Collecting wild bog plants not only gives you first hand knowledge on how and where they grow, but is also an outing in the great outdoors. It isn’t break the law so long as you aren’t in a conservation park or bio preserve.
Streams, ponds, roadside ditches along with Northern lakes, and beaver swamps are all great sources of free plants. There is no need to take more than two or three of each type because most, if given proper care, are very prolific. In fact you might say they grow like weeds. Last August, Janet and I decided to take a weekend and visit South Western Ontario, to be more precise, Point Pelee. We started out under a cloudy sky and drove through a God fearing thunderstorm between Simcoe and Tillsonburg. As we drove down there, the weather cleared and we were blessed with a beautiful day.
We reached Point Pelee Park early in the afternoon and went in to visit the sand bar at the end. Twelve years ago when we were there, it was only a few hundred feet long. This time it had to be at least a mile and a half. Janet had me walk every inch of the way. Due to the hot summer and drought, the forest and bush were Lake Erie and tinder dry nearly a metre low. The fact that marsh was shallow and stagnant, it stank. We saw some nice bog and water plants from the boardwalk but signs referring to people as thieves who so much as picked up a feather, snail shell or a stick of drift wood made me realize that you may get hung from the tallest tree if you were caught taking a piece of frogbit.
Early the next day after visiting Jack Miners Preserve and a big nursery centre we headed for Belle River on Lake Huron shore.Upon reaching this little town we thought it fitting to visit their Tim Horton’s and the pier at the river mouth, before heading east along the lake shore road.After several miles the road ended and we were forced to turn onto a side road heading inland. As we turned I spotted a water filled ditch which ran between the road and a farmer’s field. I stopped for a look. Bonanza! Several painted turtles slid off their rocks into the water and a foot long black bass headed for cover in the weeds. There was frogbit, giant arrowhead over three feet tall and towering rush in bloom. That threw me out, I didn’t know it bloomed the third week in August.
Also there was a plant that I had never seen before. Take a look in to the book, Wetland Plants of Ontario, revealed it to be what is also know as the Stiff Arrowhead (Sagittaria rigida). Unlike its cousin the Broad Leafed Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), it has a narrow, lance shaped leaf The white, three petal flowers look the same. Also blooming was water willow, a woody shrub that grows in or near the water’s edge. It is very pretty with its pink-purple flower clusters that grow from the leaf axils. Although they were small model and will no doubt root from cuttings, I passed, because they can grow over six feet tall.
So now we had new addition of our plants collection, blue clay on my shoes, and a reprimand from Janet for not bringing my rubber boots, we headed home. Incidentally most water plants love clay.
by Charles Drew
From the monthly Bulletin of the Hamilton and District Aquarium Society