I almost didn’t make today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn up at Rouge Hills Park, because I was about a kilometer behind the tanker truck fire that shut down all eastbound lanes of the 401. This was in the Bayview/Leslie area. When it finally opened up (good thing I left plenty early) I had about 15 minutes to make it to Rouge Hills, knowing the nature walks normally start right at 10:00. I may have exceeded the speed limit just a little bit as I adjusted the flaps on the Honda Fit and went into warp drive, arriving right on time.
I love this spot. There are several trails and they’re all wonderful, going through a variety of landscape.
It sure looked like it was going to rain for a while there, but that passed. The cloudy conditions were excellent for looking at the forest colours though.
One of the most common plants we saw today was knapweed. I wonder if it was named after some distant relative. Although that would be most interesting to find out, I’m not anywhere near curious enough to send data as personal and far-reaching as DNA to some corporation to get a so-called expert opinion.
I was surprised at how few mushrooms we saw in the woods today. There were some slippery jacks, one example of velvet-footed pax, some resupinates (that look more or less like paint on wood), some turkey tails and a few spent pear-shaped puffballs.
Here are two plants which look kind of similar, bellwort and false solomon seal.
The false solomon seal have berries at this time of year, above the leaves. The leaves on the bellwort look similar but you can see in the picture the stem weaves through the leaves in a unique way. I recall seeing bellwort earlier in bloom and at that time, the plant looked quite different to me. One of the interesting things about going on these nature walks from early spring right through the fall is having the chance to see plants at different points in their cycles.
I had never noticed cones on red cedar before, and had Miles not pointed them out I would not have noticed them today, but they are quite unique.
I learned another interesting fact today – the veins on the leaves of dogwoods never reach the edges of the leaves. You can see that on the picture of an alternate-leaved dogwood below.
Once again the stars of the walk were the great variety of asters in bloom at this time. We saw two common asters, the heath aster and the New England aster as well as a hybrid of the two, known as the amethyst aster.
Other asters Miles identified today included the heart-leaved aster, the large-leaved aster, as well as the rayless aster, which has no rays or petals.
Miles pointed out that the rayless aster likes salt and so it can often be found on the sides of roads.
Next week we go to Lambton Woods along the Humber River, another lovely spot – this one just a short drive from home.
Note that Miles Hearn publishes a nature walk report on every walk he conducts over at his website, which also includes many excellent articles. It’s a fantastic resource.