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Take a walk with me – Lambton Woods

Giant puffball

Some years, Lambton Woods is a great place to go to find giant puffballs in September. There have been some years when I’ve seen 10 or more soccer ball sized puffballs near the trail. Today I only saw a couple. It looks like something has been eating chunks out of the one I photographed. Giant puffballs are edible. I like them sliced into steaks, dipped in egg and then panko and fried up. If you find one and you want to eat it, the first thing to do is slice it in half. If it is in fact a giant puffball, it will be uniform inside (no shape of a mushroom within). They are good to eat when they are solid white throughout.

Trestle over the Humber

How many times have I walked this trail? How many times have I stood on the footbridge and photographed the Humber River and the trestle? I have to say dozens at least. It isn’t a remote area. There are always people out walking or riding their bikes on the trails. It is an area that shows off a good variety of plant and bird life, and at times mushroom life as well, and it’s an area that is constantly changing through the seasons. It’s a treasure in Toronto in my opinion and not a far drive from where I live.

Today as I walked away from the car toward the woods, I was greeted by a blue jay, happy to move around on its branch, posing for me.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

The star of today’s walk were the abundant spotted jewelweed flowers (Impatiens capensis). Throughout the walk I saw these bushy plants showing off their bright orange blooms. This plant has some medicinal properties. I’ve read that the juice extracted from the leaves and stems has been used by Indigenous peoples to treat skin rashes, including poison ivy. The effectiveness of the plant for this purpose has been supported by peer review study. However, the studies (apparently – I haven’t read them) also concluded that some people are sensitive to jewelweed and applying the juices can cause a skin rash even worse than poison ivy in those people, so you take you chances I suppose. The plant also has scientifically verified fungicidal properties and has been used to treat athlete’s foot.

Spotted Jewelweed

Buckthorn berries

The berries of the buckthorn shrub look attractive but better not eat them. The scientific, or Latin name for the plant tells us why: Ramnus cathartica. Eating these berries is sure to cause a cathartic experience. The buckthorn is a non-native invasive species. It was brought here from Europe as an ornamental plant, but it has spread widely, so much so that it is very likely you will see examples of this bush on most of our urban trails.

Is this the New England Aster?

We have half a dozen or more species of asters which bloom each fall in Ontario. I confess I’m not great at identifying them to the species. My best guess at this one is the New England Aster.

The City has been planning to rebuild a bridge over what amounts to a ditch on the trail for some time, and they’ve finally got around to it. It’s a sturdy bridge for sure, made from steel as it is, but it strikes me as overkill in this forested area.

The new bridge

Compare it to one of the older bridges crossing similar spans.

An older bridge

Which do you like better? I think the wooden bridge fits much better into the landscape, and does the job just fine.

A hole in the forest

In order to construct the new steel bridge, the City had to make some room to get their equipment in there, so they’ve clear-cut a swath of forest. I expect they will plant some native species in there, but in the meantime it’s quite a scar on the landscape.

Toward the end of my walk, I was fortunate to run into naturalist Miles Hearn, out with a group for a nature walk. I’ve participated in many of Miles’ walks for the Toronto District School Board and I highly recommended them. Miles is tremendously knowledgeable about birds and plants and I’ve learned so much from him! The injury I sustained to my right knee over a year ago now, along with the pandemic, sidelined me from continuing the walks for a while but I’m looking forward to rejoining them for the spring session. Check out Miles’ website where he has documented all the walks he’s done going back well over a decade.

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