Tag Archives: Canada Thistle

Hiking the GTA #100- Pernicious Plants and Beautiful Blossoms

April 28, 2014 to July 18, 2015

Presented below is a gallery of plant, flower and fungi  pictures taken during the first 100 hikes on the journey called Hiking the GTA.  This post concludes our celebration of chapter one in this adventure.

On July 21, 2015 I published my 100th post in this blog under the title Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks.  That post presented the 15 most popular stories on the blog, so far.  I’ve posted a gallery of animal pictures from those first blogs under the title Hiking the GTA – Amazing Animals.  Ontario has many edible plants, some very beautiful ones and several really nasty ones.  The pictures below are in no particular order except that the three most common poisonous ones are presented first.

Giant Hogweed is one of the nastiest plants in Ontario.  It can cause severe burns and even blindness.  These picture shows last year’s stocks and this year’s white blossoms and was published in the Canada Day post on July 1, 2015.


Wild Parsnip is another plant with similar poisonous sap to the Giant Hogweed.  This picture was taken in Riverwood Part 1 – The Bird Property on June 28, 2014.


A third poisonous plant is Poison Ivy.  This patch was photographed at Barbertown on Aug. 23, 2014.


Burdocks have a tiny hook on the end of each stem that inspired velcro.  This one, complete with Lady Beetle, was photographed at The Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary on Oct. 11, 2014.


Coral Mushroom are one of the plants that although relatively rare can be eaten.  This fungi was discovered on Canada Day 2015.


Ontario’s provincial flower is the Trillium.  These were seen on our hike from Old Mill to Lambton Mills on May 17, 2014.


The Yellow Iris is an invasive species that takes over our wetlands and chokes out other plant life.  This patch was seen on June 14, 2014 near Raymore Drive.


Dog-Toothed Violets were seen on the hike where we discovered the Ovens Above Old Mill on May 10, 2014.


The Vipers Bugloss has a brilliant shade of blue.  We found this example during our hike at the Devil’s Pulpit on July 11, 2015.


We found young teasels growing at Glen Williams on June 27, 2015.


Jack-In-The-Pulpit plants can live up to 100 years.  We found this large plant growing in Palgrave on May 30, 2015.


Forget-Me-Nots were used in Newfoundland for their Remembrance Day celebrations before they joined confederation and adopted the poppy.  There were photographed near the Barber Paper Mills on June 6, 2015.


Coltsfoot is one of the first flowers seen in spring.  We found this patch at Churchville on April 3, 2015.


Canada Thistle isn’t native to Canada but appears on our Coat of Arms.  This bee was collecting pollen on a Canada Thistle near the Erindale Hydro Electric Dam on Oct. 19, 2014


Black Willow trees grow in wet areas and reach massive sizes.  This one is in Riverside Park in Streetsville where we visited on Sep. 6, 2014.


Trees suck the chlorophyll back out of the leaves and store it in the woody parts of the tree for re-use the next year.  These trees appear to be doing just that.  These were also photographed at The Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary on Oct. 11, 2014.


Our parks are full of a wide variety of plants which keep the woods alive with splashes of colour from early spring until late fall.  Watch out for the pernicious plants and enjoy the beautiful blossoms as you have your own adventures, Hiking the GTA.

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Erindale Hydro Electric Dam

Sunday Oct. 19, 2014

Sunday morning was cold at only 2 degrees.  To access the parking lot at Erindale park you have to drive through a break in the wall of the old Erindale Dam.

In 1902 Erindale Light and Power Company was formed to construct an hydro electric generating plant on the Credit River at Erindale.  This large scale engineering project ran into several delays during construction and didn’t begin producing power until 1910.  A dam was constructed across the valley flooding it and creating the 125 acre Lake Erindale.  A power generating plant was built on the south end of town at the bottom of Proudfoot Street.  A tunnel was constructed to connect the two.  The power plant operated from 1910 until 1923 supplying power to Erindale and New Toronto. It was closed when Ontario Hydro began to supply the area with power from Niagara Falls.  In 1941 the lake was drained and the dam was blown up.  Between 1961 and 1965 the former lake bottom was used as a sanitary landfill.  It has since been covered over with clean soil and Erindale Park has been created.

From the top of the old dam the view across the old lake bed gives you a good impression of the size of dam and the lake it created.


Walking north along the east side of the river we came to this shopping cart which has obviously been standing in the river when the water was much higher.  The shiny coffee mug on top belongs to a clever angler who is fishing near by.


As you head upstream from the old dam there is a foot bridge that will allow you to cross over the river to explore the ruins of the dam on the other side.  This photo shows one of three old water control structures that are in the river above the dam.  There are six fishermen in this picture (how many can you see?) and the shopping cart.


When settlers first arrived the rivers around Toronto were filled with Atlantic Salmon.  Pollution, deforestation and the construction of dams resulted in their extermination within only a few decades.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s large numbers of Chinook salmon were stocked in the rivers. The eggs hatch in May from the gravel beds where they winter and and the fingerlings make their way out into lake Ontario.  They will die if they stay in the river until the water warms up. They spend four to eight years in the lake attaining a size of up to 40 pounds before they make their only spawning run.  Then they will migrate from the lake into the same river in which they were born.  It is estimated that 20,000 Chinook make the trip up the Credit River each fall.  After spawning they die and their carcasses litter the river providing easy pickings for the local birds. The fish in the picture below was a recent catch from one of the people fishing in the river.  It looked to be about 25 to 30 pounds.


The expression “busy as a bee” applies to this little creature.  Although the weather was too cold for most bees a few industrious ones were busy collecting pollen from late blooming Canada Thistles. This purple flower is coated with white pollen.  The bee is collecting it and storing it in the hair all over it’s body.  Bumble bees can’t fly unless their wing muscles are at least 30 degrees C.  On cold days such as this they beat their wings at the rate of 130 times a minute to raise their body temperature enough to take off.


The Bulrush or Cat-o-Nine tails grows in wetland areas.  There is a stand of them growing close to the base of the old dam.  Various parts of the plant can be eaten and were part of the native people’s diet.  This makes them valuable as an emergency source of food in a survival situation. Peeled stems or leaf bases can be eaten raw.  The roots need to be cooked and peeled but they also are edible.  The roots can also be used as a poultice for burns and wounds.  Care must be taken not to eat bulrushes that grow in polluted water as they are a bio-mediator which absorbs pollution.  Signs of contamination include a bitter or spicy taste.


At the foot of the dam on the west side of the river is a small mill race where the water is standing still.  The leaves floating on the water lend a sense of calm to the scene.  In the middle of the picture is a tire that appears to be standing on top of the water.  A close look at an enlarged photo shows the green neck of a male mallard duck which is having a bath just to the right of the tire.


St. Peter’s Anglican church stands on the hill top on the corner of Mississauga Road and Dundas Street.  The first building was opened in 1825.  It was replaced with this stone building in 1887. Roy Ivor, who ran the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary across the street, is buried here.


The north entrance to the water tunnel is located in the woods at the end of the last parking lot. This stood at the edge of Lake Erindale and a pair of sluice gates was used to control the water flow into the tunnel at the bottom.  This structure is decayed badlly and has a small forest growing in the open area inside the mouth.


This photo was taken by holding the camera inside of the tunnel as it heads under Dundas street.  This is in effect the head race for the power mill.


The tunnel passes under Dundas Street just east of Proudfoot Street.  It then emerges just past the end of Proudfoot Street where the river doubles back on the edge of town.  The power generating plant stood here until it was removed in 1977.  The picture below shows the power station and the tail race where the water was returned to the river.





Saturday August 30, 2014

It was partly sunny with humidity making it feel several degrees warmer than the 21 degrees on the thermometer.  We parked off of Nelson street and followed a little path to the edge of the creek.  From there we went south on the east side of Etobicoke Creek.  We very quickly saw two Great Blue Herons flying upstream followed shortly by a Belted Kingfisher.  A minute later one heron flew back downstream with the kingfisher scolding him all the way.  Having chased the heron out of his personal fishing hole, the kingfisher chattered final warnings as it flew back upstream.  Although we followed the heron downstream he was spooked enough that we never got a good picture of him.

Grass Spiders, also known as Funnel Weavers, weave a large web with a funnel shaped hole near one side where they sit and wait for prey.  The web isn’t sticky but the spider makes up for this with it’s lightning speed.  When I opened the back door of my car I found a large mess of spider web running from the door to the head rest on the back seat. One of these grass spiders, about an inch across, was trying to hide along the door seal. Living in my car and walking up my neck while I am driving is not an option but she jumped to the ground and ran away fast enough to avoid becoming a sticky mess on my shoe.


There is still plenty of evidence of last year’s July flooding along most of Toronto’s ravines. Rows of sticks and other debris has been packed into plants and trees high above the normal water level.  In one of these places we found an old tractor tire in which a grass spider has built it’s nest.  The round hole near the centre of the picture is opening of the funnel which is the spider’s home.


In the 1820’s John Silverthorn  built a saw mill and a grist mill north of Dundas Street on the Etobicoke Creek.  John also built a road through his property from Burnhamthorpe Road  to Dundas Street to help people bring their goods to his two mills.  This road still exists today as Mill Road north of the Etobicoke Creek.  South of the creek a clever city planner named it Southcreek Road.  The mill was at the crossing of the river but is now off limits to hikers as it is on property owned by the Markland Wood Golf Club.   A community grew up around the mills and by the 1850’s it had a population of around 100 with two blacksmiths, the grist and saw mills, a chair factory and, naturally, two taverns.  It took the name Summerville in 1851 when the post office opened.

John’s brother, Joseph, built Cherry Hill House in 1822 and it is said to be the oldest house in Mississauga.  As seen in the 1972 photo below, the house was allowed to fall into ruin. It was restored in 1979 and moved to it’s current location on the corner of Silvercreek Blvd and Lolita Gardens where it now serves as a restaurant.

Cherry Hill House  1972



A Spud Bar is a cylindrical steel tool which is typically 5 to 6 feet long and weighs up to 15 lbs.  They usually have a chisel point on one end and a tamper two to three inches in diameter on the other end.  In north America they are also known as millwright bars reflecting one of their primary uses.  Early millwrights built water powered mills like the saw and grist mills of john Silverthorn.  The millwright bar in the picture below, and in the cover photo, was found quite close to the location of the Silverthorn mills.


Not much to say here other than this is included as one of the strangest findings of all time.


We could see a thunderstorm coming our way and we made it to the bridge on Dundas before it arrived.  The storm only lasted for a few minutes and the rain evaporated quickly, increasing the humidity and making the hiking a little stickier.


Along the side of the embankment was a long section of old bridge siding.  Hurricane Hazel took out over 50 bridges and it is quite likely that this is part of one of them.


“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 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.


Apples, pears, cherries, peaches and roses are all related, being members of the “Rosa” family.  They all produce a type of fruit where the flower was.  The rose plant grows a fruit which is called a Rose Hip.  These are used for a wide variety of things including herbal teas, jams and jellies, pies and wine.  Rose hips contain 50% more vitamin C than oranges do and are one of the best natural sources.  They are also known to help prevent cancer and improve cardiovascular function.  Don’t just stop and smell the roses, take some time to eat them too!


Barney and Friends debuted in April 1992.  The purple singing T-Rex was the star of 248 children’s tv shows until PBS cancelled the show on Sept. 18, 2009.  Listed by TV Guide as one the top 50 worst tv shows of all time it is rumored that no one has seen Barney since. Perhaps not until now….