UNB offering vascular plant course this summer!

UNB’s College of Extended Learning is offering Biol 1846, Introduction to the Vascular Plants of New Brunswick this summer (August 19-25).   It is an intensive course in identifying trees, ferns, grasses and  wildflowers  commonly found in New Brunswick and is led by botanist Gart Bishop.

Contact the College at 506-451-6824 or celcourseadm@unb.ca for more information.

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Herbarium specimens as art

As important as herbaria are to science, I think they are also important in a different kind of way.

At UNB, we have an entire room filled with cabinets which are stuffed with specimens.  Not all of them are as pretty as the rose specimen pictured below, but I find that each one is a little slice of beauty.  Whether it’s the arrangement of the parts on the sheet to show off all the parts of the plant, how carefully they have been labelled, the way the colours have or have not changed with drying, the age of the specimen; something almost always makes me stop to look.

Someone collected, pressed and dried this plant, looked carefully at it to identify it correctly, recorded details about the where and when and why it was collected, selected archival materials and arranged it aesthetically, and filed it in the herbarium to preserve it forever.

So, while we should be inviting students of botany, environmental studies or forestry to visit our collections, I think these treasuries would also be enjoyed by teachers, artists, writers, historians, etc.  I have also seen preserved plants, plant prints and scientific style specimens sold on Etsy and admired on social media sites like Pinterest, and hung in board rooms and hotel lobbies.

High resolution scans of many of our specimens are available to view on our website: www.unbherbarium.ca.

 

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UNB Herbarium specimen: Rosa palustris Marsh.

 

Belding’s Reef Nature Preserve

Botanizers at Belding's Reef
Gart Bishop, Susan Belfey, Liz Mills, Richard Tarn, Clay Merrithew, Carli Leroux, Bev Schneider

Chance Harbour, Saint John County.  For more information about this Nature Trust site, go to: Beldings Reef Nature Preserve.

Photos and Text by E. Mills and B. Schneider

Our group of botanists met in the parking lot of the Seaside Baptist Church in Chance Harbour around 10:00 am, got organized and ventured off down the trail to the Lighthouse. Carli Leroux works with the Nature Trust and was our guide for the outing, which was intended as an inventory of the plant species contained in the Preserve.  The plants collected have been properly catalogued and are housed in the Connell Memorial Herbarium at the University of New Brunswick.  They are referred to as the Belding’s Reef Nature Preserve collection.

We decided to move as a group with each person collecting a different group of plants: shrubs, grasses, sedges, trees, flowering vascular plants, and ferns.   The trail meanders through 4 different habitats : mixed forest, shrubby forest edge, coastal edge, and rocky seeps.   Our path was a circuitous route following the designated trail going to the lighthouse and then returning on a power line trail back to the starting point.

Belding's Reef Nature Preserve Map
Aerial view of Belding’s Reef Nature Preserve, showing trail followed by botany group.

We found there was not a lot of diversity in any of the designated plant collecting groups in these habitats.  However, one of the highlights was finding Sagina nodosa var. borealis.  This plant is not a plant common in New Brunswick and has been reported only from coastal habitats.

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Sagina nodosa var. borealis

Another remarkable find was the large patch of Myrica pensylvanica ( photo below) commonly known as bayberry. This not rare in New Brunswick but is found more often on the shores of Northumberland Strait. The patch we found was 1.5 meters in height and covered a large area on the top of the rocky ledges.

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Botany group behind large patch of Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica).

The vistas from the trail were eye candy and could be called “sights for sore eyes”. We did enjoy the outing and got a good sample of what is common on the Fundy coast of New Brunswick.

First field trip of 2016: skunk cabbages

These are some of the earliest flowering plants I’ve encountered in this province.  They are called Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus.    It occurs in wet areas and flowers really early in the season, then throws up big leaves later on.  It is not common in the province, in fact this is close to the northernmost part of it’s distribution.

 

Prompted by an inquiry by a botanist in Korea who is collecting tissue samples of this species from around the world, I checked the herbarium’s collection: we only have 8 specimens from New Brunswick in our cabinets and they were mainly collected about 50 years ago!

Time for an update, I thought, and time for a field trip too (it’s been a long winter!) So, last week, the first weekend of April, Liz, Bev and I went out on a hunt for the elusive skunk cabbage.  While quite large, the flower is a little hard to see at first because it occurs in marshy, wet areas full of dead grasses!

The occasion also gave us a chance to learn more about the ecology of this very odd plant, for example:  it makes scent and warmth to attract pollinating insects; it  buries itself deeper in the mud each year with it’s contractile roots; and it has separate male and female flowers.

Love learning about plants!

 

 

Plant ID Workshops

workshopDec16_2015Every third Wednesday of the month, the Friends of the Connell Memorial Herbarium host a plant identification workshop to encourage interest in local botany.  The sessions are held  in the Biology (Bailey) Building at UNB, starting at 11 am and running until 3 pm.     Attended by beginners and experts alike, these meet-ups are great places to learn about the plants in your own backyard, access resources such as our library and specimen collection, and scheme about botanical expeditions.  In addition, you may be able to help the Herbarium with specimens waiting to be accepted into our collections.

This month we’re tackling some difficult graminoides!

See you at the next meeting on January 20, 2017!

A great opportunity to learn or practice the art of plant identification. Everyone is welcome.
A great opportunity to learn or practice the art of plant identification. Everyone is welcome.

Algal Outing to Mace’s Bay, New Brunswick

  • Location: Mace’s Bay, NB
  • Date: Saturday, October 3 2015
  • Lead by:  Dr. Gary Saunders, UNB
  • Focus: Algae exposed by super low tides.
  • Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Mills

This was an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the underwater / intertidal flora of the Bay of Fundy.   In addition to serving as the herbarium’s Director, Dr. Gary Saunders (website) is a research professor at UNB interested in algal evolution, sytematics and biodiversity.