Five fall wildflowers

There seems to be always something in bloom, from the first dripping icicle to the first snowfall. What wildflowers can you find blooming this time of year where you live?

The flowers that bloom along the roadsides, in the meadows and forests, and along the coastlines are those which have naturalized to a specific place. Native plants are part of the uniqueness of a place and are a necessary part of the well-being of a region. Often, however, many of the plants we may think are native have been introduced by human activity and are harmful to those species that have existed there for a much longer time.

We went for a walk down our road and found five flowers in bloom:

The New York American Aster

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This is native to the maritime region and beyond. It prefers forest edges, shorelines, roadsides and stream banks.

Queen Anne’s Lace

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The five-petalled flowers grow in a white cluster and form a seed head like this later on. This is a non-native plant and is invasive. It is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. Apparently it was “first noted in eastern North America in 1739, developed from carrot seeds that escaped gardens and reverted to their weedy ancestral form” (Wildflowers of the Maritimes, Edmund Redfield).

Canadian Goldenrod

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This is a native plant, and contrary to what some may think, it cannot cause allergies because it is pollinated by bees and not by the wind. It is edible and has many health benefits.

Rabbit’s Foot Clover

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This is a plant native to Europe and western Asia that is now common across North America. It spreads only by seed and grows in open, dry places such as roadsides or sandy fields.

Jewelweed (Touch-me-not)

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This is a native plant and likes to grow in damp woods, streams and ditches. The sap in its leaves and stem can help with insect bites and rashes like poison ivy. It gets its name from the ripe seed pod which explodes when touched to scatter the seeds.

Create a mini herbarium:

Collect blooms and leaves from five or so wildflowers you find and press them between newspaper and a couple heavy books. Leave them for a few days. Identify them using a field guide for wildflowers from your area (you can usually find these in the public library), or do a search for a wildflower guide for your area on the internet – there are some very helpful websites available. When your flowers are dry, mount them in your nature journal. You can use a glue stick for this, or layer Mod Podge both underneath and on top of your pressed specimens. Label.

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Field Trip to Water

Where we live, one is almost always within a short distance of water – lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and the ocean. For our field trip, we went to a place where there is both a pond and the ocean.

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The goal was to sit quietly in one place for about 15 minutes and observe. We chose to sit by the pond first. As we came close to the edge, there was a lot of movement and bubbles which turned out to be tiny little minnows which returned once we were still.

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A dragonfly and a damselfly dropped in for a short while.

There was bur reed growing along the edge of the pond with it’s unusual seed pod. When we touched them, they broke apart into individual seeds in our hands.

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Ants started bothering us where we were sitting so we crossed over the land barrier between the pond and the beach and visited the ocean as well. It was low tide, and it was noisy with the waves breaking on the shoreline, and smelled strongly of salt and rotting seaweed.

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We noticed water making little rivers down the beach, a snail moving across the rock, a few strange patterns in the sand, and found a beautiful crab shell.

We had been reading about barnacles a few days ago, and would have liked to see one open with it’s feet sticking out, but the barnacles we could find were out of the water.

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Field Trip:

Go visit some water somewhere – a lake, pond, river, seashore. Sit with your nature journal for 15 minutes and observe.

Draw something that you see in the water, something you see on the water, something you see beside the water on the beach or bank. What noises do you hear? What colours do you see? Are there any birds or animals nearby? Note the date, the location and the weather. Enjoy!

These are great little books to help you investigate a beach and a pond:

Seeds and Fruit

IMG_20170912_182503Autumn is the season for seeds and fruit of all kinds. If you haven’t taken a walk to collect some yet, get out and do it today! It can be a lot of fun seeing how many you can find. Most likely you don’t even really have to go much further than your own back yard.

Research Project:

Find some books on seeds in your local library. Here are a few that I found:

Read through them and find the answers to the following questions and any that you might have:

  1. What are the four main ways that seeds are dispersed?
  2. Why do plants need to make seeds?

Draw in your journal some of the seeds/fruit you found on your walk. Try to sort them by what method they use to travel or disperse. If you want to identify the seeds you found, it is helpful to also know a bit about the plant they came from.

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Have some fun using what you have found to make seed creatures: The Craft Train

September Nature Walk

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Here we go, down a trail nearby. It is an old railway line that has been converted into a multi-use trail and goes on for miles. In fact, it is part of the Trans-Canada Trail that goes right across this great country of ours.

This month we are on the lookout for seeds, fruit, and anything else that looks interesting.

What we notice first is some wild apples hanging from branches over the trail, and then some blackberries almost out of reach. There are lots and lots of rosehips from all the wild roses that thread their way through the bushes at the side of the path.

We find lots of lupin seed pods that have mostly twisted their way open sending the seeds off to new places. The yellow Hawkweed has turned into fuzzy white puffs and is ready for the wind to send it’s little parachutes off into the wide world.

We found new catkins and cones forming on the alder trees, and seeds in the Mountain Maple that will soon turn bright red. The sumacs are just starting to change color and their flower cones are forming.

It is always fun to pop the Jewelweed seeds, and this time we came across a plant that looked like jewelweed but was pink… We discovered that it is called Himalayan Balsam, a relative of the orange jewelweed, but non-native and invasive.

It has been a wet summer and it is always fun to discover the different types of fungus popping out of places you didn’t expect.

And finally, we spotted a few creatures: a cranefly, a spider and a snail.

September Nature Walk Challenge:

Go somewhere where you can walk for at least half and hour and where you might find seeds. Bring a bag to collect a few specimens in for your nature table. Take photos if you want to try to identify what you found.

septpoemartWhile you are out, notice the colours of September. When you get back, paint a page in your nature journal with all the colours you have noticed. We used watercolour, but you can use any kind of paint. Read through the poem: does it make you think of September too? Print out the poem and when your lovely painting has dried, paste the poem on top.

September Poem

Have fun!

Draw a Map

I love looking at the image view of google maps. It is fascinating to see roads and buildings from a birds eye view. The exercise of drawing maps, especially for young children, is very helpful for spatial reasoning. And in an age when we are becoming so reliant on a device to tell us how to get somewhere, it seems like a good idea to develop our sense of where we are in the world.

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This is a map of New France drawn by Samuel de Champlain around 1612. Today it may look a little strange, but I love how it shows what he saw at the time.

Home Project:

Draw a map of the outdoors around your home – the property your house is on, a favourite playground or park, or even the community you live in if you want to be ambitious (I love the map of her town that Opal draws in the movie Because of Winn Dixie). Don’t expect to get it perfect or to scale – the most important thing is just to notice what is out there.

What shape is your yard? Is your house near the front of your property or the back? Are there any big trees? Are there big rocks or marshy spots? Is there a pond or a stream? Do you have any gardens? Do you have a special place like a tree house? What can you see from your yard? Are there big trees nearby? Can you see mountains in the distance?  Is there a lake or the ocean nearby? If you were going to describe it to someone, what would tell them about?

Figure out which way is north, and include a compass rose on your map. Colour it in an make it beautiful!

Here are some great books about maps for kids: