Mont Ham


A fabulous hike on a perfect winter day. The sky was blue, the temperature was warm, the winds were calm and the snow was deep. The best part? Sliding back down the mountain on our butts.




Withering away


Thistles can be quite bothersome for wandering pets, unaware humans and hungry browsers. The Canada Thistle, pictured here, is considered invasive of fields and are very widespread. Cattle and other foragers, like deer, won’t eat them because of their spines so their populations aren’t kept in check. Anyone that has tried to remove them from their lawn knows that they have large taproots anchoring them to the ground. Not everyone finds them unpalatable – in their native range, butterflies eat their nectar and some birds like their seeds. This plant is edible for those that are brave enough to pick it.

Curled up


Taxonomically, ferns are considered vascular plants but they don’t reproduce like seed-bearing plants. The orange clusters are composed of sori (singular sorus).  They contain the sporangium, the reproductive structures of ferns, and are usually found on the underside of the fern leaf. Sori are an important visual clue to fern identification. They can be circular, like Polypodium virginianum (Rock polypody, seen here), or comma shaped. The protective covering of sori, the indusium, is absent in Polypodium. Arrangement along the leaf also matters; rows in this case. In our area, Polypodium grow in places with little or no soil such as rocks, cliffs and outcrops. I found this example on a big rock.

Alder Bells


Best wishes for you and your dearest during the Holiday Season. Health, hope, happiness and light.


Link to Silver Bells by Bing Crosby

Wintry reflections

Falling over, again


Birches are amazingly resilient to bending. This time last year, a severe ice storm coated everything with an inch of ice and knocked out power through Christmas. This week, we have been dealt a cocktail of weather; cold, warm, snow, rain and ice. The birches has fallen over again under the weight of 6″ of heavy snow. I kept watching though the night as the trees sunk lower toward the power lines. Besides the broken branches, we were spared the worst this time. I am sure everything will bounce back upright by Spring.

Snow-capped clubmoss


The weather here has been wild. It has already been below -20oC (0oF) and the snow was beautifully crisp. The stiff clubmoss in the back was just peaking through the soft, fluffy snow. A common fern ally (non-vascular plant that is not a true fern), Lycopodium annotinum is found around the world in a belt around the boreal forests and in colder conifer forests.  Some authorities now recognize this species as a Spinulum, but not here in Quebec. When I was a kid, I thought their relative, Lycopodium clavatum, were miniaturized conifer trees.

A year of botany


9200 pictures taken. 208 photos published in 138 posts, 67 about plants. 130 followers. 2582 visits.  Thanks to every one of you for following and supporting me along the way. The coming year brings new projects but I hope to keep bringing more tidbits about botany to you. There is lots to see out there and lots more plants to capture! Southern Quebec is a diverse area so I’ll keep snapping away. Here’s to another year!

Blue-bead lily


Blue-bead lily is as recognizable for its prominent yellow flowers as its dark blue berries that appear later in the Summer. While the leaves are not similar, the berries could be mistaken for blueberries or blue cohosh. Blue-bead lily fruits are not edible and are reputed to be mildly toxic but no literature supports or refutes this. They taste bad anyway.

Its reproduction works at two speeds. Clintonia grows in clumps on the forest floor through vegetative reproduction. Those clumps are not individual plants but one big clone that has spread through its rhizomes over the years. Why? Because sexual reproduction through its fruit is a costly and rare event. Only about 10% of ramets (individual in a clone) flower each year. It takes about 8 times as much energy to produce a fruit than to produce a new ramet. It isn’t really known how often reproduction through its fruit is successful. This could work in two ways for the species with climate change: It seems resistant to slower environmental changes but could be susceptible to abrupt ones. For example, individual populations could be resistant to warming, up to a point, but will likely be very slow to expand their northern limit into newly available areas because dispersal is so slow. Another factor is high deer populations – they reduce Clintonia densities because they like to eat the young emerging leaves in the Spring.

Reference: Flore printanière 

Frosty tips

Homestead Houligan

Building a Homestead...One Lesson at a Time

Small Pond Science

Research, teaching, and mentorship in the sciences

Dynamic Ecology

Multa novit vulpes

Early Career Ecologists

Questioning, Researching, and Communicating our Science

Arthropod Ecology

Writings about arthropod ecology, arachnids & academia at McGill University

nature has no boss

images as thoughts

H.J. Ruiz - Avian101

"My Backyard Visitors" - All about birds - The world is my backyard!