Just as the first wave of blooms in my garden has peaked in late spring, our wildflowers farther to the north are just starting to show. I’m amazed at how many truly strange and wonderful plants grow in Southern Ontario and though they’re not everywhere, you don’t have to trek for miles into the wilderness to find them. In fact, many pop up right by the side of a road or in a ditch but unless you get out of your car and start walking, slowly, you might miss them. Here are three of my favourites:
The genus Sarracenia (Pitcher plants) is found naturally only in North America. There are 15 species and subspecies. The Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea L.) is a native of all the provinces here in Canada, as well as America’s eastern seaboard states, Washington and California. I like checking them out near Oliphant, a small beach community on the western shore of the Bruce Peninsula. (All of these photos were taken from the side of a road or while taking a stroll along Oliphant’s boardwalk.)
The inside of the dome-like flower is remarkable for its efficiency in getting insects to pick up pollen. It’s their vase-like leaves that conduct the carnivorous part. Even though pitcher plants grow naturally in fens where water is constantly flowing slowly over peat or bog-like environments, the International Carnivorous Plant Society insists that Sarracenia are “among the easiest carnivorous plants to grow.” I’ll stick to visiting my favourite fen to see these beauties thriving in the wild.
Ontario is renowned for a lot of natural wonders both big (Niagara Falls) and small (the Black widow spider). The fact that this province boasts over 50 species of wild orchids? Not so much. I took these photos while standing by the side of a road just outside Oliphant. They’re Large Yellow Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum var pubescens). I used my telephoto lens because I didn’t want to step off the road’s shoulder. Though these orchids were in plain view of the road, they’re also growing in a bog that can be permanently harmed even from footprints.
THE DAYGLO FLOWER
The blooms of the Castilleja coccinea (Indian Paintbrush) are so brightly coloured that my camera could barely register the details. When these plants are in flower, you can spot them from a very long distance. It’s ironic, though, that the bright red parts are actually bracts. The actual flowers are small and greenish, hidden by the showy dayglo bracts. You’ll find them from Alberta to Newfoundland and in parts of the eastern half of the U.S. Look for them in moist meadows, fens, and open woods. I shot these just outside of Oliphant without stepping off the side of the road.
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