One amazing thing about getting outside in nature is that there’s always something new to discover. But some plant species are seen so often that we sometimes forget about them. There’s something to be said for consistency, so let’s take a moment to highlight five common, yet amazing, plants in the Credit River Watershed:
It’s Ontario’s provincial flower, with three white pointed petals that are approximately five centimeters long.
In healthy hardwood forests, trilliums bloom during late April and May. They thrive during the brief time when the sunlight can get to the forest floor before the trees have their leaves. A large patch of trilliums is truly a treat for the eyes.
The common cattail grows in wet areas such as marshes, shorelines and around the edges of ponds. Its green leaves are very long and pointed like a spear or sword. Brown seed heads are cylindrical and resemble hot-dogs.
Cattails help support a healthy environment by filtering contaminants out of the water. In the fall, they suck all their nutrients back into their roots, and leave tall, dried, brown stalks standing. In the spring, they send up new shoots.
The goldenrod plant is a sign that summer is winding down. It blooms mid to late summer and early fall. Yellow clusters of tiny flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
It’s often mistaken for ragweed and thought to cause hay fever, but goldenrod actually produces sticky pollen that is transported by insects instead of the wind.
In the late fall and winter, a small round gall can often be found on the stems. The plant forms the gall where a fly has laid an egg and a small larva grows inside. Often, downy woodpeckers will peck into these galls for a snack.
If you’ve gone hiking, you’ve likely had a run in with burdock. Originally from Europe, the “burs” (seed clusters) have tiny hooks on them that get stuck on anything it comes in contact with from animal fur to your clothes. When the seed cluster is carried it drops out small seeds which help the plant spread.
In the 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swedish scientist was walking his dog, and his dog’s fur had collected some of the burs. He looked at them under a microscope, saw the tiny hooks, and was inspired to create “velcro”.
Milkweed is about three to five feet tall, with clusters of pink and purple flowers at top of plant offer great quantities of nectar for bees, butterflies and moths.
In the summer, if you take some time to watch a milkweed patch, you might get to watch beautiful monarchs feeding on the plant. Monarch butterflies lay eggs on this plant, as the caterpillars feed exclusively on it. The plant’s toxic milky-looking sap prevents feeding from most animals.
Bumpy green seed pods turn brown in the fall and open up to release seeds that have silky fibres attached. This seed structure allows the seeds to be carried away in the fall wind and helps the species spread.
The Credit River Watershed is home to countless plant species that we are fortunate to see year after year, indicating a healthy ecosystem for them to establish and thrive.
By Kimberley Laird, Associate, Marketing and Communications