Tag Archives: Coltsfoot

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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Friday April 3, 2015.

It was by far the warmest hike of the year so far at 12 degrees feeling like 18.  Before we got back to the cars we were carrying sweaters and coats.  It was Good Friday and perfectly applicable that we should go to church.  So we went to Churchville to explore the historical little village and the conservation area that separates it from Meadowvale.  We parked in the same lot as last week where the Second Line dead ends below the New Derry Road.  Crossing under the bridge we made our way north intending to make it as far as Steeles Avenue.

One of the first plants to respond to the warmer days and increased sunshine is the dogwood. Also known as Cornus Sericea they grow wild in wetlands throughout Canada.  Their bark takes on a brighter red colour before the leaves come out.


When the Derry Road Bypass (now just Derry Road) was built in the mid 1990’s the Second Line was closed where the bypass intersected it.  After investigating a woodlot just north of the bypass we headed west back toward the Credit River.  The picture below shows the closed second line looking south toward Meadowvale.


The Credit Valley Railway (CVR) was incorporated in 1871 with a mandate to build a railway from Toronto to Orangeville with various branches westward to Waterloo.  The railway stopped at Meadowvale where the station was at the corner of Old Creditview and Old Derry (now marked by a single old telegraph pole).  It bypassed Churchville on the east and made it’s next stop in Brampton.  By 1881 the CVR was in trouble and was incorporated into the Canadian Pacific Railway.  We crossed the old CVR tracks where some of the tie down plates are dated 1921 as seen below.


Perhaps the first new growth of the spring are these Coltsfoot flowers that are growing along the banks of the river.  Coltsfoot are unique in that the flowers appear without the previous formation of any leaves.  After the seeds are distributed the flower disappears and the leaves grow, making at appear to be a plant without flowers.  The name comes from two Latin words which mean to act on, or cast out, a cough.  We now know that the plant has certain toxic alkaloids that destroy the liver and some countries have banned it’s medicinal use.  The plant which is the first sign of new life this spring turns out to be toxic to life, if ingested.  In the picture below it looks like a dandelion but is too early and also lacks the green leaves.


Built in 1907 the current one lane bridge over the Credit River in Churchville replaced several earlier wooden bridges that crossed the river in the centre of town.  The bridge style is known as a steel pony truss bridge.  A truss bridge is one of the earliest designs of bridges and was very common during the 19th and early 20th century.  A truss bridge uses a design of triangles to keep the elements of the bridge stressed either through tension or compression.  Where the sides extend above the roadway but are not connected across the top it is known as a “pony truss”. This bridge is one of only two single lane bridges remaining in Brampton.  A 1911 picture of the bridge is featured in the cover photo.  It was taken at about this time of year and large slabs of ice are melting beside the bridge abutments.  Of note are the three people who are standing on the outside of the bridge railing in the historical photograph.


Amaziah Church founded the town in 1815 when he built mills on the Credit which were at first known as Church’s Mills.  With a population of 80 it got it’s own post office and the new name of Churchville in 1831.  By the 1850’s it had peaked at over 200 people and was home to 5 mills and over 20 small businesses plus three general stores.  The crash in grain prices following the Crimean War hurt the small milling community and between 1866 and 1877 all of the mills closed.   In 1875 a fire destroyed much of the town, which was never rebuilt.  The failure of the CVR to come into town in 1877 was a final blow to ensure it wouldn’t recover from it’s decline. Of the 98 homes that once stood in the village less than 20 remain.

This building dates to 1840 and may have originally been a wagon shop belonging to Thomas Fogerty.  It served as the final general store for the community and lasted until the 1960’s when it was converted into a residence.  The original store windows have been hidden when the front porch was enclosed.


Formerly known as the May Hotel this 1830’s structure is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Churchville.


At one time there were three churches in town.  The Anglican and Episcopalian churches have been lost and the only one remaining is the Weslyan Methodist, built in 1856.


The old plow in the picture below has been sitting in one place for so long that a group of small trees is growing up in the middle of the frame.


The first burial in the Churchville cemetery was Amaziah Church in 1831.


The town of Churchville sits on the floodplain for the Credit River and has experienced repeated flooding over the years.  When the town was recognized as a Cultural Heritage District it was decided to do something to protect the historic homes in town.  In 1989 a protective berm was built between the river and the homes along it’s east side.  Behind houses it has been built with a concrete wall and between houses the gentle slope of the berm can be seen.  The picture below is taken from beside the former volunteer fire department station.


Tagged on the plate as a 100 year vehicle it was appropriate that we saw it entering the 1907 bridge.