where golf superintendents apply vats of carcinogenic substances to kill the weeds are what they think is nature. They actually consider that nature. Just goes to show how far they are removed from nature, they have forgotten what nature is like. The only difference between a wild flower and a weed is a public relations firm.

On the way home from British Columbia I saw another example of our war on nature. This was actually a big example. Just after we crossed the Alberta/B.C. border we lost nature.  After we left Banff National Park we saw no nature until we arrived in Steinbach other than rain clouds. That was about 1,000 km.! Not one single animal other than an occasional cow. I don’t think cows were native to North America. The prairies that we took the better part of 2 days to travel through used to be grasslands.  Less than 1% of the tall grass prairie remains. Less than 30% of the remaining grasslands are gone too. Actually, to me it looks like more than that has disappeared. We saw none other than in occasional sloughs or river banks. The grasslands seemed to have vanished.

The first European explorers were stunned when they encountered what they saw as an ocean of grass. They had never seen anything like it. After all, the grasslands of Europe were all but gone before they arrived. Most of that grassland is gone.

We have destroyed so much of nature in the holy names of progress.

I have also been told that the wildlife in North America, before contact with Europeans,  was even more abundant than Africa. To me having been to Africa and having seen their depleted wildlife that makes ours pale into insignificance , I find that hard to believe. It is an awful desecration.

For two days,  we saw virtually none. That is a pity. As the Red Rose Tea commercial used to say, “a dreadful pity.”

I even like dandelions when they have gone to seed. I think there is a beauty in old age.