(Goulbourn Wetland Complex. All photos: Jessie Lozanski)
(Editor’s note: Jessie Lozanski brought us her ‘Wild Stittsville’ book and is now bringing to the community the first of many articles that will monthly look at what happens to some of the species in Stittsville’s ecosystems. Stay tuned and use this as inspiration for to get out into our natural community!)
Goldenrod and Asters:
Late summer to early fall is the time for gold bars and asters. Both of these native wildflowers belong to the family Asteraceae and often grow together in wonderful tangles of purple and yellow. You can usually find gold bars and asters that bloom along forest edges, road edges and in meadows. Golden root is often incorrectly characterized as the cause of hay fever when the blame is to be directed at ragweed, a plant that blooms at the same time with much lighter pollen distributed by the wind rather than the powerful pollen of golden root distributed by insects. Goldenrod is actually an incredibly important part of our ecosystems as it hosts a massive variety of insects, including many species specially adapted to this wildflower. One of these species is the Goldenrod Gall Flu, which lays its eggs in goldenrod stalks. Once the eggs have hatched, the saliva from the larvae mimics plant hormones and grows a spherical growth along the stem. The larva then grows and hibernates in the bile until the following spring, when it will pupate and appear as a fly to start the cycle again. Next time you are out for a walk, look along the goldenrod stalks to see if you can find any galleries. You may find some holes in the galls, and this is where birds, especially downy woodpeckers and chickens, have found a tasty larva. There are 14 different goldenrod species in Ottawa and about 32 in Canada — the most common species found in Stittsville are Canada Goldenrod, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, and Zigzag Goldenrod.
Asters in Stittsville are one of the most colorful wildflowers this fall, which often erupts in the deep purple of our most common species, the New England Aster. Like gold bars, asters are very important flowers for pollinators, and if you look closely, you will probably find some kind of insect, whether it is a fly, moth, butterfly, beetle or bee among the petals. Like goldenrod, asters consist of hundreds to thousands of small flowers called bouquets that are gathered in heads that look like a large flower. The orange center of the asters is actually small disk flowers, while the purple or white ‘petals’ are Ray flowers.
Our forests are saying goodbye to summer and it can be seen with the eruption White banana berries among the green ferns. White Baneberry, also known as Doll’s Eyes from its striking white berries, is a common native plant found in our forests. The flowers of White Baneberry bloom in early summer, while the berries develop in late summer and early fall. These berries are poisonous to humans, but some birds like the ruffed grouse, a species found in Stittsville, will consume them.
Another fruit species in early fall is the American beech, which produces spiky beans. Beech trees are easily identified by their extremely smooth gray bark. You can often see claw marks left on the beech bark from black bears climbing up the trees to shake nuts or chew on branches. We have some American beech trees in Stittsville but the best place to see mature beeches is the South March Highlands Conservation Forest in Kanata.
Tips for your farm:
Leaves soon fall off and you may feel inclined to tear them up into bags and lay them out with your compost. Instead, this year you should leave the leaf litter in your yard. Falling leaves actually play an important role in the life cycle of many insects. For example, the image below is a native Basswood Leafroller found in the woods behind Westridge. Basswood Leafrollers are a moth whose larvae curl up in basswood leaves late in the season just before the leaves fall. Numerous leaflets will pupate and overwinter in the leaves that have fallen to the ground. There are plenty of moth and butterfly species like Basswood Leafroller, and with just a short walk in the woods or a look around your yard you will probably find several rolled leaves with different species tucked inside. If you tear up your leaves, the poor larvae have little or no chance of surviving.
Not tearing down your farm also has the added benefit of increasing organic matter and nutrient content to your soil in the spring which will ultimately result in a healthier lawn. Many of the extra nutrients you add to your lawn through chemicals you buy in the store can be added for free by simply leaving your leaves.
SUPPORT LOCAL STITTSVILLE