Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Touch-me-not, Himalayan Balsam and Jewelweed

In this selfie, it is taller than I am (5'4")!
Yet another invasive species. Who knew?
Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) looks like Ontario’s native Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis),  except that it is enormous! They are related species, but the Ontario version has yellow-orange flowers.

You can spot the Himalayan Balsam, as it grows very large. Like many invasive species, they overwhelm native plants, crowding out those who belong here, reducing biodiversity and the ecological value of land. Fortunately, unlike some of my other riparian plants, it isn't poisonous.

Those who warn us of it, claim that it has nectar that draws pollinators away from native species. I'm not sure how true that is, since birds and bees seem to visit a variety of species, rather than depending upon only one.
Native Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
in our wetland

Hops climb the trellises, with the
Balsam in the middle.
It likes riversides, although Ontario gardeners are growing it in gardens, as you can see from mine.
Mine is snuggled in between my Hop bines. I imagine a previous owner, all three seemed to be avid gardeners, actually made his own beer!

It is called an annual herb, and while native to the Western Himalayas, in the early 1800s it was spread, as these things are, to Europe, New Zealand, and North America by gardeners. 

It's common name, Touch-me-not, derives from the way the mature seed pods explode when you touch it. It sends the seeds flying up to 5m (~5 yards) from the parent plant, producing up to 800 seeds per plant.

It is easy to get rid of the plant, as its roots are very shallow. I'm not sure how it survives, standing as tall as it does!
Himalyan Balsam, pretty pink flowers

Large plants in this garden



Annual management is required and repeat treatments must be completed. It is also important to properly dispose of plant materials through municipal landfill or incineration.

• Report sightings to the Invading Species Hotline  1-800-563-7711 or report a sighting online

Downloads from Ontario Invasive Species site

Distinct seedlings
sprout in Spring

It is starting to grow in the middle,
surrounded by my Hops bine plants.

Gardeners love these flowers!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


This is an amazing book! I started it at bedtime last night, and finished
after my morning workout, on the back deck while the guns blared from the annual, summer-long OPP Recertification in the back 40 (actually 500m into the wetland). It was surreal. Hubby was out delivering Meals on Wheels. I was free to read. I was riveted.

Kurt Kamm writes easily (or so it seems), and writes well. I've read my fair share of mystery novels, as well as historical fictions, and I quite enjoy them. He calls this genre: FACTION, for facts + fiction.

Target audience

It is a well-created, neatly woven story, with strong characters; heroic and dastardly; male and female. It is Kurt Kamm’s 5th novel –the others I shall have to pick up. Often, when hubby finds a male mystery writer, I find it a bit tough, difficult to read, with too much of your macho stuff to pad a weak story. This one is based in lots of historical facts, incorporates environmental issues, with a strong plot, and sub-plot.

It is well-edited, which is not always the case these days. I only spotted one error, p. 134 where the wives would 'try to kiss their mn.'  (My apologies, but they pop out at me – always a Language Arts teacher.)

I think my hydrogeologist-daughter would enjoy this read. My brother, who works in a gold mine and has worked in a uranium mine, would enjoy it. (Yes, he didn't tell any of us that he was a demolitions expert underground –not until my mom's funeral, at least! That's where he lost his baby finger, in the mine!) My husband, who worked with Homeland Security after 9/11 and before retiring, will also find it a good read.

The area had an earthquake
prior to the Sylmar explosion

My only concerns

It would stand alone, however, this reader would have found a couple of things to help her. While it is only about 200 pages, I would have appreciated an acronym list.
My brain was exploding with HasMat, JRIC, LA DIG, LA CLEAR, INCH, ISS, STAS, TLF ATF, ANFO, and the like.

Also, maps, since it is based on American geography, and an existing water tunnel, it would have clarified it for me. Maybe I'm a bit slow, but I like to get a picture in my mind. Perhaps, I was reading too quickly, wanting to finish it!

It was a shocking story, and there is much in the news about the area. Between the lack of water, the earthquakes and terrorism that is in the news... The photos in the back, of the actual Sylmar explosion, were very helpful.

What is interesting is that many of the resources exist, and my curiosity was piqued enough to do some more research.

Tunnel Visions (September 2014, MCM Publishing) 

Newspaper article

Tunnel Visions blends fact and fiction [FACTION], weaving together the historical facts of the Sylmar disaster, the current struggle for control over California's diminishing water supply, and a fictional plot to attack Los Angeles' water system.   When Homeland security mobilizes Los Angeles County, fire captain Nick Carter and his fiancĂ©e, ATF Special Agent Cindi Burns, find themselves working together to stop a terrorist threat.  As the crisis unfolds, California’s contentious history of water wars is laid to bare and Nick confronts a 40-year-old mystery. Tunnel Visions will navigate readers through this fiery mystery/thriller.

There are many resources that verify the facts, but read the book first!

Janette Zavattero, The Sylmar Tunnel Disaster,
New York:Everest House (1978)

The worst tunnel disaster in California history killed 17 miners below Sylmar, spurring the toughest mining and tunnel regulations in the nation and a year-long criminal trial against the contractor, resulting in record fines and civil damages.

Wild parsnip abounds in Ontario ditches - it's poisonous

Contact dermatitis
Poison Ivy rash in October, 2011.
Another long story!
There are lots of weeds that are toxic to us, most give us Contact dermatitis.

The Wild parsnip worries me, as it is ubiquitous in Southeastern Ontario ditches.  The government has a website for weeds. I drove home from my daughter's house, and stopped to photograph them.

I'd noticed them after cleaning them out from around my mailbox.
I've had some boils, so I know I've been infected with the poison, either from this, or from our Poison Ivy patch down by the meadow. I made the mistake of going over the ivy with the law tractor.

Contact dermatitis begins with an itch or boils. If not treated, and spreads throughout your system. Usually, with the first contact, you'll spot a little boil or two, about the size of a pencil dot on paper. It percolates throughout your body. Mine, on my arm, spread to my stomach.

First bout in the summer: July, 2011.
These boils are terribly itchy.
OCT. 2011:
The open boils spread
onto other areas if unchecked.
I found two boils on my ankle a few days ago, again. This was my second contact.

Each time I am in contact with another poisonous plant, the attack is worse. These poisonous plants give us Contact dermatitis. If not checked, it can be horrible, as I can attest. The ER doctors failed to diagnose it, while the Triage Nurse suggested that was what it looked like. I learned my lesson and apply the cream at the first sign of it.

I found Wild Parsnip in my garden, likely transported by birds. It is an invasive species. It is moving from South and Eastern Ontario, across the continent to the west.

Wild Parsnip
Pastinaca sativa

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant native to Europe and Asia. It was likely brought to North America by European settlers, who grew it for its edible root. Since its introduction, wild parsnip has escaped from cultivated gardens and spread across the continent.

This is what they look like:
First year plant

The government website is very clear about which chemicals may or may not be used these days. I used spray-on bottles, designated to kill poison ivy. They work, after a few days being absorbed, on the Wild Parsnip. You can spot the Wild Parsnip with the pretty, yellow flowers appearing in an umbel. It looks like Cow parsnip, which is harmless, and has the same umbels. In fact, the plants look much like dill weed, with the same system of umbels!

Almost looks like dill weed!

You can tell the difference as the dill weed has skinny little leaves, and smaller flowers in an umbel, much like cow parsnip, Queen Anne's Lace.

Other Resources

Here are the incredible numbers of plants in ditches.

Stay away from it. It is terrible stuff.

This is white, Water Parsnip,
found in our dried up frog pond.
It is a marsh plant.
This plant I sprayed with
Poison Ivy killer spray.
Thankfully, it died.
They look innocuous.

Monday, 28 July 2014

More Milkweed critters; part 3: Charlotte's web spider family

Yes! Charlotte is on a milkweed plant, with all her little children! I've been enjoying my Macro lens and the various critters on my ubiquitous Milkweed plants.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Monarch butterfly video

July 28 UPDATE:
After a massive thunder and lightning show, and 46mm of rain in an hour, I brought her into the kitchen. Maggie Monarch passed over night, tucked in behind the curtain on the plant.

It's so pretty, with a pretty useless wing.
I ended up putting it out in the garden. The wing is irreparable. I tried it on the phlox, where it unfolded its long proboscus and drank the dewy rain water.
I wondered if I should put it on the Milkweed, if it had eggs to lay. I set it there, then went back, and an ant was crawling all over it. They are merciless, so back I put it on a plant on the sheltered back deck. It is now pouring rain and thundering. It was a good move. The wind acted as sort of a physiotherapist, but I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

Broken-winged Monarch from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.
This poo little Monarch was smucked by a car. I brought it home.

Wounded Monarch butterfly - what do I do with her?

UPDATE: July 28th

Maggie passed over last night, safely ensconced in the Goldfish plant in the kitchen. The rain and winds were terrible, with thunder and lightning. She was blown off a plant outdoors, flung, sodden, to the ground. She'd taken some water.

Maggie's story

I'm so sad. I was out taking photographs of a new bird, Common Yellowthroat, by the mailbox. I saw this butterfly fly into the path of a car. She ended up on the road.
At first I popped her on the petunias in the planter. I tried giving her some of the hummingbird food, but she wasn't interested. Then, thought she might like the Milkweed, but she's likely in no mood to lay eggs. (My first Monarch caterpillar has disappeared, in its place was a spider. I'm not optimistic.)
I put her in the back yard overnight, on the Hops bine, as the wind was picking up and she cannot fly. This morning, she was drinking water from the rainfall on the plant leaves this morning. Her wings are soaking wet.

Now what?