18 March 2009

Wildflowers of Riverwood Conservancy

I missed Dr. Nina Katalin Barabas's presentation on medicinal native plants at the North American Native Plant Society's Winter Speakers series last night. Too bad because they've all been so good. (BTW: thank Paul Heydon at Grow Wild! for that line-up.) I didn't realize that, besides already being a great newsletter and plant sale, NANPS could pull off a great public speaker series too. High Park did too. And winter is such a good time for it.

Sharon Lovett (Rare Plants of the Endangered High Park Oak Savannah co-creator /photographer /author and High Park VSP co-chair) noticed I was AWOL and emailed me this morning. Yes, I missed another good one. But what she really wanted to tell me about was a new book she saw there, a field guide about GTA wildflowers, from a place called Riverwood.

Wildflowers of Riverwood - Field Guide of Wildflowers in Mississauga Garden and the Greater Toronto Area
Nina Katalin Barabas PhD and Eva Sabrina Bruni
Mississauga Garden Council. 2008. 184 pp

My first (and apologetic) question: who and what is Riverwood?

Turns out, the Riverwood Conservancy is a:

  • 60 hectare (150 acre) park / public garden / natural area / ANSI in Mississauga
  • habitat to over 475 species of plants & animals
  • the "most ecologically diverse community in the Credit Valley watershed” with 200 to 350 year old trees and mixed old growth, young deciduous and mature mixed forests, woodlands, meadows, oak savannah, old fields, tablelands, floodplain, ravines, slopes, wetlands, marsh and creeks.

In other words, it's a taster's menu of our regional wildflowers, including the odd rare one too, like the White Trout Lily on the book's cover.

Nina, last night's speaker, was one of the volunteers who co-wrote this interpretive wildflower field guide for Riverwood and us. "A volunteer effort ... truly a project by the community for the community". :)

A generous community: 150 species in the guide. Check out the sample pages and features at a glance. Natives and common weeds too and distinguishes the two. Sweet woodland and wetland flowers, but not much for prairie / savannah species. Historic and first nations medicinal uses are the most common themes. I love that it tells you when and where you can find each species at Riverwood. Add a camera to that and it sounds like affordable family-friendly sport to me.

This is the first in a series of field guides volunteers plan to create for the Conservancy / the GTA flora and fauna represented there. The proceeds of the sales of this book will fund the publication of those future books and field guides, as well as their outdoor education program. You can buy the book on-site at Riverwood's Historic Chapell House (open mon-fri 9-4) for $34.99 (or$29.99 for Riverwood Conservancy members). Or call 905-279-5878 or email info@TheRiverwoodConservancy.org to place an order. I was able to just call and use Visa and have it sent to me. With shipping and handling and taxes it was $41.49, and arrived fast too.

Once I saw Riverwood on a map, I realized I'm familiar with some of that forest, but just south of Burnhamthorpe at U of T in Mississauaga / Credit River at Erindale. Sweet place! $35 is an awesome price for a book you can spend an early -> mid-May morning with getting to know spring woodland ephemerals along those forest trails, and then to bring home to help plan out a native woodland garden while the nurseries (and blooms!) are in full swing.

Congratulations -- & thank you -- to the team behind the book, and the gardeners and stewards at Riverwood too. BTW: I can't think of a better peer-recommendation for this book than Sharon gushing "had to have it!"


Just noticed this: "The Native Herb Garden with Nina Katalin Barabas." Free Seminar at Richter’s Herbs, Goodwood ON, Sun Apr 26th, 2-3 pm.


Steve S said...

Hi. We inventoried the meadows on the east side of the Erindale campus 2 years ago and found oak savanna remnant species. We arranged a prairie burn there last year. Haven't been back since.

native plant girl said...

Re: Erindale open field at UTM


I was out there w/ Kim McNeilly for some plant ID / monitoring inside of the high and low intensity burn test plots.

And, that is how I saw your UTM Old Field Management Plan. I LOVED it. the whole thing. a few times over. beautiful work. I hadn’t see a document like that before. I even liked the format. and what a great way to anyone up-to-speed in minutes! Made me want to see coherent documents like that for a few stewardship sites.

Last year’s burn -- I don’t know what ended up happening. I was talking to Kim last summer, and after I said how great “all this rain” had been for new gardens, and for field grown survival rates (I met Leah from Native Plants Nurseries in June, and she said the same thing), Kim said “Yeah, great … unless you’re trying to time a burn.” That was in August.

That field. it perplexed me.

I saw it as two sites:

1. Old-field that did / could support some prairie species
2. edge of a mature mixed forest

Old field:
The plan says that the old field was forest until some point in the 1800’s when it was cleared for sheep pasture likely, and at some point, it supported prairie species / was an Oak Savanna, Must have been an Oak Savanna, because now it’s a remnant Oak Savannah. still, and I’m asking – what is the difference? In this case, is the difference because it remains in an early / shrubby stage of succession after 80 years of being undisturbed?). And I’d love to see whatever remnant seed bank and soil biota that field really has (and I’m interested in learning how people determine / tease out and nurture those aspects of the soil too) and I also agree with the recommendation to introduce locally sourced rare prairie plant species if the site is going to be maintained (e.g. burned, weeded, savanna) to support them. I agree with that even if it were only to conserve rare species genes where they can actually grow in natural areas near their seed source (and inherently serve as a build-it-and-they-will-come strategy toward conserving rare native pollinating insects and other biota the area might be able to support too.) If I had to steward that? I’d start by weeding around the rarer native prairie indicator plants and then watching and then managing what comes up there. (and taking a scythe to invaded areas before they went to seed).

Mixed forest edge:
After a couple of afternoons in the field, I went in that forest. wow. I was really surprised by the integrity in there.

Twice, after I came out of the forest and back into the field, that field didn’t look like an oak savannah remnant to me at all, but a relatively recent anthropomorphic gap in a forest that still includes oaks. and I thought: prairie / savanna plant community restoration or not, whatever is done here, the work and resources should explicitly conserve that existing forest: e.g. protecting the forest from invasion along the edges of it and the old field. (A deliberate buffer zone I guess is what I’m saying. I’ve seen new buffer zones create a perfect breeding ground for garlic mustard instead, but this one’s different: in the management plan I read that the forest has been holding it’s own / “encroaching” back into the field, by five metres between 1984-97.
If I had to steward it? I’d let the forest keep “encroaching” / buffering itself, while trying to keep the tatarian honeysuckle and other invasives out of that buffer zone.

In the end, I surprised myself: out of all the possible recommendations, scenarios, interpretations or visions I could see for the site, my primary instinct was to prioritize the management of that old field, it’s forest edges in particular, in whatever ways would best conserve that adjacent forest. And I’m a terrestrial herb girl.

I know that in the end it’s up the university, their land, their ends, their research, their vision, their will. And if they want to restore an oak savanna, that management plan is what they were asking for and it will serve them well. and I’m sure that with the help of a lot of good people, they'll accomplishment their objectives.

different topic:
Have you been following CANUFNET list? I’m sure you have been, you’re on top of your game. I keep wanting to blog about that list, to quote a few things (like Barb Boysen’s defense of native trees last fall) or suggest subscribing, because I love what I learn there!! but… I’m torn: popularizing something isn’t always conducive to conserving what made it worth sharing in the 1st place. For example, right now, it seems to me that list functions well. Seems like a great peer group and a good size and relaxed enough that folks seem able to speak their minds and fumble through some really new and tough questions which need to be worked out. (maybe it’s even good not archived. Also not good, because too much good info not available to link to or search). I don’t want to interfere with the good parts of those community / dynamics. BUT at the same time, that’s a good resource and some great discussion, and some of these things (like building a better tree pit for example) won’t work if you don’t get more folks (e.g. other muni dept’s / public works, or private urban foresters) into that discussion too.

So for now, I find I’m just spreading it word-of-mouth, to folks I know who are involved in urban trees &/or working for muni’s e.g. natural enviro).

Oh and this: something I mentioned about me being confused about "new" City of Toronto ESA’s. here’s what threw me. it’s from Dougan & Associates, Projects page: “City of Toronto ESA, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and Migratory Bird Studies (2007 - 2008). For this project we are collaborating with North-South Environmental Inc. to identify all candidate ESAs in the greater City (including refinement and application of ESA criteria), develop a field work plan to fill identified data gaps, refine and verify ANSI boundaries for established ANSIs in greater City of Toronto, and provide a literature and data review of migratory bird habitat in Toronto.”

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