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:

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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:

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

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

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

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

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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

Plant identification walk with Toronto Bruce Trail Club

19th June: On Saturday 10th June, we joined the Toronto Bruce Trail Club on a slow plant identification walk in Cedarvale, led by Marilyn MacKellar and Glynn Richardson. At the start, there were 28 of us.* Most of the people there had heard about the walk via Friends of Cedarvale. Marilyn and Glynn first separated us into groups of three and gave each group a map and a list of plants to identify and mark on the map. Here is part of the crowd:

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And here is another part. Marilyn is third from left, with her back to the camera:

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First, Marilyn showed as a tree right there near the subway entrance, one of those planted to replace the ash trees that sadly had been removed because of the emerald ash borer. It is a tulip tree, one of Ontario’s Carolinian species:

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I can only show you a small fraction of the plants we identified. Near the bottom of the slope was a purple flowering raspberry, part of an extensive planting last year by a Parks group (see earlier blog posting):

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Just off the path was this example of horsetail:

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And this is daisy fleabane:

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Next up is giant ragweed:

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I had spotted this pretty white flower on an earlier walk, and could now put a name to it: Canada anemone:

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Somewhere around here, Rachel Gottesman recognized the loud and lengthy song of the winter wren (a recording has been posted on our Facebook page). Another white flower is comfrey, somehow making me think of Shakespeare:

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In the cat-tail wetland, we spotted high bush cranberry:

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Close by was purple vetch:

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We continued beyond the Bathurst St bridge. At one point, Marilyn warned a young mother that her child was getting very close to some poison ivy. I got a good photo of it, but will make this the topic of my next blog posting.

This was a very informative walk. Many thanks to Marilyn and Glynn for taking the time to prepare so thoroughly and for making us aware of the rich diversity of plant life in Cedarvale. They will lead a similar walk in the fall sometime. If you are interested in seeing Marilyn’s list of plants and trees seen in Cedarvale (a work in progress, but fairly complete), it is on the web site under “Cedarvale Park/flora and fauna”.

*I have the exact number because the Bruce Trail makes all walk participants sign a waiver sheet before the walk. One person did not sign it.

John Cummings


Pollinator garden planting off Arlington

12th June: on Tuesday 6th June, the David Suzuki Foundation organized the planting of a small pollinator garden in the parkette that runs between Arlington Ave and Cedarvale Park north of Leo Baeck School and just south of JR Wilcox school. Students from that school prepared the plot and carried out the planting. Here is the plot, ready for planting:

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Here is one of the helpers earlier, defining the edge of the plot with mulch:

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These are some of the native perennial plants that went in:

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The plants in their pots have been positioned where they are to be planted, while some of the children observe:

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Jode Roberts of the Suzuki Foundation demonstrates the planting method as the students look on:

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Three classes from JR Wilcox came in succession: the first helped dig the plot, the second got the plot ready for planting and the third did the actual planting (they are the ones in the photos). Here is one plant going in:

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While the mulch was there, the volunteers also mulched seven trees in the parkette:

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Parks had previously been consulted about the planting and had given its blessing (the parkette is reportedly owned by the province, but is administered by Parks). Input from nearby neighbours had also been sought, and there was a meeting at the site, at which comments and suggestions could be offered. Neighbours will also be involved in tending the planting.

The new planting will add a welcome touch of variety to the small parkette.

John Cummings

New shed near baseball diamond, new growth in ravine

1st June: A new shed has recently appeared between the top of the steps up from the Phil White arena and the baseball diamond. It is to be used for the storage of baseball equipment by the groups that use the diamond:

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Park supervisor, Diane Tomlin, said one of the baseball groups had asked for storage and “it just so happened that within a couple of weeks of their request Parks was given this free shed from Ontario Parks Association”. So here it is! It is better looking than the concrete shed built for the Community Garden. By the way, there is an ongoing project to organize artists to decorate the latter shed.

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The ravine is bursting with life. Many different types of berries and blossoms are in evidence:

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In the cat-tail wetland below the Bathurst St bridge, new green cat-tails are springing up among last year’s old plants:

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As always, we have a plentiful supply of garlic mustard:

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This is an invasive, non-native plant that volunteer stewardship teams in other parks spend many hours trying to eradicate. It is everywhere in Cedarvale. Apparently, the settlers liked it and brought it with them; it has fewer competitors here than in Europe, and displaces native plants. The leaves have a somewhat pungent taste, but I have grown to like it and use it as an ingredient in salads. As far as I know, no one harvests it for sale (but it could be an opportunity for some enterprising entrepreneur).

Our next event is a plant identification walk with the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, led by Marilyn MacKellar and Glynn Richardson, starting at 10 am on Saturday 10th  May, starting from the St Clair W subway exit on Heath St W.

John Cummings



Ugly incident in Cedarvale

22nd May: Last Thursday 16th May an unfortunate incident took place in our park. As described by my correspondent, “…around 5.30 pm my son’s 2 friends (19 years old) were swarmed by 8 teens with knives…in the field by the dog park. The guys swarming stole my son’s friends’ phones and bikes and luckily they were not seriously harmed”.

The police have been informed of the incident. Councillor Joe Mihevc and park supervisor, Diane Tomlin, have also been informed. Councillor Mihevc commented, “This is terrible news. I trust that the police were called in. It would help with surveillance of the Park. We want this to be an isolated incident and not the beginning of any trend”. Diane noted that she had seen mounted police patrolling the park. Maybe there will be more regular patrols.

Beth Gosnell, the Councillor’s Special Assistant, said, “I meet with the [police] Division and we ask about area incidents, they will update us after they have had a chance to investigate in early June”.

I will post more information as I receive it.

John Cummings

Coywolf sighted in Cedarvale!

16th May: One of my correspondents via the Gmail reported on 26th April (sorry for delay) that she had seen a coywolf in the ravine. Here is a photo of one from the Toronto Star:

Wolves and coyotes are interbreeding to create an animal that has the pack-hunting instinct of wolves and the fearlessness of coyotes.

I will quote her directly: “This morning around 7 am I was at the east end of the ravine just past the curve up to the St Clair West subway. A coywolf passed right in front of me across the path, into the brush, where it stopped and we stared at each other (me in disbelief). It seemed fearless and had no instinct to run away. It just kept staring (unlike the more cautious foxes). I walked on slowly, ever watching it to make sure it wouldn’t dart at me. As I walked it just stayed there staring at me”.

She noted that it is known that coywolves generally live in groups and are known to attack other animals such as sheep and dogs, sometimes hunting in packs like wolves. She warned they could well attack off-leash dogs. She commented that there are many good reasons in any case to keep dogs on-leash (disturbance to wildlife, damage to growing plants etc), so this is an added reason to keep your dog on-leash. She said she had not seen foxes for a year and a half (and nor have I), perhaps because dogs (or it could be coywolves) have frightened them away.

The Star article, by Carola Vyhnak from 15th  August 2009, quoted Trent University chair and professor of biology, Bradley White, as saying coywolves are a result of interbreeding between western coyotes and eastern wolves. As the wolf population declined because of deforestation, wolf control programs and other factors, the coyotes moved in from their original western range and interbred with eastern wolves.  The resulting animals are apparently bigger than either wolf or coyote, sometimes twice as big as a typical coyote. As noted, they have the wolf characteristic of pack hunting and also have the coyote characteristic of lack of fear of human-developed areas. Observers note that coywolves are a result of human intervention in nature; and some believe that the lack of fear of humans may be a result of humans leaving pet food and garbage around (as has happened with raccoons). They predict the interaction with coywolves will continue to evolve; as one of them put it, “there will be pets eaten in Rouge Valley”. And maybe in Cedarvale!

Let me know if anyone sees a fox, coyote, deer or coywolf in the park.

John Cummings