Plants of the limestone barrens
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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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Plants? … What plants? …

Cape Norman


Plants of the limestone barrens

At first glance, there’s almost nothing there!

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montegue]


Plants of the limestone barrens

But, when you begin to look more closely …

Watt’s Point


Plants of the limestone barrens

… usually MUCH more closely….

Watt’s Point


Plants of the limestone barrens

Flowers Cove

You’ll see an amazing garden of botanical treasures!


Plants of the limestone barrens

Redtipped Lousewort - Pedicularis flammea – Big Brook

Some quite spectacular …


Plants of the limestone barrens

Glacier Sedge – Carex glacialis – Boat Harbour

Others pretty dull …


Plants of the limestone barrens

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?


Plants of the limestone barrens

Aren’t they just like plants from other places?


Plants of the limestone barrens

Common Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale – Raleigh

Well … some are …


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

1. Newfoundland Endemic “Limestone-Loving” Species

Species found only in Newfoundland, in the whole world!


Plants of the limestone barrens

Barrens Willow – Salix jejuna – Cape Norman


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Long’s Braya – Braya longii

Sandy Cove and Yankee Point


Plants of the limestone barrens

… and, MAYBE?

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

… There are varying taxonomic interpretations

… so its endemic status is uncertain

Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

2. Gulf of St. Lawrence 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!


Plants of the limestone barrens

St. Lawrence Primrose – Primula laurentiana – Raleigh


Plants of the limestone barrens

Newfoundland Pussytoes – Antennaria eucosma

Cape St. George


Plants of the limestone barrens

Longleaf Arnica – Arnica lonchophylla – Humber Gorge


Plants of the limestone barrens

3. Disjunct “Limestone-Loving” Species

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Newfoundland Orchid – Pseudorchis albida subsp. straminea

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

4. More Widespread “Limestone-Loving” Species


Plants of the limestone barrens

Calypso Orchid - Calypso bulbosa var. americana – Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Small Roundleaf Orchis - Amerorchis rotundifolia – Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

Frog Orchid – Dactylorhiza viridis

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Purple Mountain Saxifrage – Saxifraga oppositifolia – Table Mountain


Plants of the limestone barrens

Tufted Saxifrage - Saxifraga cespitosa – Old Port au Choix


Plants of the limestone barrens

Island Gentian – Gentianopsis nesophila – St. John Bay


Plants of the limestone barrens

Alpine Chickweed – Cerastium alpinum subsp. lanatum – Lower Cove


Plants of the limestone barrens

White Mountain Avens – Dryas integrifolia

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Yellow Mountain Saxifrage – Saxifraga aizoides – Eddies Cove West


Plants of the limestone barrens

Alpine Bearberry - Arctous alpina – L’Anse-au-Loup


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Elegant Milkvetch - Astragalus eucosmus – L’Anse aux Meadows


Plants of the limestone barrens

Hairy Willow - Salix vestita – Port au Choix


Plants of the limestone barrens

5. Widespread Species which are not “Limestone Loving”

They’ll grow almost anywhere!


Plants of the limestone barrens

Larch – Larix laricina – Big Brook


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Living on the limestone barrens can be quite a challenge!


Plants of the limestone barrens

How do the plants manage it?

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

What conditions do they have to overcome?

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Many, it seems!


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Cape Norman


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montague]


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Crepis nana – Burnt Cape

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Flowers Cove, “White Rocks”

Some plants find other ways to stay out of the wind


Plants of the limestone barrens

Laurentian Fragile Fern – Cystopteris laurentiana – Flowers Cove “White Rocks”


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Rand’s Eyebright - 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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Netvein Willow – Salix reticulata – Lower Cove

Waxy and leathery surfaces help slow water loss from the surface


Plants of the limestone barrens

Reddish Sandwort - Minuartia rubella – Port Saunders

Narrow leaves with less leaf surface area lose less water


Plants of the limestone barrens

The second challenge of the barrens is COLD.


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

W of Red Bay, Labrador, July 12, 2001

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

L’Anse-Amour, Labrador

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Moss Campion – Silene acaulis – Burnt Cape

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Cold also leads to frost disturbance ….

Watt’s Point


Plants of the limestone barrens

… seen most dramatically in patterned ground

Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montague


Plants of the limestone barrens

Daubenmire (1941)

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

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Long’s Braya – Braya longii – Yankee Point

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.


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Boat Harbour


Plants of the limestone barrens

The THINNESS of the soil is largely the result of ice-age glacial scouring …

Glacial Striae – Hawkes Bay


Plants of the limestone barrens

Cape Norman

… and subsequent wind and water erosion.


Plants of the limestone barrens

Cape Norman

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.


Plants of the limestone barrens

Cape Norman

But even here, plants manage to grow …


Plants of the limestone barrens

Barrens Willow - Salix jejuna - Cape Norman


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

carrying unconsolidated nutrients with it.

Port au Choix


Plants of the limestone barrens

Oval-leaf Spearwort – Ranunculus flammula var. ovalis – Port au Choix

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Arctic Bladderpod - Lesquerella arctica – Burnt Cape

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

Moss Campion – Silene acaulis

Daubenmire (1941)

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

EVERGREEN LEAVES conserve hard-won and costly resources that would otherwise be lost, and have to be regenerated every year …

Hollyfern - Polystichum lonchitis – Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

….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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Crepis nana – Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Yankee Point


Plants of the limestone barrens

But, in general, the plants of the barrens live on a razor’s edge

Burnt Cape


Plants of the limestone barrens

Alpine Milkvetch – Astragalus alpinus var. alpinus – Burnt Cape

… with the rarer ones just making it …


Plants of the limestone barrens

Balsam Ragwort – Packera paupercula var. balsamitae – Indian River

… and some others doing much better


Plants of the limestone barrens

… But, we really don’t know what’s ahead for them

Peter Scott


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

… or vice-versa?

… or neither!

We might guess … but we really don’tknow.


Plants of the limestone barrens

Will humans and nature eventually find ways happily co-exist?

It would be nice!


Plants of the limestone barrens

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

Cape Norman


Plants of the limestone barrens

… and humans in general continue to expand their influence

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


Plants of the limestone barrens

We still have much to learn

Boat Harbour


Plants of the limestone barrens

… any many discoveries to make!

… End

Crab Spider on Yellow Lady Slipper – Burnt Cape


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