Canada Day 2016

July 1, 2016

In the world of biology there are quite a few species which have been identified with Canada through their Latin names.  The word Canadensis is a New Latin term meaning “of Canada”.  The term is used in describing a species which is either indigenous to Canada or strongly associated with it.  An example is Castor Canadensis which is commonly referred to as simply a beaver.  Some of these species make their home in and around the GTA and  to celebrate Canada Day 2016 here is a look at a few we’ve photographed during the journeys of Hiking the GTA.

Castor Canadensis or Canadian Beaver is also commonly known as American Beaver in spite of the name of the animal.  Beaver numbered up to 200 million and in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s the demand for fur top hats made beaver pelts a valuable resource.  The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1670 and incorporated four beaver on a crest for their logo. Under the crest was written “Pro Pelle Cutem” (Skin For Leather).  During the peak of the fur trade 100,000 beaver pelts per year were  being shipped to Europe.  The beaver was featured on the very first Canada Post stamp in 1851.  It was also the first time an animal was featured on a stamp anywhere in the world.  In 1937 the beaver was selected for the 5 cent coin but it wasn’t until 1975 that it was finally chosen as the official animal of Canada.  This Castor Canadensis was photographed in Etobicoke Valley Park on Feb. 28, 2015.


Lilium Canadense is otherwise known as the Canada Lily or meadow lily.  They can have red, yellow or orange flowers which are known as “nodding” because they hang downward.  This helps distinguish them from the more common Tiger Lily which opens upward. They often have darker spots on them.  They have become much less common in urban areas since the white tailed deer have started to become more common in our ravines and park systems.  White tailed deer browse on the Canada Lily until there are few remaining. They are featured on Canada Day 2015.


The Canadian  Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio Canadensis) on the plant in the picture below is a female.  The female can be identified by the band of blue spots along the hind wing.  This example was photographed on a visit to The Barber Dynamo in Georgetown.


Canada Moonseed (Menispermum Canadense) resembles a wild grape plant but has poisonous fruit.  One way to determine if the plant is moonseed or grape is to look for tendrils.  Grapes put out tendrils while Canada Moonseed does not.  Another way to tell the two apart is to look at the seed.  The moonseed has a moon shaped seed.  The moonseed featured below is growing along a fence line and was not previously featured in a story.  Notice how the fruit is just beginning to form.


Canada Goose (Branta Canadenis) has adapted very well to living in urban areas where there is plenty of food and very few predators.  By 2000 it was estimated that their numbers had reached 5 million birds and increasing.  They are often considered a pest because of their noise and the mess of droppings they leave.  During migration they switch the lead role as flying in the front of the V formation consumes the most energy.   This picture was taken during a walk along the The Don Narrows


Canada Anemone  (Anemone Canadensis) grows in moist meadows and spreads quickly through underground rhizomes.  A rhizome is a stock or stem of a plant that can send out new roots and shoots from little nodes along it.  Canada Anemone was used by the native peoples as an astringent and to sterilize wounds.  The picture below is from Brampton’s Kettle Lakes.


“A Mari Usque Ad Mare”, From Sea to Sea.  These words adorn the Canadian Coat of Arms. Just below the words Mari and Mare appear two purple thistles.  These are Canadian Thistles (Cirsium Arvense) and have appeared on our Coat of Arms since 1921.  In-spite of the name, it is not actually native to Canada and is classified as a noxious weed here.  Other names include Lettuce From Hell and Cursed Thistle.  In spite of it’s status as an unwanted intruder it hangs on the walls of our government buildings, graces the 50 cent coin and shows up wherever the Coat of Arms is displayed.  This picture was featured in the story on Summerville.

canada thistle

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) is the white flower in the foreground of the picture below.  It is one of the first flowers in spring but it’s flowers last only a couple of days after being pollinated.  It gets it’s name from it’s blood red roots.  Sprinkled in among a sea of bluebells they bring the lawns to life for a short period each spring.  This picture was taken from the post on Huttonville.


The Goldenrod Gall Fly is a small brownish fly that lives it’s entire life cycle around the Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis) plant.  In the spring the male will wait on a plant for the female to arrive so he can dance for her.  After mating she deposits her eggs directly into the stem of the young goldenrod plant.  The eggs hatch in about 10 days, roughly the same time as the adult completes it’s two week life cycle and dies.  The larva live their whole lives inside the plant where they chew a nest.  Their saliva causes the plant to grow a gall around the larva, up to the size of a golf ball.  Just before winter the larva will chew an escape tunnel out almost to the outer skin.  Then it converts most of it’s body fluid to glycol, a substance like anti-freeze, and sets down for the winter.  In the spring the larva wakes up and molts into the pupa from which the adult fly will hatch.  The adult will escape through the tunnel it dug the fall before.  When it reaches the end of the tunnel it inflates special pouches in it’s head to “blow apart” the skin of the gall.  The male fly then begins it’s two week life cycle on the outside.  Goldenrod galls are easy to find but it is rare to see two galls on a single plant.  This picture was taken during a visit to Riverside Park in Streetsville.


There are dozens of other species that have proudly taken on the name Canada.  Together we say Happy Canada Day 2016.



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