Friday, August 28, 2009

Hiking Series Finished

Last Sunday I led the last of my afternoon hikes. The format of these hikes was 3-4 hours along a distance of 10-12 km. Each hike started at 1 PM on a Sunday. All the hikes took place in the Don Valley or its tributary ravines. I had between 12 and 55 hikers for each hike. I think it was a successful format and I hope to do it again next year although I may rejig some of the routes.

The last hike was another successful outing with about 45 hikers. We hiked from Lawrence and Bayview (the Glendon College campus) to Pottery Road and Broadview. Personally I liked this hike the best because the paths lead through some of the best areas of the Don Valley. Here's a few photos (courtesy of Ken Peters) from the hike.

Hiking through a gully

A rest stop in Crothers' Woods. Ed Freeman (right) was a regular participant on the hikes

Passing through a wet patch on a slope. Note the cattails growing on either side of the path

One duty of hikers is to 'post' at path intersections to let others know which is the right way to go.

A view of some of the hikers as they make their way down a steep switchback trail in E.T. Seton Park.

If you are interested in seeing all 107 photos from the hike, send me a note and I will forward you the link.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Candy Floss Flower

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

I've seen this flower in a couple of places in the Don. This one I found growing at the Elevated Wetlands. A member of the milkweed family, it is usually found growing beside ponds, marshes or other wet areas.

I call it the candy floss flower because the scent reminds me of that sweet fragrance of candy floss which is one of the aromas from my childhood, a fond remembrance of our family's annual trek to the CNE in August. I was wondering about this particular scent and did some investigation. The active ingredient is linalool which is a naturally occurring chemical that is used in perfumes. One study found that inhaling linalool can reduce stress. That makes sense since it is a very pleasant aroma.

Not many studies have specifically studied this species but there are several references in studies of the milkweed family since this plant shares characteristics with similar plants in the genera such as Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Unless you are an asclepiadologist(!), such things as self-pollination success, pollen grain coherence, and sympatrically flowering systems won't interest you.

The one thing that most people will relate to is that the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) needs plants like this to survive. It feeds on the nectar, lays its eggs on the leaves, and the caterpillar feeds on the leaves. Since this species appears to be in decline it is important to leave this plant where you find it and take away only the memories of the fragrance.

Monarch Butterfly on a Swamp Milkweed at the Don Valley Brick Works (I wonder if it can smell the flower?)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Places in the Don

Can you tell me where this is?

This is the start of a semi-regular series of posts. I will post a picture from somewhere in the Don Valley and let you guess where it is. This one should be fairly easy as it is from a distinctive structure.