Alvar Field Trip – June 1, 2023

Alvar Field Trip

On June 1st, a small group from Waterloo Region Nature embarked on a 3 hour journey to meet with Bob Bowles in Orillia for a tour of Prairie Smoke and Little Bluestem Reserve Alvars. When we arrived, the temperatures were quickly warming up. Based on the small group size and anticipated heat we changed plans and followed Bob to a different Alvar. We drove from highway to backroad to dirt path and arrived at the limestone plain of the Robert L. Bowles Alvar. Immediately we could see that see an array of plants and colours in full bloom among the grikes and clints of the plain. Bob led us from the south to the north part of the Alvar to an area he called flat rock where we were saturated with a vibrant display of alvar wildflowers, mosses, and lichens. This was by far one of the most dramatic experiences of alvar flora that I have seen.

Scarlet Painted Cup
Prairie Smoke

However temps were >30C and mosquitos were thirsty so we cut our day short and cooled down with a drink in nearby Brechin. I had a brilliant time and would highly recommend experiencing these alvars. Keep in mind that alvars are not protected by any legislation, and although the plants are resilient, they are at risk of being lost due to quarrying, as quality bedrock is present near surface.

Jeff Leader

Rock Sandwort

Here’s a list of many of the plants, mosses, lichens, shrubs & many other species we encountered on our field trip:

Scarlet Painted Cup – Castilleja coccinea
Purple Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum
Hairy Beardtongue – Penstemon hirsutus
Rock Sandwort – Sabulina michauxii
Long-leaved Bluets – Houstonia longifolia
Canadian Summer Bluet – Houstonia canadensis
Tall Cinquefoil – Potentilla arguta
Crawe’s Sedge – Carex crawei
Field Chickweed – Cerastium arvense
Early Saxifrage – Saxifraga virginiensis
Early Buttercup – Reanunculus fascicularis
Balsam Ragwort – Packera paupercula
Red Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis
Orange Hawkweed – Hieracium aurantiacum
Wild Strawberry – Fragaria virginiana
Biting Stonecrop – Sedum acre
Upland White Goldenrod – Solidago ptarmicoides
Grey Reindeer Lichen – Cladonia rangiferina
Green Lichen – Flavoparmelia caperata
Dog Pelt Lichen – Peltigera canina
Tornado Moss – Torella tortuosa
Delicate Fern Moss – Thuidium delicatulum
Fir Tamarisk-moss – Albietinella abietina
Wild Bergamot – Monardo fistulosa
Tufted Hairgrass – Deschampsia caespitosa
Pussytoes – Antennaria plantaginifolia
Meadow Buttercup – Ranunculus acris
Early Buttercup – Ranunculus fascicularis
Tower Mustard – Turritis glabra
Fragrant Sumac – Rhus aromatica
Staghorn Sumac – Rhus typhina L.
Common Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana
Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago
Common Juniper – Juniperus communis

Other notable species:
Beaverpond baskettail
Two-spotted Bumblebee
House Wrens
Common Yellowthroat
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrows
Field Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Snowshoe hare
Lots of Moose scat & Mosquitos!

Robert L. Bowles Alvar