By Marion Evans
Photographs by Barrie Evans
(All photographs were taken at the north end of the lake).
From your canoe, kayak, paddleboat or fishing boat, take the opportunity to scan the shoreline of Lake Weslemkoon for plants that love the terrain as much as we humans do. The showy white water lily and yellow pond lily are easy to spot. Other wetland plants, though sometimes elusive, surely repay close observation of our wet areas, swamps, marshes, sphagnum bogs and shorelines.
CAUTION: the information about medicinal use is untested and is for interest’s sake and historical value only. Many of the plants in our region have poisonous or harmful parts and may cause adverse reactions if consumed or used externally.
1. – Flower information
2. – Leaf information
3. – General information
PURPLE PITCHER PLANT
- reddish-purple and green, hangs upside down at the end of a tall stem (May to August)
- 10 – 30 cm long with red veins, pitcher shaped leaves form a rosette. Flowering stems are 20 – 60 cm tall.
- Pitcher plants are carnivorous, attracting insects by their colour and nectar-producing glands. The insects descend the neck of the leaf and are trapped in the cavity below by stiff downward pointing hairs. Bacteria and the plant’s digestive enzymes break down the insects for absorption by the plant’s tissues.
- pink with 4 petals bent back toward base (late spring and summer)
- less than 1 cm long, pointed at tip, rounded at base, dark green and shiny on upper surfaces. Trailing flowering branches are up to 20 cm in length.
- Small Cranberries like to grow with their feet in the water. Berries ripen August – October, just in time for Thanksgiving!
- deep pink to crimson, saucer shaped with 5 lobes (June – July)
- dark green, oblong, 1.5 – 5 cm long, hairless, firm and leathery. Erect, slender evergreen branches are 60 – 100 cm tall.
- Although used by aboriginal peoples for cold and headache remedies, Sheep Laurel is considered poisonous and should not be eaten.
- 3 blue violet petals with darker veins and yellow, green and white colouring towards the base or middle of the flower (May – July)
- pale green sword-like, 20 – 80 cm long. Flowering stem is 60 – 90 cm tall.
- The rootstock of the Blue Flag is extremely poisonous. The leaves were used for weaving and for green dye by aboriginal peoples.
NORTHERN WHITE VIOLET
Viola mackloskeyi ssp. pallens
- white, 7 – 10 mm long with 5 petals, the lower 3 having purple veins (May – June)
- blunt, rounded or heart shaped, 1 – 5 cm long and wide, with red dotted leaf stalks and flower stems in the summer. Flowering stem is 2.5 – 12.5 cm tall.
- Tiny, tiny but fragrant
- blue, tubular, slender, 1.5 – 2.5 cm long (July – August)
- opposite, short-stalked, lance shaped, 3 – 5 cm long. Flowering stem is 20 – 45 cm tall.
- Although a member of the mint family, Marsh Skullcap has no minty scent.
Mentha arvensis ssp. borealis
- pale lilac to purplish, pinkish, bell shaped, about 6 mm long in clusters at leaf axils (July – September)
- opposite, egg to lance-shaped or oblong, 3 – 7 cm long. Flowering stem is 15 – 80 cm tall.
- Strong minty aroma
Pontederia cordata L.
- violet blue, tubular flowers form a flower cluster or spike that is 7.5 – 10 cm long (July – September)
- shiny green, heart or lance shaped, 10 – 25 cm long. Plants grow up to 135 cm tall with part underwater.
- Each flower lasts only one day. Submerged portions of this aquatic plant provide habitat for micro and macro invertebrates that feed fish, amphibians, reptiles and ducks. Ducks also eat the pickerelweed seeds. The nectar attracts insects and, at Camp# 926, Ruby-throated hummingbirds!
Nymphaea odorata Ait.
- white, showy, fragrant, 7 – 20 cm wide with many petals, open early morning to mid afternoon (Summer)
- floating, 7 – 30 cm wide, rounded with a narrow V shaped split
- In the language of flowers, water lily means “purity of heart”. The botanical name, Nymphea, refers to the female deities associated with trees or water in Greek and Roman mythology.
- yellow, glossy, 4 – 6 cm wide, floating on or raised above the water (Summer)
- floating, veined, heart shaped with rounded lobes, 10 – 25 cm long
- The Ojibwe First Nations placed thinly sliced pieces of the root of the Yellow Pond Lily on wounds to clean them. Beavers love to eat water lilies, flowers and all.
- white, 5 – 8 mm wide in dense clusters at branch tips (June – September)
- alternate, numerous, lance shaped, 3 – 6 cm long. Shrub height is up to 1.5 m.
- The overall effect of the flower clusters is fuzziness. White-tailed deer like to eat the seeds. Aboriginal peoples made a tea from the leaves.
- daisy-like purplish to rose pink with central yellow disc, 2.5 – 4 cm wide (August – September)
- numerous alternate, stalkless, lance shaped, 1 – 6 cm long. Flowering stems are 20 – 70 cm tall.
- Eastern Cottontails, White – tailed deer, moose and Black-capped Chickadees all enjoy this plant.
- pink with reddish veins (May to July)
- flowering stems are 10-55 cm tall with 2 oblong tapering leaves up to 20 cm long.
- Cypripedium is Latin for Venus’s slipper. It is also called “moccasin flower”. The plant takes 10 years from germination to flowering and, like the Trillium, should not be picked.
- 5 white to pinkish-red petals, about 6mm wide (June – August)
- Leaves from the base of the plant are rosettes with reddish sticky hairs.
- The hairs on the leaves of this carnivorous plant trap insects for food and secrete enzymes that digest them.
BROAD-LEAVED ARROWHEAD, WAPATO
- White 3 petalled flowers 2-4 cm wide (all summer long)
- 20-80cm tall plant with arrowhead-shaped leaves up to 40cm long.
- This plant which provides food for waterfowl and marsh birds is unisexual with male flowers above female flowers on the same plant.
- 1 pink to magenta flower 3-5 cms long (late June – mid August)
- A single grass-like leaf develops after the plant blooms.
- This orchid is the only species of this genus found in North America. Another species grows in Japan.
NORTHERN BOG GOLDENROD
- Multiple yellow flowers on each stalk (August-September)
- Alternating lance shaped leaves, 6-35 cms long, becoming smaller closer to the flowers.
- The species name means “of swamps”. Contrary to common belief, Goldenrod pollen is dispersed by insects and not the wind and does not cause allergy problems.
- Tubular whitish flowers with yellow tip and throat (June-July)
- Opposite short-stalked lance shaped leaves.
- From the Greek for “wheat” and
“black”, the name Melampyrum was used because the black seeds look like wheat.
Lone Pine Series: Forest Plants of Central Ontario by Brenda Chambers, Karen Legasy and Cathy Bentley, 1996. ISBN 1-55105-061-7
Lone Pine Series: Wetland Plants of Ontario by Steven G. Newmaster, Allan G. Harris and Linda J. Kershaw, 1997.
ISBN 13: 978-1-55105-059-1
ISBN 10: 1- 55105- 059 -5
Friends of Algonquin Park Series available at the Park bookstore: Wildflowers of Algonquin Provincial Park by Dan Strickland and John LeVay, 1980.