Friday, March 12, 2010

Churchill in Bloom

The tundra is a truly beautiful place when it is in flower. Adding to the spectacular show are orchids, tiny shrubs, and an assortment of other wildflowers. While it took a while for everything to start blooming this particular summer because of prolonged cold, once things popped, it was truly breathtaking.

One of my favorite plants around Churchill was the Lapland Rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum), a relative of the large Rhododendron bushes that are planted in gardens across the U.S. This plant is everywhere, and, when it blooms, it covers the ground with its purple blossoms, and fills the air with a wonderful fragrance.

Detail of Rhododendron lapponicum.

Tundra full of blooming Rhododendron. All the purple is flower.

Botanically, Churchill is probably best known for its beautiful orchids. There are many species that can be found there, some only in the boggy boreal forest, some on the tundra, and others in edge habitat. I think I only missed one major orchid while I was there.

Small Northern Bog Orchid (Platanthera obtusata) - there are at least two species of Platanthera that look very similar, with differences including general height, and the presence of leaves on the stem. The two Platanthera species were the two most common orchids around Churchill.

Northern Coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida) - two different individuals. This orchid is neat because it is saprophytic, which means that it does not produce its own food, and instead sucks its nutrients from the roots of other nearby plants

Northern Twayblade (Listera borealis) - a very rare plant in Churchill, and only known from one location

Round-leafed Orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia) - one of the more common orchid species around Churchill

Franklin's (or Sparrow-Egg) Lady Slipper (Cypripedium passerinum) - one of the larger and showier orchids of Churchill, this species is particularly interesting because it commonly self-fertalizes, which is rare among orchids, many of which have developed elaborate methods to attract pollinators and prevent self-pollinzation.

In addition to the orchids, there were many other neat plants around Churchill, some of which became very familiar after habitat surveys and vegetation plots that we completed.

Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) - usually the first flower to open on the tundra in the spring

Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens) - not an actual azalea, this very tiny but beautiful flower was uncommon on the tundra, and had a sweet fragrance

Andromeda (Andromeda poliofolia) - very common, and was in almost every veg. plot we did

Dwarf Labrador Tea (Ledum decumbens)

Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) - one of two carnivorous plants in Churchill (the other also a butterwort). Bugs get stuck to the leaves, and in some cases, the leaves will curl around the insect, and digest them

Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia) - a tiny relative of the much larger shrub, Mountain Laurel, which grows in deciduous forests of the eastern U.S.

Snow Willow (Salix nivalis) - a full grown willow at an inch high

Mountain Avens (Dryas integrifolia) - a very common plant, often formed thick mats, which, when blooming, were beautiful, with many of these small, white, daisy-like flowers

Northern Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum)

Flame-colored Lousewort (Pedicularis flammea)

No comments:

Post a Comment