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Posts Tagged ‘Ranunculus repens’

 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110352

A cloudy afternoon © DY of jtdytravels; P1110352

The weather looked decidedly unpromising as our Captain repositioned the ship from George Island back along Icy Strait and into another sheltered cove where Fox Creek enters the sea.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110353

The clouds begin to lift © DY of jtdytravels; P1110353

Fortunately, as everyone prepared for the afternoon on shore, the clouds lifted.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110356

Elymus mollis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110356

This was another rocky shoreline. It’s amazing the places plants find enough nutrients to grow. This elegant grass known as Dune Grass or Dune Wild Rye;  Elymus mollis,  is a native grass that only grows in coastal areas. It’s hardy with strong, erect stems up to 30cm (1ft) long which have been used by native peoples to make twine and bindings .

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110357

Elymus mollis © DY of jtdytravels;  P1110357

A close up of the inflorescence of the Dune grass show it to be very soft and hairy.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110358

Grass  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110358

This grass is not native to Alaska. It’s a European beach grass which is gradually dominating the coastal areas that were once the domain of the native Dune Grass, Elymus mollis.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110366

Kayak preparation © DY of jtdytravels; P1110366

Heavy skies but the crew goes ahead to prepare the kayaks.

Note the rocky beach; not easy walking.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110368

Kayak group © DY of jtdytravels; P1110368

The kayakers prepare for a paddle in this sheltered bay.

There’ll be no DIB exploring today.

© DY of jtdytravels ; P1110369

Senecio pseudo-arnica © DY of jtdytravels ; P1110369

The Beach Groundsel or Seaside Ragwort; Senecio pseudo-arnica, is a daisy… yet another member of the large Aster family. It’s stout stem is surrounded by luxuriant foliage of fleshy, large, oval leaves which are green above & fuzzy white below.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110370

Senecio pseudo-arnica  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110370

We were just too early in the season to see these Senecio pseudo-arnica flower heads burst open with bright yellow rays surrounding a darker yellow disc of flowers. These daisies are not native to Alaska; they’re abundant along the shores of the eastern and western Pacific and the western Atlantic. The common name of Groundsel seems to be derived from an Old English word grundeswylige which meant ground swallower! And, yes, it often becomes a weed.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110375

Honckenya peploides © DY of jtdytravels; P1110375

Beach Greens or Seabeach Sandwort; Honckenya peploides, is a low growing plant that is found on gravelly beaches near the high tide line. It can even survive being covered by sea water during an especially high tide. It’s densely covered with fleshy, pointed leaves. The flower petals are spatula shaped, shorter than the prominent green sepals.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110378

The beach walkers! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110378

It’s always pleasant to just wander along a beach to see what can be found.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110379

Mertensia maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110379

Mertensia maritima, is, as its species name suggests, a plant of the seashore. It has a circumpolar range on the northern beaches of the British Isles, Scandinavia, Greenland, and northern North America. It’s an attractive perennial herbaceous plant with a long spirally-twisted taproot that anchors the plant to the gravelly beach. One common name, Sea Bluebell, refers to the lovely blue bell like flowers. The clusters of flowers begin as pink buds before turning blue. Another common name is Oyster Plant. This name refers to the silvery blue-green, thick, oval leaves which, some say, taste of oysters.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110381

Mertensia maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110381

A shower of rain just added extra beauty to this Sea Bluebell flower.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110386

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110386

The Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonica is also known as Lathyrus maritimus. It’s a lovely climbing or trailing plant that grows over other plants along the edges of gravelly beaches.  Flower buds are deep reddish purple gradually turning to a deeper purple.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110384

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110384

Fully opened flowers of Lathyrus japonica, have intricately veined petals.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110385

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110385

Beach Pea is native to temperate parts of Europe, Asia, North and South America. They ‘travel’ far and wide! The seeds, housed in long pods, have the amazing ability to remain viable while floating in the ocean for up to five years. Where-ever they wash ashore, the seeds germinate when the hard outer seed coat is bruised and opened by wave action on sand and gravel.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110387

Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1110387

Another world wide ‘traveller’ is the Creeping Buttercup; Ranunculus repens.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110388

Castilleja unalaschensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110388

Unalaska Paintbrush; Castilleja unalaschensis, is similar to the red paintbrush we saw earlier at Pond Island, except it has yellow rather than red bracts surrounding the flowers. 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110390

Platanthera dilatata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110390

The lovely White Bog Orchids; Platanthera dilatata, are probably the easiest orchids to identify because of their pure white flowers and sweet perfume. David found these on every walk here in the Tongass National Forest area. Yes, they might be common; but they are beautiful. This one had a very tall stem that did not fit into the photo. In the right conditions, the stems of these plants can be a meter in length with up to 100 flowers per stem.

Bog Orchids have been seen in their thousands in marshy spots beside roads and in forests in mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest. What a sight that would be!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110398

Fritillaria camschatcensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110398

Fritillaria camschatcensis, as its species name suggests, is native of the Russian Kamchatkan Peninsular, just across the sea from Alaska. This lily looks lovely but it has a really bad smell which it uses that to attract flies as pollinators. It has at least four common names; Black Lily or Chocolate Lily for the colour of its flowers. Indian Rice or Eskimo Potato are a little more obscure. They refer to the way native people used the plant’s clusters of tiny white bulbs which resemble rice and were used in much the same way as rice in times past. Now rice is plentiful in shops and the art of harvesting and cooking the lily roots has all but disappeared.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110415

Fritillaria camschatcensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110415

Close up of the lily flower of Fritillaria camschatcensis.

The group now left the beach and turned into the forest to explore along Fox Creek,

a  forest that is a well known feeding place for grizzly bears.

Whether they came across a bear or not will have to wait until the next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

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 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

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After our hot walk up the hill to the muskeg plateau, I was ready for a rest while David went off to explore some of the small town of Petersburg. He was intrigued by a building that we could see from the ship, one that had a viking ship beside it. David has been fascinated by the stories of the Vikings ever since his exploration of the Viking Islands a few years ago. The story of that trip is written up with photos on our other travel website www.dymusings.com.

Map of Petersburg by Google

Map of Petersburg by Google

A quick look at the town map shows that it is developed on a grid system of roads. It would be difficult to get lost! This is it. The only roads are within the town area. There are no roads from here to any other part of Alaska. The only way in or out is by water or by air.

The red marker was David’s first goal; the Memorial Park and Hall but he would explore further. As we looked at the streets on the map we noted at least five different types of church for a town of this size; Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Bethesda Fellowship. They were not actually on his list to find; he was looking for a book shop. We had seen a very good book on plants of Alaska and, as usual, we should have bought it when we saw it!

Norway Hall Petersburg

Sons of Norway Hall, Petersburg

Located along Sing Lee Alley, the Sons of Norway Lodge building dates back to 1912 when 60 charter members borrowed money and sold $5.00 shares to enable them to construct the hall. Their aim was, and still is, to share and promote the town’s proud Norwegian heritage.  In 1984 the hall was placed on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places.

The hall has been at the centre of the community. It has been witness to many wedding receptions, parties, dances, potluck dinners and coffee get togethers. 

Fishermen's Memorial ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100537

Fishermen’s Memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100537

Built on pilings over Hammer Slough, The Bojer Wikan Fishermen’s Memorial Park stands in front of the hall and was built in 2000 in memory of the many fishermen from this small town who have lost their lives at sea.

It was here that David found the viking ship, the Valhalla. It was built in 1976 in New Jersey to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the USA. After appearing in many parades across the USA, including a Tall Ship Parade in new York, it was bought by the Petersburg Little Norway Festival Committee. The Lodge is now responsible for the boat’s maintenance; it stands proudly in front of their hall.

Fisherman memorial ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100538

Fisherman memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100538

Bojer Wikan, a long-time fisherman who promoted the idea of the memorial park, is remembered by this impressive bronze statue. He represents all fishermen.

Memorial plaques

Memorial plaques

Many memorial name plaques have been placed on the column beneath the Bojer Wikan statue and many more on the low wall that surrounds the park. Reading those plaques is a salient reminder of dangers that face the fishermen, especially in days past when ships were less seaworthy and help in the form of radios and rescue helicopters were not available.

Old village houses ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100528

A backwater © DY of jtdytravels; P1100528

After visiting the memorial, David’s walk took him on into the town.

There are reminders everywhere that this is a fishing village.

Ranunculus repens © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100530

Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1100530

Gardens aren’t a great feature of this town, at least in the part David walked through. But there were occasional plants giving some bright colour like this Creeping Buttercup; Ranunculus repens. This plant is not native to Alaska and, as in so many parts of the world, it has become a weed, finding a root hold in disturbed soil along road sides in settled areas.

Crow on path ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100534

Crow  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100534

Apart from seabirds, we hadn’t seen many land birds; but every town has crows!

Petersburg Street©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100544

Petersburg Street© DY of jtdytravels; P1100544

Petersburg is not filled with souveneir shops; there are few tourists here.

David was still in search of the local bookshop.

Rosa nutkana ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100543

Rosa nutkana © DY of jtdytravels; P1100543

He not only found the bookshop, but it had a small garden with a group of rose bushes in flower; the Nootka Rose, Rosa nutkana. This native rose grows from northern California into Alaska. It’s named after Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where it was first described.

The Nootka Rose is undoubtedly a very good rose to grow here. The attractive five petaled pink blooms have a subtle sweet perfume. They appear from May through July. The round, red rose hips, stay on the plant throughout the winter, giving colour throughout most of the year.  The plant is hardy, grows in both full sun and partial shade, can tolerate flooding and drought and grows well in many different soil types. And, here in Alaska, it’s pest free. What more could you want?

Museum  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100546

Museum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100546

The Petersburg Fisheries museum is housed in a rather attractive building.

Unfortunately, time did not permit a look inside.

Plaque ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100547

Plaque © DY of jtdytravels; P1100547

A plaque commemorates the founder of the town, and of the fisheries, Norwegian Peter Buschman. The plaque says that he “built a canner on this site in 1897. The business prospered and, as a result, the town of Petersburg grew up around it.”

Totem poles © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100553

Totem poles © DY of jtdytravels; P1100553

Petersburg has two 35 foot high red cedar totem poles. They were carved in 2000 by Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph and are placed in a small park directly across the street from the Municipal Building and Buschmann Park. They bring all sections of this community together, the original peoples and the “newcomers”.

Creek view ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100557

Creek view © DY of jtdytravels; P1100557

The tide was coming further in as David made his way back to the ship. Reflections of these old buildings in the slough were quite picturesque.

Rubus spectabilis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100551

Rubus spectabilis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100551

On the way, he was able to sample a yellow variety of Rubus spectabilis. 

Salmonberry comes in both reds and yellows; equally tasty.

Bridge over creek © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100559

Bridge over creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1100559

Even the old bridges need to be kept in good order here.

They are the only means of getting from one part of the town to another.

Hieracium aurantiacum ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100562

Hieracium aurantiacum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100562

Here, by the roadside, David found another introduced plant, Hieracium aurantiacum, known in Alaska and western USA as the Devil’s Paintbrush.  It was probably introduced to these areas as a garden plant by immigrants from Europe who would have known it as Orange Hawkweed. It’s one of Europe’s native Asters. Lovely as it is, it’s an extremely invasive plant, a weed, if we take the usual definition of a weed as ‘a plant out of place’.

Orange hawkweed is not just a problem in Alaska and the USA. It’s on the ‘Alert List for Environmental Weeds’, in Australia; a list of 28 “nonnative plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage”, especially in alpine areas and the temperate tablelands in eastern Australia. The problem is that it quickly fills spaces that are necessary for the regeneration and survival of native species. It squeezes out the native plants.

Fishing Decorations ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100564

Fishing Decorations © DY of jtdytravels; P1100564

Back down at the marina, David found buildings decorated with fishing floats…

evidence that this place is home to fishermen.

"Sea Lion" at Petersburg Dock © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100565

“Sea Lion” at Petersburg Dock © DY of jtdytravels; P1100565

“Sea Lion” awaited his return; and so did I.

Like you, David’s photos were my window on the town of Petersburg.

"Sea Lion" maintenance ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100568

“Sea Lion” maintenance © DY of jtdytravels; P1100568

While we’d been out exploring during the day, crew members had been doing maintenance; a never ending task especially when the ship is in port. All crew members have to multi-task!

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130777

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130777

When everyone had returned to the ship, we farewelled Petersburg and set sail back out of the channel towards another wilderness destination.

Island homes ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130889

Island homes © JT of jtdytravels; P1130889

Near the head of the channel, this small home was bathed in late evening light. Very soon, we were turning north into Frederick Sound and sailing off into the twilight after another very special day in Alaska. But there was another treat to come! Down in the dining room, a feast of freshly caught Dungeness Crab with grilled corn awaited us. It was indeed delicious.

More 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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