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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A Presentation by John Maunder
Curator Emeritus of Natural History
Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Program
Conservation and Sustainable Ecotourism Conference
Plum Point, Newfoundland
October 12-13, 2006
Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montegue]
… usually MUCH more closely….
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
Alpine Ragwort - Packera pauciflora – L’Anse aux Meadows
Dwarf Hawk’s Beard – Crepis nana – Burnt CapeWhat 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
… 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
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
Longleaf Arnica – Arnica lonchophylla – Humber Gorge categories …
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
4. More Widespread “Limestone-Loving” Species categories …
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]
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”.
The first challenge is Cove WestDRYNESS … even in areas that receive a lot of moisture
Burnt Cape [photo: Pat Montague]
It’s not hard to tell how deep the sheltering snow gets in this area!
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
Cold also leads to frost disturbance … arctic and alpine plants, once the temperature has dropped below a certain point, cold is just cold.
… 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.
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
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
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
But, in general, the plants of the barrens live on a razor’s edge
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
… But, we really don’t know what’s ahead for them razor’s edge
… 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.
It would be nice!
One thing is for sure … Even as tourists arrive in increasing numbers …
… 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
… any many discoveries to make! increasing numbers …
Crab Spider on Yellow Lady Slipper – Burnt Cape