Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dog Strangling Vine

I found an isolated clump of Dog Strangling Vine on the berm just south of the end of Newhaven St. last spring. From the size of it and the evidence of prior year's vines it looked like it had been quietly expanding for the past 3-5 years. There is more Dog Strangling Vine a few hundred meters to the west but it has only expanded about 50m eastward in the past couple of years. Dog Strangling Vine is a terribly invasive plant. The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is practically covered in the stuff. They have a group of volunteers that fights it, and from their descriptions it is very hard to control.

I thought I would give it a go by carefully taking out this small clump with hand pulling. The clump had about 100-200 plants in it, and it only took a few minutes to pull up the bulk of them. I came back two times over the summer to make sure that I hadn't missed any and each time found a few more to pull. I didn't attempt any careful destruction of the pulled plants but just left them to dry out on the grass. In my judgement that was just fine as the plants were not in contact with the soil and quickly dried out. According to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden's instructions you should black bag them.

The plant likes the forest edge environment although it can also tolerate the full shade of the interior as well. As an invasive, there is little that eats it and I expect eventually the dog strangling vine close to Ben Franklin park will travel along the berm to the renaturalization area. I have been fitfully pulling it up to knock it back, but there is so much of it in that area I can never get all of it. This experiment with this isolated clump is to see what it really takes to eradicate it.

Typical clump of Dog Strangling Vine. Note previous year's vines
Before the flower buds open, it can be easily pulled.
Young Plant. Note opposite, dark green shiny leaves
With moist soil you can taking a portion of the roots as well.
It likes to climb bushes and trees
It has small dull flowers
Closer inspection shows the flowers have a purple hew with a yellow center.
They produce long narrow seed pods, that turn yellow over summer.
In early fall the pods dry out and open up.
They produce fluffy seeds similar to those of the related milkweed.
The seeds are prolific and seedlings can be found in clumps close to the mother plant.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

False Dandelion

I've never noticed this flower in November. Here are False Dandelions doing a good job of looking like dandelions. There are also a few dandelions flowering out as well. Usually false dandelions are a summer flower and are much taller than dandelions but at this time of year they both are just poking their heads up above the lawn. I believe fine days like today encourage the plants to see if it is spring yet.

Both Dandelions and false dandelions are supposed to be "edible". I've never tried false dandelions, but if dandelions are anything to go by, "edible" is a very loose term. In the interests of science I suppose I should give them a try.

Hundreds of crows were flying overhead yesterday at dusk, heading east. I've been noticing these flocks for years. It never looks like a lot of birds at any one time because they are so high up and spread out, but the silent stream of birds lasts for quite a few minutes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Black locusts

There is a black locust along the fence line behind Kirkstall that is throwing suckers out into the long grass. Yesterday I transplanted another black locust sucker to the naturalization area. Black locusts are natives to North America but are at the very northern limit of their range in Ottawa. They have thorns and vigorously sucker so aren't a good backyard tree but they have sweet smelling flowers in spring and fix nitrogen for the soil.

While lugging the sucker back to the naturalization area I saw a few relatively uncommon animals: a pretty monarch butterfly fluttering along the edge of the forest, a group of swallows taking insects on the wing and a turkey vulture soaring high above.

Monday, August 3, 2015


This looks like Toxomerus marginatus, a common type of hoverfly. It is feeding on a wild parsnip flower. The wild parsnip has not spread far from the location of the single plant that was there in 2013. There are a couple of smaller flowering plants but no large 6 foot tall plant like in 2013.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Clouded Plant Bug

A clouded plant bug hanging out on a Canada Thistle flower. They seem to like this plant as I photographed a couple of them feeding on another thistle flower last year.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ants and Aphids

A black ant tending her flock of poplar leaf aphids as they feed on a young aspen sapling. On the leaf to the right you can also see the tracks of a common aspen leaf miner with the culprit himself at the end of the trail.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Eastern Cottonwoods

The tallest trees of the 1995 plantings are the Eastern Cottonwoods. They are now about 75 feet tall whereas the rest of the forest canopy looks to be about 40 feet high. They grow quickly and the 20 year old trees already have substantial trunks. They are, however, very short lived trees; some of them have already toppled over. The cottonwoods take their name from the fluff their seed pods produce (see above). The ground beneath the female trees can be covered in the stuff in late June.

The cottonwoods sucker but their suckers are not particularly successful, dying back either in winter or in summer droughts. Only one sucker, pictured above, in the 2009 planting area has survived for more than 3 years. When the suckers do grow, they grow very quickly and can reach over 6 feet in a single season. The large shiny triangular leaves, pictured below, are quite distinctly different from the other suckering poplar species on the berm: the smaller rounded leaves of the aspen suckers (see last picture). As can be seen in the picture, that aspen sapling is suffering from poplar leaf aphids.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

Field Horsetail

Creeping charlie, burdock and field horsetail.

There is a fairly large colony of field horsetail growing on the north east side of the berm adjacent to the backyards of Kimdale. The mower hasn't been able to reach this steep shady slope for the past four or five years and other plants have taken the opportunity to expand and diversify the plant community of this grassy slope. Field horsetail is dead common but I have never learned the name for it until now. That is what this blog is for: to encourage me to extend my knowledge of the common plants and animals around me.

Last Monday a day long rain broke what was turning into a bit of a dry spell with the temperature rising to the high 20s for about a week. The new growth of sumac by the road was wilting from the lack of rain. The next evening it was very warm and humid when I visited the berm after dusk. The bats and fireflies came out, as did the mosquitoes. We had another good rain on Saturday and the temperatures are now considerably cooler.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spiral Tree Protectors

After 6 years some of the trees are outgrowing the spiral tree protectors. I took some of the spiral protectors off last fall from the largest trees and most of the rest from the 2009 trees this spring. Unfortunately, as a result, one of the last remaining sugar maple saplings was completely girdled by the field mice over winter. But if I don't take them off I am worried that the trees will be choked by the tree protectors themselves. On some of the trees, as in the picture above, the plastic spirals were starting to constrict the growth of the trunk.

Sometimes the tree protectors fail to fully protect the trunk yet the tree is lucky because of some small factor like the stick in the picture below protecting a portion of the trunk, other times they are lucky one year but not the next. Sometimes they will come back and sprout up from below where they were girdled. In that situation the new bark of the sprouts is very attractive to the field mice the next winter. Occasionally the tree is super lucky and the field mice spare one or two just because they can't reach all sides of the sprout.

In the end I'm not sure there is much that can be done for some species of trees except not plant them in a location that is attractive to meadow voles (field mice). It occurred to me today that one might have more success planting sugar maples in a raspberry bush than in an old field.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Bloom

It broke 30 degrees last week and suddenly everything is in bloom:

  • Crab Apple
  • Canada Plum
  • Dandelions
  • Forget-Me-Nots
  • Elderberry
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Daffodil
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Trilliums
  • Bloodroot
  • Yellow Rocket
  • Violets

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flickers Courting

A couple of common flickers eyeing each other high up in the poplar trees.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Winter twenty steps from Spring

Starlings and Red-Wings are back on the berm telling us it's spring but the northside hasn't got the memo yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

End of Winter

This winter has been cold; it has stayed below -10C for most of February. The Rideau Canal Skateway was open for a record breaking 59 days this winter but finally closed for the season yesterday. The past three days, with pleasant sunny days melting the snow off the roof and eating away the snow banks along the road, have definitely ended the cold streak. We may have more snow and even more cold weather ahead but it is days like today that let you know that winter has lost its grip.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Deep Freeze

We've been in a deep freeze for about two weeks. We had some freezing rain a couple of weeks ago and we have five or six inches of nice fluffy snow resting on top of the ice layer. Tomorrow it is supposed to briefly go above zero before going back into the deep freeze for the rest of the week.