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Don’t Miss The Small Stuff

A walk in any of our parks can be a rewarding experience. Even if we don’t see any large animals, there are other wild things to look for. Birds of all types sing from the bushes and trees and there are numerous wildflowers to be on the lookout for.

On a stay in the Tur tle Mountains Provincial Park last month, I did see a coyote, a rabbit and several red squirrels, but those were the only animals. However, birds were numerous, though sometimes not visible in the thick undergrowth. But if you recognize their songs, you’ll know what’s there.

However, on this visit the items that took my attention most were the flowers. Too often we overlook these small beauties, but three kinds of wild violets caught my interest. There were blue violets hiding in the grass, delicate yellow violets, and the beautiful Western Canada violets – white with a yellow centre and purplish veins near the centre. Wild strawberries, with five brilliant white petals and a yellow centre, suggested there might be fruit in a few weeks, too.

One interesting flower that I spotted was the nodding trillium. I wasn’t familiar with this and had to look it up on the Internet afterwards, as it wasn’t in my guidebook (Plants of the Western Boreal Forest &Aspen Parkland). It’s an interesting plant with a single dangling flower that has three white petals, three green sepals and several purplish anthers – and the flowers really do appear to nod.

Other flowers I noticed were the red and white baneberry (all parts of which are said to be quite poisonous) and the delicate blossoms of the three-leaved false Solomon’s seal. Besides ground flowers, the various bushes and fruit plants were also in flower such as the saskatoon bushes, pin cherries and hawthorns, while the chokecherries were just beginning to bloom. Clumps of wild columbine were also just starting to flower. Drier slopes had clumps of cowslips, while in moist areas there were clusters of marsh marigolds.

Remember that in our parks, flowers are protected. Even out of the parks, take care not to overpick the blooms and be especially careful not to damage the root system.

Wherever you visit or take a walk this summer, don’t forget to check out the small stuff!

– Donna Gamache writes from MacGregor, Manitoba

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