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Posts Tagged ‘Aruncus dioicus’

 While I mused on the story of the derelict Chatham Cannery village in Sitkoh Bay,

the walkers, including David, were ferried over to the opposite shore.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130997

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130997

Some walkers chose to stretch their legs on a longer forest walk;

David chose a meander along the shore line.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110151

A natural rock garden of Plantago maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110151.

The shore here was much rockier than the other beach areas and it was rather more difficult to walk on than either pebbles or sand. But here David found a natural ‘rock garden’ which featured Sea Plantain, Plantago maritima.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110161

Plantago maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110161

Sea Plantain is also known as Goose-tongue.  This tap-rooted perennial grows in rocky areas that are immersed at high tide. It flowers throughout the summer season. The succulent, salty flavoured leaves are sometimes eaten as a green vegetable with fish.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110143

Glaux maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110143

Another plant commonly found growing by the sea shore, tidal flats and salt marshes is the lovely fleshy perennial, Glaux maritima. It’s  local name is Sea Milkwort because nursing mothers were given an infusion made from the plant to help increase their milk supply.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110146

Barnacles © DY of jtdytravels; P1110146

Barnacles are a common feature on the rocks in these inter-tidal areas.

Barnacles are crustaceans, related to crabs, prawns and lobsters. In fact they begin life as a tiny shrimp-like larvae swimming freely in water. But to become an adult, a barnacle must attach itself by a form of ‘cement’ to a hard surface such as rocks. That ‘cement’, released from the head end of this small animal, is a very strong adhesive which begins as a clear liquid. As it solidifies, it becomes opaque and rubbery. Once in position, the barnacle begins to secrete calcium-hard plates which totally encase it forming its cone shaped home. And that’s where it stays, head first on the rock, for the rest of its life.

This cone ‘house’ has a door which the barnacle closes when the tide goes out in order to save moisture.  When the tide comes in, as water covers the cone, the door is opened and the barnacle’s six pairs of feathery ‘legs’, feeding appendages, come out and wave in the water collecting plankton for the barnacle to eat.

Rocks covered in Barnacles © JT of jtdytravels; P1130932

Rocks covered in Barnacles © JT of jtdytravels; P1130932

The rocks at the intertidal zone here are covered in barnacles. And that’s just as well, as they need other barnacles to be very close by when it comes to reproduction… not an easy process when stuck to a rock. Most barnacles are hermaphrodites; they have both male and female sex organs. But their eggs must be fertilised by another barnacle. So how is this possible? Each barnacle has a special retractable tube containing sperm With that, it can reach out beyond its cone for several centimetres in order to fertilise a nearby barnacle. Tricky problem; amazingly simple and effective answer.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110147

Fucus sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110147

Extensive beds of Fucus sp., or Rockweed, are common in the mid intertidal zones. such an abundance of this seaweed indicates good water quality; as nutrient pollution increases, so the amount of seaweed declines.

Rock banks covered in Fucus sp. © JT of jtdytravels; P1130930

Rock banks covered in Fucus sp. © JT of jtdytravels; P1130930

Here along the shores of the islands of Alaska’s Inside Passage, where there are no houses. farms or fertilisers, Fucus can be seen on just about every shore. These rockweeds provide food, shelter, and spawning habitat for many sea and shore creatures such as crustaceans, juvenile mussels, snails and fish. These, in turn, attract feeding seabirds. There’s so much inter-dependence in nature, isn’t there!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110151

Ulva sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110151

Sea Lettuce, Ulva sp., is a green algae that has a fine, silky texture with waved or ruffled margins.  The delicate blades of Ulva are usually only 40 microns thick. This algae is usually found in the mid to low intertidal zones and grows from a ‘holdfast’ that keeps it moored to the rocks when the tide rises. It’s common name not only refers to its lettuce like look but also to the fact that it is sometimes eaten in soups or salads.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110155

Salicornia depressa © DY of jtdytravels; P1110155

Salicornia depressa,  commonly called Sea Asparagus is edible, and tastes like salty pickles. The stems are jointed, soft and are about as thick as pencils. They are enveloped in waxy leaves that wrap around the stem so tightly that it’s often hard to tell the leaf and stem apart. In June, when we were in this area, this plant was in it’s green phase. As the weather cools down, they will turn yellow, then orange, then red! How lovely this shore would look then.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110163 2

Rubus  parviflorus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110163 2

 Rubus  parviflorus is an upright shrub of the forest edges. It has multiple, thornless stems, or canes which can reach up to 2.1 m (7ft). The large five pointed leaves are somewhat like an oak leaf but are hairy and soft to the touch. The bark peels off in tiny fragments.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110164

Rubus parvifloris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110164

Rubus  parviflorus is called by some, the “Queen of the Berries”. The flowers form between May and early July and are pollinated by insects. The berries are first pink then scarlet and ripen very quickly if given a sunny day.  They are easy to harvest as the stems are thornless and the berries just fall off at the slightest touch. When fully ripe they soft and delicious… what a shame they were not in fruit in June!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110167

Veronica beccabunga ssp. americana  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110167

Veronica beccabunga ssp. americana, American Brooklime, one of the Speedwell family, is quite rare in the wild. It’s a rather weak plant that grows in gaps in the vegetation on or near the edges of streams, as the name Brooklime suggests. The lilac blue flower has 4 lobes and it has only 2 stamens. If the sun is shining, the flower spreads its petals out flat to attract bees and flower flies. However if the weather is damp, as it is often in this area, the flower only half opens and apparently self-pollinates. It can also propagate itself asexually when side shoots break off and float away during the growing season.

Brooklime is used by dragonflies to perch and view the world and also to lay their eggs; the larvae then use the stems to climb out of the water.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110168

Aruncus dioicus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110168

Aruncus dioicus, or Goatsbeard, is a clump forming perennial plant that likes to have damp roots but can survive in almost any soil, in sun or in light shade. It’s been used by the native peoples as a poultice for bee stings. A ‘tea’ made from its roots has been used to bathe swollen feet and rheumatic joints. We still have so much to learn about the uses of native plants.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110171

Toadstool  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110171

Toadstools are found down among the leaf litter.

And where there are toadstools, there are often slugs.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110170

Banana slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110170

Slugs may not be everyone’s favourite creature but they are really the unsung champions of the forest, eating dead organic material and turning it into soil. This Banana slug,  Ariolimax columbianus, seemed to be enjoying a feed of toadstool.

Banana slugs have two sets of retractable feelers on the head; clearly seen in this photo.  The top ones detect light and the lower ones provide a sense of smell.  Remarkably, if these feelers are destroyed, they will simply grow back!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110179

Dark Coloured Banana Slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110179

Banana slugs come in various colours, often depending on their diet. They have soft bodies and no obvious shell.  A single foot, that looks a little like a skirt, carries the slug via a system of rhythmic waves. To make sure that this foot doesn’t get damaged, the slug secretes a layer of slimy mucus and glides over the ground on that mucus.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110180

Light coloured slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110180

On this very pale Banana slug, the breathing hole, the pneumostone, is open allowing the slug to collect moisture out of the air from which it extracts oxygen. However the lungs are tiny and the slug also has to use the mucus on its foot to help it to breathe. The slime keeps the skin wet so oxygen can be breathed through it.

And there’s yet two more important uses for that slimy mucus. One is in reproduction. The Banana Slug is a hermaphrodite which means that they contain female and male organs. When a slug is ready to mate, it leaves a special chemical in its slime which attracts other slugs. When mating, the two slugs form a heart shape and exchange sperm. Each of them will then lay about 70 eggs. The eggs are not cared for… the young are on their own!

The other use for that slimy mucus is to repel prey. Slugs don’t move fast and offer the promise of an easy meal to other forest creatures. Just one nasty taste can teach a lesson and the mucus leaves a numbing sensation in the mouth as well.  However, thankfully this is not a great deterrent to birds and lizards; otherwise the forest would be covered in slugs!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110187

Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1110187

Here again is that introduced Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens.

It seems to have found its way onto many of the shores in this area.

It is lovely, but….

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110193

Angelica lucida  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110193

Wild Celery or Sea-watch, Angelica lucida, in bud, with a boat-backed beetle.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110196

Angelica lucida with bee © DY of jtdytravels; P1110196

Sea-watch, Angelica lucida, in full flower,with a native bee. This plant is just one of 60 species of the Angelica family which are spread across the northern hemisphere. The name comes from a legend that an archangel revealed to a man named Mattheus Sylvaticus, that this plant was a remedy for the plague and cholera. Both were deadly diseases that took many thousands of lives across Europe. It came to be believed by many that the plant has healing powers. This species, ‘lucida‘, with its pure white flowers is native to much of the west coast of Canada and USA, including Alaska.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130998

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130998

Too soon, it was time to call an end to this wandering.

And once more, Nicky brought the walkers safely back to the ship.

Her work was not yet done; she still had to hoist the DIBs back onto the ship

and clean and check them ready for more adventures.

But for the rest of us…

photos were shared, stories were told over another delicious dinner

and plans were made for the next day.

More of that anon.

.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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One of our aims on this trip was to find and document as many flowering plants as we could. David is, after all, a horticulturist with “sap in his veins” and I’m enamoured of plants and flowers; what more motivation did we need!

Nugget Falls © JT of jtdytravels; P1130474

Nugget Falls © JT of jtdytravels; P1130474

So, now, let’s go plant hunting with David as he wanders towards Nugget Falls in the stunningly beautiful environment of Mendenhall Glacier. There’s not a lot of time for this exploration… time constraint is always a problem in the life of a plant hunter… but with David’s keen eye to find plants endemic to the area, there’s plenty to see and enjoy.

Plant names and notes are given to the best of our knowledge. Should you think otherwise, please let us know in the comment section below. I’ve also researched each plant that David photographed and have found interesting facts about each one to share with you.  

Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130473

Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130473

One fascinating part of plant hunting is to look out for the “succession factor”; in this case the way different plants take their turn in colonising the moraines left bare by a retreating glacier. We look down at a green swathe now, but that has taken maybe a hundred or more years to become established to this point in its evolution. I’ve added David’s photos in a way that will, hopefully, explain how the plant colonisation has happened here in Mendenhall.

Salix sitchensis Sitka Willow © DY of jtdytravels; P1100188

Salix sitchensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100188

The first pioneer plants here are usually the ones whose seeds arrive on the wind, like the spores of mosses; plants that help to bind the rubble into mats onto which other seeds can find a place to grow. Like moss spores, the fluffy seeds of willows such as Salix sitchensis, or Sitka Willow, are so light, they travel on the breeze for some distance, even many kilometres. However, the tiny Salix seed has to find a suitable place to germinate very quickly because it only retains viability for about 24 hours. Undoubtedly, many of the abundant seeds produced by a Salix plant will fall on inhospitable surfaces and die. Those that live are true pioneers.

These willows can survive harsh environments without much nutrient. They reproduce quickly and abundantly but, as early colonisers, they are often stunted in growth and short lived. On their death, their decaying matter provides some nutrients for the next group of colonising plants which naturalists sometimes call “the homesteaders”.

Sitka Alder © DY of jtdytravels; P1100190

Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata © DY of jtdytravels; P1100190

These are the developing cones of Alnus crispa sp.sinuata, known as Sitka Alder, one of the dominant “homesteaders”. They are the first plants to really thrive in recently deglaciated terrain in Alaska and are important because their leaf litter adds nitrogen to the soil (in much the same way as clovers and legumes). With that enrichment of the soil, plants such as willows and cottonwoods have a much better chance of thriving.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1100192

Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata © DY of jtdytravels; P1100192

Mature cones of Sitka Alder, Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata may hang on the trees for long after their seeds are dispersed. Such cones are sometimes electroplated with gold and sold in the gift shops as jewellery. (They might have made the perfect souveneir for our Christmas tree but we didn’t see any for sale and in any case we can’t bring wood products into Australia.)

Boschniakia rossica Northern Groundcone © DY of jtdytravels; P1100193

Boschniakia rossica  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100193

The Alders play host to this unusual plant, Boschniakia rossica, commonly called Northern Groundcone, which looks very much like a bunch of pine cones stuck in the ground. It grows in the dense shade under Alder thickets where not much else can grow. It needs no light as it produces no chlorophyl. It is, in fact, a parasitic herb which lives on the roots of the Alder. What look like cone scales are really brownish, two lipped flowers. Grizzly bears like to feast on these thick fleshy plants… but none were around on this day, fortunately!

The plant is named after a Russian botanist, A.K. Boschniak. That’s not surprising since the Russians had a base in nearby Sitka from 1799 until 1867… the latter being the year that Alaska was purchased from Russia by the USA. 

Lupinus nootkatensis © JY of jtdytravels; P1130481

Lupinus nootkatensis © JY of jtdytravels; P1130481

A plant that is also important in the plant colonisation process here in Alaska is Lupinus nootkatensis, the delightful Alaskan Lupin, or Nootka Lupin, seen growing here in a bed of moss.  Lupins also add much needed nitrogen to the soil, enriching the environment for other plants to survive and thrive. Grizzly bears like to feast on the Lupin roots.

Lupinus nootkatensis is one of the Lupin species from which garden hybrids are derived. It was introduced into Europe in the 18th Century and now grows like a weed in northern Europe, festooning banks with colour in summer. In Iceland, it was introduced to try to stabilise soil, but, it has done so well there, that it’s now endangering native Icelandic plants.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1100177

Pyrola asarifolia  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100177

Another plant commonly found with the Alders are Wintergreens. This one, Pyrola asarifolia, or Pink Wintergreenis the largest of the Wintergreens in the Alaskan coastal forests. There may be 8 to 25  delightful bell or cup shaped flowers along a tall stem. These flowers seem to hang their heads demurely. Perhaps they are not sure what we might think of their secret! For these delicate flowers belong to a plant that is scientifically known as a semisaprophytic plant; it can make its own chlorophyl (hence the semi) but it lives mainly on dead plant and animal material. Saprophytic plants like these require the assistance of fungi to help breakdown the organic material. It’s a delightful but unusual plant!

Pyrola has been used in native medicine as a poultice for sores or swellings.

Lycopodium selago Fir Clubmoss © DY of jtdytravels; P1100203

Lycopodium selago © DY of jtdytravels; P1100203

Another plant used by the native peoples for medicinal purposes is the low growing Lycopodium selago, commonly called Fir Clubmoss or Mountain Clubmoss. It was used as a purgative, a “strong medicine”. It’s also reported to contain a chemical that may be effective against Alzeimer’s Disease. It seems that we still have so much to learn from plants!

Another interesting fact about club mosses is that their spore powder, known as “vegetable sulphur”, is very flammable and has been used to make fireworks and was even used in early flash photography.

The Club moss above is growing in amongst some other mosses. In general, however, many of the mosses and lichens don’t do very well in the leaf litter in the deep shade of Alders. They prefer to grow on the branches as epiphytes where they find some light.

Spruce Trees © JT of jtdytravels; P1130453

Emerging conifer forest © JT of jtdytravels; P1130453

The next stage in the colonisation process is the growth of conifers, especially Spruce and Hemlock. In this photo, Alders are in the lower right corner, while conifers have displaced them on the lakeside bank.  Young conifers may take 100 to 400 years before the Spruce and Hemlock forest, which is endemic to this area, becomes fully established.

Our time at Mendenhall was flying but we still just had time to visit the excellent “Discovery Centre”and take in the documentary made about this glacial area. The interpretative section of the centre was also very well done; I could have spent hours there. However, our time was almost up; the bus awaited our return.

As we walked back down towards the bus, the bank beside the footpath provided us with yet another opportunity to photograph flowers!  

Holodiscus sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1130485

Aruncus dioicus © JT of jtdytravels; P1130485

This lovely plant is Aruncus dioicus (common name bride’s feathers).  It was growing on a moss covered bank of rocks which made a delightful back drop to my photo. It’s a hardy plant; there wasn’t much soil on this steep rocky bank.

P1100205

Holodiscus discolor and Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels P1100205

Holodiscus discolor (Oceanspray) was growing on recently disturbed soil amongst a delightful swathe of Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens. Note the reddish stems of the Oceanspray.  Another common name for this plant is ‘ironwood’, because of the hardness of those woody stems. Native peoples made these stems even harder by heating them over a fire before using them to make digging sticks, small spears, harpoon shafts, and arrows. Some native groups even used the stems for salmon barbequing sticks.They have also been made into knitting needles. Before the advent of nails, pegs made from the stems were used in construction projects.

As a medicine, some groups made an infusion of the brownish fruiting clusters to help stop diarrhoea. The infusion was also used as a blood tonic and to counteract measles and chickenpox.  Indeed, a particularly useful plant.

Epilobium latifolium © DY of jtdytravels; P1100211

Chamerion angustifolium © DY of jtdytravels; P1100211

On the same bank David found this very common roadside plant, a member of the Evening Primrose family, Chamerion angustifolium, formerly known as Epilobium angustifolium. It is known by the names of Tall Fireweed, Great Willowherb or Rosebay Willowherb. Is it any wonder we need the Latin names for plants; so many common names for one plant.

Unlike other types of Fireweed, this one has unbranched erect stems. The buds grow on tall red stemmed spikes. They burst into flower from the lowest buds first. Again, this plant looks delightful against a background of golden moss.

Locals in Alaska make a syrup from Fireweed and they also enjoy Fireweed honey. What they also know is that when Fireweed stops flowering, winter is upon them!

Yellow Daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130484

Yellow Daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130484

It always amazes to me that, almost anywhere you go in this world, at least one member of the daisy family, Asteraceae, will find a place to make it’s sunny presence felt. This is not a planted garden; it’s a natural bank of plants. They are always a welcome sight to me.

Bank of white daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130488

Bank of white daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130488

And just before I climbed on board the bus after a most enjoyable afternoon, I stopped to admire a bank of white daisies; how appropriate near a glacier!

Fly pollinating white daisy © JT of jtdytravels; P1130456

Fly pollinating white daisy © JT of jtdytravels; P1130456

And, of course, I couldn’t resist a closer look! Simple, very common and yet…

so stunningly beautiful.

Our plant hunting in Mendenhall might be over but there is plenty more to come!

It’s now time to get ready to board our home for the next week,

the small, but good ship, “Sea Lion”

Jennie and David

Thought for today:

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed

and to have my senses put into tune once more.

John Burrough (1837 – 1921)

American Naturalist

More of our travel posts can be found on

www.dymusings.com

and photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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