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Posts Tagged ‘rock lichen’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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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One hot day last week, Railguy and I set out to hike the Blue Mountain Trail at Charleston Lake Provincial Park. Although Blue Mountain is within the park boundary, and can be reached by canoe, land access travels across private property. You park your car at the side of the road on Warburton Road, just as it curves south to join Blue Mountain Road. The first kilometer or so of the trail follows a farm road.

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At the end of the road, the trail enters a pleasant woodland. The forest is dominated by deciduous trees, especially maples, beeches and oaks, with some grand specimens such as this maple tree, above, on display.

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The trail was quite busy on the day we visited. Dogs and bikes are allowed, and ATVs use the access road. We didn’t see anything unusual in the way of wildlife or birds, although along the way we came across a garter snake, frogs and wee toads, and chipmunks and squirrels. This well-worked tree, above, offers evidence of pileated woodpeckers in the area. Here’s a chipmunk eyeing us warily.

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There are many lovely tall beech trees with handsome, smooth bark along the trail. I was shocked to see how many had been mindlessly defiled by visitors who felt compelled to gouge ugly graffiti into their beautiful bark. Apart from disfiguring the trees, the wounds leave the trees susceptible to disease. I guess that once one person acts, others feel they have license to follow suit. We actually saw a man with his family in tow working on a tree. He quickly put his knife away and grinned foolishly as we approached, obviously aware that his actions were inappropriate.

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Following the trail through the forest brings you to a beaver pond. Mosey Lake, as it is named in Park literature, is a beautiful wetland. You can see the large nests of Great Blue Herons in some of the trees.

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There were a number of Canada Geese enjoying the sunny day.

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Shortly after reaching the beaver pond, you cross into Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

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The trail crosses a well-constructed bridge over a little river and you can stop and watch frogs and spot the beaver dam where the river meets the lake.

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Then it’s up a rocky slope. The trail is well-marked and not too steep, but climbs steadily. The rocky terrain is typical of the Frontenac Arch region. The Frontenac Arch is an amazing section of the rugged Canadian Shield that dips down through southeastern Ontario and connects the far north bioregions with the Adirondack Mountains in New York state. The Arch marks an entirely different landscape from the surrounding plains, much more rugged.

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Finally, we reached the last clamber up to the top of Blue Mountain.

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We were rewarded with a view of Mosey Lake to the south…

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…and Charleston Lake to the north.

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We sat down for a well-earned rest and the lunch that Railguy had backpacked in for us.

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We enjoyed refreshments perfect for hiking long trails.

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It’s a bit of a stretch, calling this a mountain. In fact, Blue Mountain reminds me of the movie The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Hugh Grant.

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It was very hot and dry on the open flat. A few little oak trees were dried up and appeared dead and the reindeer lichen on the rock was shrivelled up. There were other common lichens on the rocks though. Here are a couple of samples. Flat lichens that adhere tightly to the rock surface are crustose lichens. Lichens with little leafy growths distinct from the rock surface are foliose lichens.

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Soon we were heading back along the same trail. It was dry in the forest, too. I saw very few fungi along the trail, apart from this old log with a good growth of the common fungus Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor).

I’ll close with this picture of one of several erratic boulders that were located in the woods. Erratics are rocks that were left behind by a retreating glacier as it melted, many eons ago.

The entire hike took us 4 hours, including our picnic lunch.

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