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Plants of the Limestone Barrens. A Presentation by John Maunder Curator Emeritus of Natural History The Rooms Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador The Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Program Conservation and Sustainable Ecotourism Conference Plum Point, Newfoundland

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Plants of the limestone barrens

Plants of the Limestone Barrens

A Presentation by John Maunder

Curator Emeritus of Natural History

The Rooms

Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Program

Conservation and Sustainable Ecotourism Conference

Plum Point, Newfoundland

October 12-13, 2006



At first glance, there’s almost nothing there!

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montegue]



… usually MUCH more closely….

Watt’s Point


Flowers Cove

You’ll see an amazing garden of botanical treasures!


Redtipped Lousewort - Pedicularis flammea – Big Brook

Some quite spectacular …


Glacier Sedge – Carex glacialis – Boat Harbour

Others pretty dull …


But, what’s all the fuss

about?

Alpine Ragwort - Packera pauciflora – L’Anse aux Meadows


What makes these plants so special

Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Crepis nana – Burnt Cape

What makes these plants so special?



Common Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale – Raleigh

Well … some are …


Northern Anemone - Anemone parviflora – Burnt Cape

But most aren’t …It’s all a bit complicated


Our limestone barrens species fall into about 5 special categories

Our limestone barrens species fall into about 5 special categories …

… grouped by their general distribution

near Eddies Cove West


1. Newfoundland categories …Endemic “Limestone-Loving” Species

Species found only in Newfoundland, in the whole world!


Barrens Willow – categories …Salix jejuna – Cape Norman


Fernald’s Braya – categories …Braya fernaldii – Big Brook and Watt’s Point


Long’s Braya – categories …Braya longii

Sandy Cove and Yankee Point


… and, categories …MAYBE?

“Burnt Cape Cinquefoil” -Potentilla usticapensis … [orPotentilla pulchella var. pulchella]

… There are varying taxonomic interpretations

… so its endemic status is uncertain

Burnt Cape


2. Gulf of St. Lawrence categories …Endemic “Limestone-Loving” Species

Species found only in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region (which includes the Newfoundland west coast and Strait of Belle Isle), in the whole world!


St. Lawrence Primrose – categories …Primula laurentiana – Raleigh


Newfoundland Pussytoes – categories …Antennaria eucosma

Cape St. George



3. categories …Disjunct “Limestone-Loving” Species

Species found both in some far-away place, AND in our area, with a BIG GAP in between.


Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – categories …Crepis nana – Burnt Cape …. Disjunct to N tip of Labrador, and arctic and western North America


Newfoundland Orchid – categories …Pseudorchis albida subsp. straminea

Burnt Cape - Disjunct to Greenland and one locality in Hudson Bay


Woolly Arnica – categories …Arnica angustifolia subsp. tomentosa – Point Riche Peninsula … Disjunct to mountains of northwestern North America [photo: Rene Charest]


Pendantpod Oxytrope - categories …Oxytropis deflexa var. foliosa – disjunct [from S Labrador] to N tip of Labrador, Gaspe, Hudson Bay, and low arctic and western North America


Bodin’s Milkvetch – categories …Astragalus bodinii – Cook’s Harbour … disjunct to western North America



Calypso Orchid - categories …Calypso bulbosa var. americana – Burnt Cape


Yellow Ladyslipper – categories …Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens – Port au Choix


Small Roundleaf Orchis - categories …Amerorchis rotundifolia – Burnt Cape


Frog Orchid – categories …Dactylorhiza viridis

Killdevil Mountain [photo: M. Anions] and Burnt Cape


Purple Mountain Saxifrage – categories …Saxifraga oppositifolia – Table Mountain


Tufted Saxifrage - categories …Saxifraga cespitosa – Old Port au Choix


Island Gentian – categories …Gentianopsis nesophila – St. John Bay



White Mountain Avens – Lower CoveDryas integrifolia

Sandy Cove [photo: N. Djan-Chekar] and Flowers Cove [photo: Pat Montague]



Alpine Bearberry - Cove WestArctous alpina – L’Anse-au-Loup


Newfoundland Oxytrope – Cove WestOxytropis campestris var. minor – Mount Parent, P.Q.


Elegant Milkvetch - Cove WestAstragalus eucosmus – L’Anse aux Meadows


Hairy Willow - Cove WestSalix vestita – Port au Choix


5. Widespread Species which are Cove Westnot “Limestone Loving”

They’ll grow almost anywhere!


Larch – Cove WestLarix laricina – Big Brook


White Spruce – Cove WestPicea glauca – Table Head [photo: Pat Montague]



How do the plants manage it? Cove West

Trailing Juniper - Juniperus horizontalis – Port au Choix [photo: Pat Montague]


What conditions do they have to overcome? Cove West

Alpine Pussytoes – Antennaria alpina subsp. canescens – Watt’s Point


Many, it seems! Cove West


It is really useful to understand what makes barrens of Cove WestANY type, “barrens”.

Cape Norman


The first challenge is Cove WestDRYNESS … even in areas that receive a lot of moisture

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montague]


Wind is usually the critical factor … especially in winter.

It’s not hard to tell how deep the sheltering snow gets in this area!

Eddies Cove


Trailing Juniper – Juniperus horizontalis – Port au Choix [photo: Pat Montegue]

Even in summer, it helps to have a low profile to stay out of the drying wind, and within the thin, sun-warmed, surface air layer


Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Choix [photo: Pat Montegue]Crepis nana – Burnt Cape

Tight cushion architecture can conserve a core of dampness within the cushion


Flowers Cove, “White Rocks” Choix [photo: Pat Montegue]

Some plants find other ways to stay out of the wind


Laurentian Fragile Fern – Choix [photo: Pat Montegue]Cystopteris laurentiana – Flowers Cove “White Rocks”


Other plants just grow smaller in exposed areas [while usually preserving flower size!]

Greenland Primrose – Primula egaliksensis – Cook’s Harbour and Boat Harbour


Rand’s Eyebright - usually preserving flower size!]Euphrasia randii – Cape St. Francis

Hair creates a layer of dead air against the plant surface to help slow moisture loss when the plant’s pores are open


Netvein Willow – Salix reticulata – Lower Cove usually preserving flower size!]

Waxy and leathery surfaces help slow water loss from the surface


Reddish Sandwort - Minuartia rubella – Port Saunders usually preserving flower size!]

Narrow leaves with less leaf surface area lose less water


The second challenge of the barrens is usually preserving flower size!]COLD.


However, cold is only partly a winter concern. For most arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold


W of Red Bay, Labrador, July 12, 2001 arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

The main thing affected by cold is the total length of the growing season …


L’Anse-Amour, Labrador arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

This photo was taken July 8 – and the willows are still just in early bud!


Moss Campion – Silene acaulis – Burnt Cape arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

  • Tight cushion architecture allows for a layer of “dead air”, within the cushion, that can warm up and stay warm all day


Cold also leads to frost disturbance … arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold.

Watt’s Point


… seen most dramatically in patterned ground arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montague


Daubenmire (1941) arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

tap roots anchor plants deeply into the seasonally-disturbed frost-heaved soils

This rare species, the Cutleaf Fleabane, grows in Humber Gorge


Long’s Braya – Braya longii – Yankee Point arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold

Some roots are contractile ... each time a plant is heaved upward by frost, the root of the affected plant shortens to pull the plant back down into the soil, where it belongs.


The third challenge of the barrens is obtaining sufficient NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on thin, poor soils.

Boat Harbour


The NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on THINNESS of the soil is largely the result of ice-age glacial scouring …

Glacial Striae – Hawkes Bay


Cape Norman NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on

… and subsequent wind and water erosion.


Cape Norman NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on

The POORNESS of the soil is usually the result of its basic geology, or of its history of poor organic accumulation in places where vegetation has long been sparse.


Cape Norman NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on

But even here, plants manage to grow …


Barrens Willow - Salix jejuna - Cape Norman NUTRIENTS. Barrens usually occur on


In general, precipitation tends to run off quickly … or just drain away, downwards, through the substrate …

carrying unconsolidated nutrients with it.

Port au Choix


Oval-leaf Spearwort – just drain away, downwards, through the substrate …Ranunculus flammula var. ovalis – Port au Choix

Even so, some species, like this buttercup, seem to need such changing conditions!


Arctic Bladderpod - just drain away, downwards, through the substrate …Lesquerella arctica – Burnt Cape

As you have already seen, plants of the barrens have all kinds of survival tricks


Moss Campion – just drain away, downwards, through the substrate …Silene acaulis

Daubenmire (1941)

LONG ROOT SYSTEMS are critical in accessing scarce moisture and nutrients from a very wide area of soil


EVERGREEN LEAVES just drain away, downwards, through the substrate … conserve hard-won and costly resources that would otherwise be lost, and have to be regenerated every year …

Hollyfern - Polystichum lonchitis – Burnt Cape


…. just drain away, downwards, through the substrate …and, as long as evergreen plants stays relatively green throughout the year, photosynthesis can take place, on warm days, in any season, effectively lengthening the plant’s growing season

Trailing Juniper – Juniperus horizontalis – Port au Choix


In the limestone barrens, the chemistry of calcium adds to the challenge

Encrusted Saxifrage - Saxifraga paniculata – Burnt Cape

This saxifrage secretes excess lime from the edges of its leaves


A major advantage of living on the barrens – is a lack of the challengecompetition!

Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Crepis nana – Burnt Cape


Many barrens species, such as Long’s Braya, actually thrive in disturbed areas where nothing else tends to grow

Yankee Point



Alpine Milkvetch – razor’s edgeAstragalus alpinus var. alpinus – Burnt Cape

… with the rarer ones just making it …


Balsam Ragwort – razor’s edgePackera paupercula var. balsamitae – Indian River

… and some others doing much better



… will climate change razor’s edgehelp Long’s Braya … but hinder Fernald’s Braya?

… or vice-versa?

… or neither!

We might guess … but we really don’tknow.



One thing is for sure … Even as tourists arrive in increasing numbers …

Cape Norman


… and humans in general continue to expand their influence increasing numbers …

Heavy equipment re-arranging the Romaines River floodplain, August 1, 2006 !


We still have increasing numbers …much to learn

Boat Harbour


… any many discoveries to make! increasing numbers …

… End

Crab Spider on Yellow Lady Slipper – Burnt Cape


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