July 10, 2024

Plant of the Month: Common Tansy (Tancetum vulgare)

Common tansy (Tancetum vulgare) is also referred to as bitter buttons, garden tansy, cow bitter, and golden buttons. It is native to Europe and Asia, but was introduced to North America in the 1600s for its medicinal uses. It is currently used to treat colds and flus, and as an insect repellent (specifically for mosquitoes and Colorado potato beetles). It has also been used for embalming bodies or packing perishable items as it contains a compound with antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Historically, its medicinal uses include aiding in digestive problems, intestinal worms, and causing abortions within cattle. However, it contains toxic alkaloids and consuming too much tansy can cause illnesses or death in humans and in wildlife. It has also been reported to make the milk of cattle taste bad if consumed by them.

Tansy is commonly found in disturbed areas, like roadsides and pastures, of temperate regions of North America and is pollinated by flies, butterflies and honeybees. This plant is a perennial herb found within the sunflower family, (Asteraceae). It has yellow, button shaped flowers that grow in clusters at the ends of purplish-red stems. Its leaves are serrated and divided with sharp edges, making them fern-like. Additionally, the leaves are dark green and occur in an alternate pattern on the stem. The common tansy is considered an invasive weed as it competes with other plants for water and nutrients, and spreads through creeping rhizomes (horizontal stems). The seeds of the common tansy can remain viable for up to 25 years so preventing it from becoming established is the easiest way to deal with it. However, it can also be dealt with through mowing or herbicide use.

The common tansy is commonly confused with tansy ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris), which is poisonous and is also considered a weed. Tansy ragwort is differentiated from common tansy as it has yellow flower petals and lacks the sharp tooth leaves. Instead of planting the common tansy, you could try planting the dune tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum), a similar species that is native to Alberta, or yarrow (Achillea sp.), which has a similar smell to tansy and also has many medicinal properties.

Many yellow tansy flowers, pictured from above

Posted on July 10, 2024 01:06 AM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 23, 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The painted lady (Vanessa cardui) is one of the most widespread of all butterflies, as it can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and Central America. It is native to Canada, where it usually arrives in June after migrating from warmer regions. It cannot survive colder climates, so it migrates again during the winter. They use the winds that occur at high altitudes to assist with their migration.

The painted lady has orange wings with black tips. The upper side of the forewings have a pattern of white spots and thick black lines. This is visually similar to the American lady, but it can be distinguished by the four eyespots instead of two on its hindwing. The underside of their wings consist of a pattern of black, brown, red-orange and gray colours. The four small eyespots are also visible from the underside, near the edges of their wings. Females are generally larger than males.

The painted lady butterfly feeds on nectar from many plants, including purple coneflower, thistles, red clover, asters, blazing star, cosmos, New England aster, Joe-pye weed, Mexican sunflower, zinnias, red clover and milkweed, though it typically prefers tall plants. The painted lady can also be called the thistle butterfly. Its scientific name (Vanessa cardui) means “butterfly of thistle”. This is because it is associated with thistle as the wide range of the weed likely also allowed the butterfly to spread widely throughout the world.

To reproduce, the territorial males wait for females to enter the territory, then mating commences. The males will also mate with multiple females. They reproduce when conditions are favorable, this includes year round mating in warmer climates. Mating results in small green eggs to be laid on the leaves of its host plants, which include thistle, mallows, hollyhock, legumes, and other plants from the Compositae, Boraginaceae, and Malvaceae families. Over 100 host plants of the painted lady have been recorded. The larvae emerge after 4 to 14 days as spiny, gray-brown to purple-black with yellow stripes caterpillars. They feed on the leaves of their host plants, which can have serious negative consequences to the plants if there are too many caterpillars on it.

a painted lady butterfly sitting on a purple flower with their wings closed

a painted lady butterfly with their wings open on a gravely road

larvae of the painted lady butterfly

Posted on June 23, 2024 08:14 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 10, 2024

Plant of the Month: Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae). They have multiple white flowers growing from one or more stems that branch near the top, causing the flowers to form a flattened dome shaped cluster at the top of the stems. The leaves of the common yarrow have a feathery or lace-like appearance as they are pinnately lobed to form leaflets that are further divided into smaller leaflets. The leaves are alternate. The stems are hairy. Common yarrow grows to be 3 feet tall. They have a bitter taste and a distinctive smell.

Common yarrow has varieties that are native to North America, however there are also varieties of common yarrow that are introduced to North America and have the potential to become invasive. It is found in mildly disturbed soil throughout the Northern hemisphere.Yarrow is used by many for its medicinal properties. The Cree name for common yarrow translates to “head medicine” or “bone medicine”. All parts of the common yarrow can be used medicinally. It is used to reduce pain, clot blood and to prevent infections from occurring. It is also used to treat cuts, burns, stings, headaches, toothaches, stomach aches, inflammation, hemorrhoids, colds, flu, and many more ailments. It has also been used as a deodorant and smudges to repel mosquitoes.

Common yarrow is also an important ecological feature. It provides pollen and nectar to attract butterflies, wasps, flies and bees. Additionally, it can aid in biological control as it attracts predatory insects and parasitoids, including green lace wings, lady bugs, hoverflies, and tachinid flies. They act as a food source for various mammals. They are used for restoration and help with erosion control.

It is a perennial with drought tolerant properties and the ability to grow in cold, low nutrient soils, though it does prefer full sun and warm conditions. When common yarrow grows in more challenging conditions flowering can be delayed and seed production can be reduced.

Photo of flowers with white “petals” surrounding a center disk containing yellow-white florets. These flowers are common yarrow and are surrounded by a hand.

Posted on June 10, 2024 01:25 AM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 01, 2024

June Community Pollinator Walk Moved: Native Plant Rescue June 2, 2024

Hello Everyone!

The next community pollinator walk will be MOVED from June 2 to Sunday June 9, 2024, from 1:00pm to 2:30pm at Fish Creek Provincial Park ☀️ You can register for the walk here. We will gather at Votier's Flats (13511 Elbow Dr SW, Calgary). 🐝🪲🐞

There was a great turn out at the last native plant rescue! There will be another rescue tomorrow! Join the Alberta Native Plant Rescue group this Sunday, June 2, 2024, from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Genesis Land Development Corp. has granted us permission to hold a Native Plant Rescue at their Logan Landing Development, immediately south of Seton in Calgary. We will be working two areas below the escarpment down (see map in the Rescue Announcement), visible from 212 Ave SE.

IMPORTANT: Read the Rescue Announcement June 2 for information about the event and the required materials. This is private property so all volunteers attending will need to register by email before the event.

To register for the Native Plant Rescue, please download and fill out the Native Plant Rescue Waiver June2 and send it to Blake McNeill (albertaplantrescue@gmail.com).

Reach out if you have any questions!

Warm regards,
Justine

Alberta Plant and Pollinator Hub
contact.appc.hub@gmail.com

Posted on June 01, 2024 09:06 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 23, 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria)

The common aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is a medium-sized wasp (14-17mm) that has a distinctive yellow and black pattern on its body. It is found throughout and is native to Canada and the United States, commonly found in forested areas. They belong to the Subfamily Vespinae. Other members of the Subfamily Vespinae found within Calgary include the western yellowjacket, prairie yellowjacket, german yellowjacket, bald-faced hornet, blackjacket, parasitic aerial yellowjacket, northern aerial yellowjacket, arctic yellowjacket and Alaska yellowjackets.

They are important pollinators who contribute to the production of certain fruits. They visit flowers to feed on their nectar, and pollen attaches to and is transferred via their fluffy hairs. In addition to being pollinators, the common aerial yellowjacket can also be a biological control agent as it helps reduce populations of pests that damage crops. However, through its predation it may also eat beneficial insects. It can also transmit a disease called fire blight to potatoes.

The aerial yellowjacket is eusocial, which means it lives in a colony with a division of labour and cooperative care of the young. The colony consists of a queen, who is the only fertile female, and workers, who are sterile females. The queen has the ability to control the sex of the offspring through laying fertilized or unfertilized eggs (fertilized eggs produce females and unfertilized eggs produce males). She typically starts by producing female workers as they will help build the nest and collect food, however as winter nears she starts producing males and future queens. The queens overwinter.

The aerial yellowjacket builds its nest by transforming wood into a paper-like substance, which is why they are considered paper wasps. The nest is usually located above the ground, on trees, shrubs, or buildings, hence the name “aerial”. Sometimes, however, the aerial yellowjacket may build a subterranean nest. Compared to ground yellowjackets (Vespula sp.), common aerial yellowjackets are less aggressive and do not have the same preference for meat.

Dolichovespula has Latin origins, meaning long-little hornet. This comes from their long faces but little overall size when compared to “true hornets” (Vespa sp.). Arenaria comes from the Latin word meaning sandy and likely refers to the habitat they were found in.

a common aerial yellowjacket resting on a plant with clusters of pink flowers

Posted on May 23, 2024 09:22 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May and June Events and Updates

Hello Everyone!

I hope this message finds you well!

I know May is a busy time for everyone, myself included. I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine in between the (much needed) rain. Fun fact, the earthy scent produced when rain falls is called petrichor. It is created when ozone, geosmin, and plant oils in soil are released into the air from the rain falling on the ground.
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Unfortunately, due to busy schedules, there will be no May pollinator walk. The next community pollinator walk will be held on Sunday June 2, 2024, from 1:00pm to 2:30pm at Fish Creek Provincial Park ☀️ You can register for the walk here. We will gather at Votier's Flats (13511 Elbow Dr SW, Calgary). 🐝🪲🐞
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In place of a May pollinator walk, I would like to invite you to join the Alberta Native Plant Rescue group this Sunday, May 26, 2024, from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Genesis Land Development Corp. has granted us permission to hold a Native Plant Rescue at their Logan Landing Development, immediately south of Seton in Calgary. We will be working two areas below the escarpment down (see map attached), visible from 212 Ave SE.

** IMPORTANT ** Read the Native Plant Rescue Announcement May 26 for information about the event and the required materials. This is private property so all volunteers attending will need to register by email before the event.

To register for the Native Plant Rescue, please download and fill out the Native Plant Rescue Waiver May 26 and send it to Blake McNeill (albertaplantrescue@gmail.com).
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If anyone would like to hold an informal plant, pollinator, nature, or bird walk (or any other subject of interest!), please let me know and I can add the event to the community science page and send an invitation to the mailing list. On that note... I would be very interested if anyone is willing to share their knowledge on morel foraging. (:

You can find information about upcoming events and other community science projects on the Community Science page on the University of Calgary Biodiversity website.

Reach out if you have any questions!

Warm regards,
Justine
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Alberta Plant and Pollinator Hub
contact.appc.hub@gmail.com

Posted on May 23, 2024 01:06 AM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 09, 2024

Plant of the Month: Sticky Purple Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum)

Sticky purple geranium or sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) is protocarnivorous, meaning it has the ability to dissolve insects or other protein sources that land on their sticky leaves and become trapped. From these trapped insects the plant absorbs nitrogen. Protocarnivorous and carnivorous plants typically evolved in nutrient poor environments.

Sticky hairs cover the leaves and stems of the sticky purple geranium. The leaves are palmately lobed with 5 to 7 pointed lobes and are attached to the stem via long stocks. The flowers have five petals that range from a light purple-pink to a deep purple magenta with darker veins and long soft hairs near the base of the petals. The petals are slightly notched. The flowers grow in clusters of 2 or more, with the stem typically forking after the leaves.

Germination of the sticky purple geranium is low, but can be improved with scarification practices such as sanding the seed then soaking in water. Additionally, it may take up to three years for the flowers to become established. The sticky geranium is drought tolerant and grows in full sun to partial shade.

They are a perennial species that are native to Western United States, British Columbia, and southern Alberta found within the rose family (Rosaceae).

Sticky purple geranium has cultural significance to Indigenous peoples, including Sylix/Okanogan; Nlaka'pmx, Colville and Sanpoil; Blackfoot/Siksika. They used this flower for medicinal purposes, including encouraging blood clotting, treating colds and skin and eye conditions. The sticky purple geranium was also used as a food preservative. In European culture the geraniums were given as gifts to brides and to hosts.

Flies, butterflies, bees (solitary bees, bumble bees, and honey bees), wasps and true bugs have been associated with the sticky purple geranium. A correlation was found between a decline in sticky purple geraniums and a decline in pollinators, suggesting they play an important ecological role. The sticky purple geranium also acts as a food source to birds and mammals who eat their seeds and leaves.

Sticky purple geranium pictured from a top view

Posted on May 09, 2024 03:59 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Texas Striped Sweat Bee (Agapostemon texanus)

Texas striped sweat bee is scientifically referred to as Agapostemon texanus. The genus name Agapostemon means stamen loving, which has Greek origins and refers to their need to forage pollen. The species name texanus refers to Texas, as this type of specimen has been found there. They belong within the sweat bee family ( Halictidae). This family consists of small, non-aggressive bees with short tongues. Sweat bees are also attracted to sweat, hence their name, which allows them to obtain minerals and moisture.

Texas striped sweat bee is easily recognizable by its green metallic coloration. This is a structural colour, which is caused by light reflecting based off of structure rather than producing pigments. The females have an entire body that is brilliant blue-green, while the males have a head and thorax that are brilliant blue-green and an abdomen that is brownish black with yellow bands. The males are also smaller than the females, measuring 9-10 mm in length compared to 11 mm for the females. Due to the short tongues of the Texas striped sweat bee they have a more limited ability to access nectar from deep flowers. However, it is considered a generalist forager, visiting a wide range of flowers, including as aster, cerasus, fragaria, geranium, prunus, rubus, senecio, amorpha, brauneria, cassia, cephalanthus, cirsium, coreopsis, helianthus, lepachys, petalostemon, pycnanthemum, rhus, verbena and veronica.

The Texas striped sweat bee ranges from southern Canada to central Costa Rica, but it is most commonly found in the western coast of the United States. At its northern range females have been observed from May through October and males from July through October. Two generations of the Texas striped sweat bee are produced per year. In the fall fertilized females overwinter in their nests while males typically die. In the spring the fertilized females emerge; build a nest underground in bare, loamy soil; lay their eggs in brood chambers; provide pollen provisions for their eggs, then die. The eggs hatch after 5 weeks and the larvae mature after 30-35 days. This generation is mostly females as they emerged from fertilized eggs. To fix the skewed sex ratio these females lay unfertilized haploid eggs that develop into males. During the summer months the male and female Texas striped sweat bees mate. Then the cycle repeats.

side view green iridescent bee resting on a yellow and white flower

top view of a texas striped sweat bee on a yellow flower

Posted on April 23, 2024 04:59 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 10, 2024

Plant of the Month: Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) belong to the aster family (Asteraceae). The name dandelion means lion’s tooth, which likely refers to its jagged leaves. The scientific name of the Taraxacum officinale means “the official remedy for disorders” or “of pharmaceutical value”. This reflects the fact that dandelions have been cultivated in gardens for food, as nearly all parts of this plant can be eaten, and medicine since the mid-1600s.

The common dandelion originated in Eurasia. They spread rapidly after the last ice age due to glaciers retreating leaving bare land to be colonized. They are now naturalized in all parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and can grow in almost any soil and climate. They are especially good at colonizing disturbed habitats, such as lawns, roadsides, and fields.

Dandelions are short-lived perennials. Their leaves are green and may be entire or lobed. The leaves are arranged in a rosette around the stem. The stem is hollow and produces a bitter white latex that deters animals from eating it and can help clog up any wounds a dandelion incurs. A bright yellow flower sits atop the stem and they bloom very early in the spring. These flowers are actually composed of numerous ray and disc flowers.
eat

Dandelion flowers reflect ultraviolet light, which attracts insects, including bees, who feed on the pollen and nectar. They are an important nectar source early in the season as they are one of the first flowers to emerge in the spring when there are few other flowers in bloom.

Although dandelions are great for early season pollinators they can also produce seeds without pollination. Through a process known as apomixis, the female portions of the flower produce seeds on their own, which leads to genetically identical offspring. Each plant can produce 1000-2000 seeds per year. The seeds have tufts of hair that are carried by the wind with tiny fruits attached to the end. Dandelions can also reproduce from pieces of taproot that can grow new plants if they are broken off and dispersed.

The horned or fleshy dandelion (Taraxacum ceratophorum) is a native dandelion that grows in Alberta. Differentiating a horned dandelion from a common dandelion can be difficult, however one difference they exhibit is in their involucral bracts (modified leaves present at the base of the flower). For the horned dandelion, the inner bracts have hardened or calloused tips.

Horned dandelion
“Involucral

Common dandelion
Involucral bracts of a common dandelion

Posted on April 10, 2024 02:57 AM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 03, 2024

April 2024 Announcements

Hello Everyone!

Spring is here and all of our lovely pollinators will bee out and about soon! 🐝🪲🐞

I am excited to announce that our first community pollinator walk of 2024 will be at Nose Hill Park on Sunday April 28 from 1:00-2:30pm. ☀️ You can register for the walk here.

You can also find more information about upcoming events and other community science projects on the new Community Science page on the University of Calgary Biodiversity website. I would also encourage you to check out the Rare Plants of Alberta Project. - Rare Plants of Alberta iNaturalist page

I would like to say thank you again for the amazing turn out at pollinator walks last year and to everyone who participated in the community science survey! We had such a great turn out and so much positive feedback that we would like to continue them this summer! However, we would like to ask for your help hosting the walks! I am looking for a few lovely volunteers who would be willing to help lead groups on the pollinator walks. You don’t have to commit to hosting all of them, even helping with just one or two events would be greatly appreciated!

The good news is I have recently accepted a reclamation biology position with Jacobs! The bad news is that because I will be traveling a large part of the summer to do field work, I cannot guarantee I will be around to host all the pollinator walks on my own. Please reach out if you would be interested in helping host events this summer. Send an email to contact.appc.hub@gmail.com

I hope to see you at Nose Hill at the end of the month! A reminder that April 26-29 is also the annual City Nature Challenge! CNC iNaturalist page

Warm regards,
Justine

Posted on April 03, 2024 10:33 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment