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Tag Archives: Boreal Forest

Identifying a Ghost Plant

A week ago I posted a blog about a rare plant that I had been searching for in the West Hawk Lake area: climbing fumitory. Since then I’ve had several people ask me how to tell this plant (shown in in the picture above) apart from other similar species. In Manitoba there are only five species in the fumitory family and they are fairly easy to tell apart: two are…

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In Search of a Botanical Ghost

Eighty years ago, Manitoba botanist Charles W. Lowe collected a plant from the West Hawk Lake area, not realizing that it would be the last time anyone would collect it in this province again. This June, I embarked upon a journey to see if that elusive plant was still hiding somewhere in Whiteshell Provincial Park. My scholarly journey commenced when I began working on a revised Flora of Manitoba; a…

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Getting to Know Manitoba’s Wild Lilies

We share our world with billions of other organisms and they play a crucial role in our survival, providing the ecosystem services that keep us alive: making oxygen for us to breathe, filtering toxins from our water, and providing shade for us and our homes to name a few benefits. With so many cultural events being cancelled this year due to Covid-19, you may be planning on spending some time…

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Beautiful Parasites (and a couple ugly ones too!)

It is pretty well known that plants differ from animals due to their ability to make their own food using just carbon dioxide, water and sunlight through a process called photosynthesis. But some plants are a bit lazy and figured “why should I make my own food like a sucker when I can just steal some from my neighbor?” Thus, the strategy of plant parasitism was born. The secret to…

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WADING FOR WATER LILIES: How a landlubber botanist learned to love collecting aquatic plants

I’m a landlubber I admit it. How could I not be? I’m from Saskatchewan. That’s the driest place in the country! Not only is it completely devoid of coastline, but its largest lake is practically in the arctic. Before I came here I did field work in Grasslands National Park, a place where the Frenchman “River” is shallow enough to wade across. Then I did field work in the Great…

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Why a strawberry isn’t a fruit (sort of)

I was watching an old episode of “The Big Bang Theory” and Sheldon asked Penny what her favorite fruit was. Penny said “strawberries” to which Sheldon replied “technically NOT a fruit”. My daughter turned to me and asked “is that true” and I said “yes, sort of.” Let me explain why. Plants have sex. The evidence of their many dalliances lands on our lawns and patio furniture in the form…

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The art and science of diorama making, part 1: Perfectly imperfect

When people come to the Museum and see our dioramas they are usually impressed with the majestic, taxidermied animals in them. But what they really ought to be impressed with are the plants. I find it amazing that the trees in the elk diorama are perpetually in the process of shedding their leaves. Anyone familiar with Manitoba’s forests and prairies, know that the plant species in our dioramas are the…

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Museum’s Charlie Brown Tree Gets “Spruced Up”

This January what I like to call the Museum’s “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” in the Arctic/Subarctic gallery, got polished up with some new paint and a new background. It’s still lopsided as ever (it did grow in the arctic after all) but now it has some friends in the background. This often missed mini-diorama is about Manitoba’s treeline: the part of the province where trees start to disappear.   The…

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Oh no, mistletoe

Although Christmas is considered to be a “Christian” holiday, many of the rituals we associate with it, such as kissing under mistletoe, are actually pagan in origin. European mistletoe (Viscum album) was considered to be a magical plant by Druidic priests because it mysteriously grew on the branches of trees without its roots reaching the soil. Further, it stayed green in winter, and produced its berries in November and December…

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Water-lilies and Wetlands

Wetland plants are the least commonly collected and photographed plants in Manitoba for good reasons. For starters they’re protected by the most vicious gangs of thugs you can imagine: bloodthirsty mosquitoes and black flies. I’ve taken many blurry photographs in my day because I was too busy swatting mosquitoes to focus properly. No matter how good the bug jacket is, the pests always seem to find a way in. Wetland…

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