Exploding touch-me-not seed pod

23rd September: Last Sunday 17th September, Marilyn MacKellar and Glynn Richardson of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club led a “slow” plant identification walk in the ravine. If anyone has any photos, please send them to me. All I have is this short video posted on Facebook, showing Marilyn’s hand squeezing a touch-me-not/jewel weed seed pod and making it explode. You can see the flowers of the plant in the background:

I will be posting about the tree planting today sometime next week. It was extremely hot, but the volunteers persisted and got nearly all the plants in.

John Cummings


Celebration of Community Garden

19th September: It was billed as “Urban Agriculture Day” and took place on Saturday 16th September. Tours of the new Community Garden were offered and tasty snacks straight from the garden were consumed. Councillor Joe Mihevc was there to help celebrate. Here is the group of volunteers in the garden:

Cedarvale Sept. 16, 2017 060

You can see that the garden is flourishing under new leader Carol Krismer:

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Here is another view:

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There is a magnificent array of sunflowers:

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Monica Wickeler, a mural artist, has been hired to paint the concrete shed. Here she is (centre), talking to Carol and Joe:

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And here she is, hard at work:

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This is her van:

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The garden now has an official sign:

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Shelter in dog off-leash area under construction

The long-promised shelter in the dog park is at last under construction:

Cedarvale Sept. 16, 2017 055

Last week work appeared to be at a standstill. However, a sign posted there suggests that work will be done before snow falls!

Cedarvale Sept. 16, 2017 056

We look forward to seeing what the shelter is going to look like.

Our next event, with Parks, is a tree planting at 10 am on Saturday 23rd September on the slope opposite the dog park stretching down from Strathearn. Look forward to seeing you there!

John Cummings



New trees at Heath St; new bench in ravine

10th August: Two of the trees planted at the west side of the Heath St entrance to the park had died. Parks had promised to replace them. Well, not only did they replace them, they planted nine new trees in that area! They are mainly conifers, with a few deciduous trees. Here are two of them, just behind the bench looking over the exercise equipment:

Cedarvale August 8 2017 026

All of the trees have been very carefully mulched. There is one right in the corner, near the wall of the apartment building:

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Two more are in the middle of the shrub planting that we did with Parks several years ago (the shrubs are mainly flourishing):

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Another one is at the edge of the shrub planting and close to the wall:

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Three of them are further out:

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And one is right next to the path:

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I do not have photos of all of them, but there are nine in total. There are also six trees on the other side of the path among the exercise equipment. So in total we have 15 new trees on the west side. On the east side of this area next to the subway entrance, there are 4 new trees, all deciduous. These are replacing the ash trees that were cut down because of the emerald ash borer.

A new bench has recently appeared. It is between the Bathurst St and Glen Cedar bridges, and closer to Glen Cedar:

Cedarvale August 8 2017 036

Here is the dedication plaque. It was raining on the day I took the photo:

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A new bench has also gone in beside the dog park, and another on the path from the tennis courts to Markdale School. There are concrete pads ready for two more benches in different locations. So we are doing well in both tree and bench departments!

I will be away in Newfoundland for 3 weeks, so this will be my last post until September.

John Cummings



Karen Sun leads instructive flower identification walk

1st August: On Thursday 27th July, Karen Sun of Parks, Forestry & Recreation led a wildflower recognition walk in the ravine, the third in our series of nature walks this year.  Unfortunately, I could not be there, as I had had dental surgery that afternoon. But Ivor Simmons sent me a brief report and Richard Gregory sent these photos. About 15 people showed up at the Heath St subway entrance at 6 pm. Here are some of them:

Cedarvale flower walk July 2

One of the plants Karen identified was the buttercup (ranunculus, probably ranunculus acris she says):

Cedarvale flower walk July 6

Here is Karen among the common cat-tails (typha latifolia), known as bulrushes in Europe:

Cedarvale flower walk July 3

She is holding a Joe-Pye weed plant (eutrochium purpureum). The next one is buttonbush (cephalanthus occidentalis):

Cedarvale flower walk July 7

And this is common jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not (impatiens capensis). It can be used to alleviate the itching caused by poison ivy, and often grows near that plant.

Cedarvale flower walk July 9

Here Karen is pointing out one of the many types of aster (we have several of them in the ravine):

Cedarvale flower walk July 12

Here is part of the group beside the dog park, looking at our first planting in the park in 2013: note how well the sumacs in particular are doing!

Cedarvale flower walk July 10

If you look back through the blog, you can find photos of this site completely bare, with the crowd planting the trees and shrubs, and just after the planting (used as one of the masthead photos).

Some of the other plants seen on the walk were: common milkweed (ascelpias syriaca), tansy (tanacetum vulgare), garlic mustard (alliaria petiolate), dog strangling vine (vincetoxicum rossicum), invasive phragmites  (phragmites Australis subsp. Australis), Queen Anne’s lace (daucus carota), common comfrey (symphylum officinale), tall sweet white clover (melilotus albus) and our old friend poison ivy (toxicodendron radicans).

Thanks to Karen for volunteering her evening time to take the group on this interesting walk and to Richard for taking the photos!

John Cummings

Yellow-billed Cuckoo sighted in Cedarvale!

23rd July: Our resident bird-watcher, Ken Morin, e-mailed me on 9th July to say he had recently seen a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the park. This is what it looks like:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Photo

Here is his report: “As I was walking south of the off leash area, I went into the tangle on the east side of the path to pick some mulberries.  After a brief feast of ripe fruit, I emerged through the side path through the shrubs.  Several strides along, a bird flew in front of me at a low height and I recognized an unusual tail and wing markings.  It went into the side thicket and landed on a tree branch a few yards deep.  I followed and was able to study the bird thoroughly, as it moved very little.  It picked a caterpillar from a leaf and had a bite.  As you can probably surmise, I am chuffed about this sighting of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a bird that has been a non-visible one in my years of birding.  Cuckoos don’t tend to make themselves visible and will remain motionless in trees, making them hard to find.  Yes, there are two species in the GTA.  Now I have seen both this year so I’m very pleased”.
Here is a description of the bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, long-tailed birds that manage to stay well hidden in deciduous woodlands. They usually sit stock still, even hunching their shoulders to conceal their crisp white underparts, as they hunt for large caterpillars. Bold white spots on the tail’s underside are often the most visible feature on a shaded perch. Fortunately, their drawn-out, knocking call is very distinctive”.
To hear what the bird sounds like, go to this link:
and click on the “typical voice” icon.
John Cummings

Another informative nature walk with Miles Hearn

9th July: On Sunday 2nd July, well-known naturalist Miles Hearn led another of his interesting nature walks, starting as usual from the St Clair W subway entrance on Heath St. There were about 20 of us in the group. The weather was warm and sunny – at the start. Halfway through the walk there was a heavy shower; some of us sheltered under the Bathurst St bridge and others under some trees; some people gave up at this point. Unfortunately, the only photo I took of the group did not turn out well, so you will have to imagine us (after the rain, we looked pretty bedraggled).  Miles’ knowledge is so encyclopedic that I can only give you a few samples of the plants he identified for us. Here he is, holding a wych elm leaf (ulmus glabra), a European species:

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 026

Of the many varieties of flower he pointed out, here are three: the first is common nipplewort (lapsana communis) not yet fully unfurled:

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Here is Deptford pink (dianthus armeria), a European import, presumably named after Deptford, the suburb of London:Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 042

This is common cinquefoil (potentilla simplex), a native flower, so-called because of its five petals:

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Miles also showed us several different trees and bushes. Staghorn sumac (rhus typhina), one of the many types of sumac, is plentiful in the park:

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And this is silky dogwood (cornus obliqua), one of the many types of dogwood, of which we have several in the park.

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Apparently, there are hundreds of types of grasses. Miles said that five of them account for the majority of those seen. Here are two of them: reed canary grass (phalaris arundinacea), classified by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council as an invasive species. It is the whitish plant in the middle. There is a lot of this in the park:

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 032

This one is one of the types of bromegrass (bromus):

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 038

For a change of pace, here is an English garden snail, somehow translated from its English garden to the depths of Cedarvale:

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 035

And here is another plant very familiar to the English countryside: stinging nettle (urtica dioica):

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 030

Finally, here is Miles holding a sample of another invasive plant, unfortunately found on our walk: Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica):

Cedarvale Miles Hearn walk July 2 2017 051

Correction to my previous posting about poison ivy: Contrary to the information in the federal government document I quoted, Miles said merely brushing up against a poison ivy leaf can give you a rash; others in the group agreed with him.

Once again, many thanks to Miles for giving up his time on a Sunday afternoon to educate us about the many plants we have in our ravine!

I have posted a revized list of birds to the “Flora and Fauna” section of the web site (drop down under “Cedarvale Park”) compiled by avid birder Ken Morin.

John Cummings

Beware of poison ivy!

27th June: On our walk with Marilyn MacKellar and Glynn Richardson, Marilyn pointed out a good example of poison ivy (toxicodendron radicans):

Cedarvale Marilyn's walk 2017 043

The plant can be seen close to the main path at several places in the ravine. A Canadian government publication says that all parts of this glossy perennial, including the roots, contain the poisonous resin urushiol, which is so potent that a nanogram (billionth of a gram) is enough to cause a rash. Contact with any broken part may cause inflammation after 24-48 hours, followed by blisters and intense itchiness. The extent of reaction depends on a person’s sensitivity and the amount of sap in contact with the skin. You can contact the sap directly, or via another surface that has picked it up e.g. the fur of a dog. (The implication seems to be that you would have to trample the plant and break it, causing sap to emerge, before you would get a rash. This interpretation turns out to be incorrect: apparently, contact with the leaves alone is enough to give you a rash).

There used to be warning signs about poison ivy in the ravine, but unfortunately the vandals first defaced them and then tore down the signs themselves. Parks replaced the signs at least once, but eventually gave up.

The message is: learn to recognize poison ivy and stay away from it. Also, keep your dog away from it, as you can pick up a rash from the dog’s fur – another excellent reason for keeping your dog on-leash.

John Cummings