Posts Tagged ‘Eastern hemlock’


A couple of weeks ago, RailGuy and I headed up to Arnprior, north and west of Ottawa, to hike the Macnamara Nature Trail. The trailhead is just outside downtown Arnprior, in an industrial area. The trail runs in part through the property of Nylene Canada Inc. At the trailhead, you can pick up a helpful guide. It highlights 19 stops along the trail with information about the natural and human history relevant to each location.


The four kilometre long trail (five if you include the optional sidetrail to the marsh lookout) is well-marked and nicely maintained, with benches thoughtfully placed at the top of a few modestly demanding climbs. Near the trailhead, there was quite a bit of traffic and commercial noise, but we weren’t far along the trail before the sounds of industry fell away and the quiet of the forest prevailed. Comprised mostly of deciduous trees, the woodland is open and pretty.


A section of the trail travels through the upper reaches of the wetland and features a sturdy boardwalk. At the edge of the boardwalk, we spotted the red berries of Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum). You can readily see the source of its scientific name, three-leaves, triphyllum.


The remains of an old lime kiln provide evidence of early industrial activity in the forest. The kiln was built by the McLachlin Lumber Company in the mid-to-late 19th century. The rocky ground, part of the Canadian Shield, is mainly marble and limestone. The igloo-like kiln was stocked with firewood and used to heat broken chunks of rock. When water was added to the burnt rock, it produced slaked lime (Calcium hydroxide), a product used as mortar in brickwork or as paint (whitewash).


Not far from the lime kiln remains, a set of stairs allows hikers to get a close-up look at the rock face.


There are a few points of interest here. In the little den formed by the facets of rock, there are piles of oval droppings. They are evidence that the den has been popular with porcupines over many years.


But the main attraction is the colony of rare Walking Ferns (Asplenium rhizophyllum). Their name is derived from the manner in which they reproduce. Whenever the long, pointed tip of a leaf-like frond touches down, a new frond can sprout up. A parent plant can thus create several generations of fronds via vegetative reproduction as it ‘steps’ across the rock. Walking Ferns are calciphiles, lovers of calcium-rich soils. Walking Ferns can be found in shady spots on limestone ledges and in limey forest places.


The rock also features a foliose lichen, perhaps an Umbilicaria species, known as Rock Tripe.


Back on the main trail, I notice this burl, or burr, high up on a tree. It looked for all the world like a small animal with its limbs wrapped around the tree. Burls are tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. They are the result of some sort of stress suffered by the tree, perhaps from an injury, virus or fungus.


We followed the sidetrail to the marsh lookout. To the east, the wetland is more marshy, while to the west, it is swampy, with trees growing into the wet area. Off in the distance, you can just make out Goodwin’s Bay and the Ottawa River. The marsh floods in the spring when the Ottawa River rises, carrying a flush of nutrients into the wetland.


There were splashes of bright yellow flowers sprinkled through the wetland, Nodding Bur-Marigolds (Bidens cernua).


There was quite a bit of diversity in the forest groundcover. Some areas of the forest floor were dressed in a variety of ferns, while other regions featured a groundcover of club moss. One section of the trail was bordered by the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).


When we came to a stand of Eastern Hemlock trees, we looked for the work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. We had a family of sapsuckers nest in a large, old maple tree this summer, and I often saw them flitting about the garden, where their preferred tree to tap was a little locust. I didn’t know that sapsuckers are partial to hemlock trees until I read it in the guide. Sure enough, the neat rows of sap wells that the sapsuckers drill were readily apparent.


After passing through the hemlock grove, we continued back to the parking lot. These are just some of the highlights of our hike. The Macnamara Nature Trail was named after Charles Macnamara (1870-1944), a naturalist and photographer who loved these woodlands. A gifted amateur, he identified six species of springtails (Collembolans), and one species is named after him. The trail is a wonderful memorial to Macnamara. The guide book, provided by the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, really enhances visitor understanding and enlivens the hike. This was one of our favorite hiking trails, and it is well worth visiting.


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Many thanks to Birdgirl, who I’m sure you will agree, did a great job filling in with a couple of posts while I was away from my computer!
When I returned to Willow House, Birdgirl and I were able to visit for a while, and took grandog Raven for a walk over at the nearby Robert Graham Trail.


The Robert Graham Trail is dedicated to a past chair of the South Nation Conservation Authority. The 136 acre site was acquired in the early 1960s and features conifer plantations and natural hardwood forests. It provides habitat for deer, birds, and other wildlife in an area that features heavy agricultural use. Pictured above is a beautiful, mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) located near the entrance to the trail.


The main trail loops through the interior of the site and around the eastern edge. The initial mixed woodland quickly gives way to a Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) plantation. Parts of the plantation have significant undergrowth and fallen trees, which impart a more natural look to the maturing plantation, while other areas still feature conspicuous rows of conifers. Stands of Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) are also represented.


While the trail appears to have once been well-groomed, there is little evidence of any recent maintenance, and the pathway deteriorates significantly toward the back half of the property, at times nearly disappearing in the undergrowth. Boggy sections that once had corduroy walkways are now difficult to navigate without incurring wet feet.


The more abundant wildflowers of spring are done, though a few mostly-inconspicuous summer bloomers were flowering. A number of fern species gave the forest floor a lush appearance, including tall Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), pictured above.


A few different fungus species were observed. One of the most interesting was this bracket fungus, probably Lacquered Polypore (Ganoderma lucidum).


There were a few patches of Running Ground Pine (Lycopodium clavatum), a low-growing, spore-bearing plant of moist, shaded woodlands. The scientific name means wolf’s foot [from the Greek: lukos (wolf) and podos (foot)]. Spores develop in globular cones held on long stalks at the ends of branches. The spores were used by Native Americans to treat cuts and skin abrasions. The spores are highly flammable. They were once used by photographers and theatre performers as flash powder.

Recent rains have left the low-lying areas quite muddy and lots of mosquitoes accompanied our passage through the woods. The trail would probably be more enjoyable in the fall, when the worst of the insects are done and the trees are decked out in their autumn colours. Still, it was a pleasant walk in spite of the hazards.


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