Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Burnt Lands Alvar Walk

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
June 13, 2002
Written by Sarah Coulber

Almonte Home to Precious and Rare Ecosystem

The sun shone for an enthusiastic group who explored the Burnt Lands Alvar, (Almonte area) with Shaun Thompson of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Organized by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), it was a welcomed opportunity to learn about this rare ecosystem. All alvars are unique and exist only in Sweden and the Great Lakes Basin which adds significance to our alvar!

Alvars occur only on limestone bedrock covered with little or no soil. Shaun showed us areas where the frost heaved the soil and rock and explained that the shallow depth of soil partly contributes to the stress of plants and animals that live there, making survival in the cold winters and hot summers difficult. Some of the native inhabitants that have adapted to alvars (some of which were spotted) include the stunning blue-eyed grass, yellow lady slipper orchids, smooth green snakes and red-bellied snakes.

This valuable land has recently been transferred from the Department of National Defense to the MNR, Ontario Parks and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. A management plan will be created in the future to decide how to best protect and utilize this land.

Stay tuned for upcoming activities with the MVFN such as canoe outings and the fall program listing.

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MVFN Spring Nature Walk – May 2002

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
May 21, 2002
Written by Sarah Coulber

Spring WildflowersOver 40 people of all ages came out to enjoy the sunshine for the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s (MVFN) Spring Nature Walk May 11th. Martha Webber, an expert botanist who specializes in edible wild plants and the folklore that surrounds them, shared her beautiful woods and extensive knowledge with the group.

Surrounded by singing birds, we sampled wild leek, day lilies, dandelion jam, violets, fiddleheads and teas! (See below – for some recipes). Much was learned that day, including that these wild plants, often called weeds , are packed with valuable vitamins and minerals – such as violets having lots of vitamin C and dandelions having iron, vitamin A and calcium and more!

Martha also pointed out that the speckled alder twigs were once used as a toothbrush, keeping teeth and gums clean and that the prickly ash twigs were invaluable in numbing toothaches. Another neat tidbit was that after the famous Boston Tea Party, where the supply of tea was destroyed, people turned to the spirea plant “Meadowsweet” as a substitute.

Many thanks, Martha! (Martha conducts outings, classes for adults and a Nature Camp for kids. Call her at 613-839-5217 for details).

The next MVFN event is June 2 where all are welcome to bring a lunch and meet at Union Hall (where Tatlock Road/County Road 9 and County Road 16 meet) at 8:30am to carpool out to some Lanark Community Forests where we’ll be joined by forest and ecology experts to help us identify and observe its unique features. Also on June 2, as part of Arts Fusion in Almonte, join Mike Yee of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority who will be conducting streamside studies for all ages at the Mill of Kintail in Almonte at 10:00am, 1:00pm or 2:00pm (call the Mill at 256-3610 for directions to the Mill). Call Sarah Coulber at 256-2162 or visit our website for more information.

Martha Webber’s Wild Edible Plant Recipes

Green LeavesPlease remember to harvest wisely…take only 1/3 of the plant or less (can’t always do this with roots, though!) and leave enough plants in the area you are harvesting from  so that it will continue to thrive in that area and ensure there will be enough for other humans and animals!

Marinade (used for jerusalem artichokes)

All amounts are approximate…adjust to taste

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp  olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
chopped wild leeks

Let sit overnight

Dandelion jam

2 cups packed dandelion florets (remove green bracts)
the juice of 2 lemons (~1/2 cup)
2 tsp wild ginger or the equivalent of the commercial type
1 package of Sirto
3 cups water
4-5 cups sugar

Mix all ingredients except sugar.  Bring to a boil and once boiling, add sugar.  Let boil for 1 minute.  Leave it to cool and then bottle.

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