18 September 2007

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day--Newfoundland & Labrador Style!

One of the first purchases we made while we were in Nfld was an exquisite book of watercolour paintings of wildflowers of the province and Labrador. With text by Peter Scott, biology professor and curator of the herbarium at Memorial University, and paintings by artist Dorothy Black, the book provides a glorious look at common and rare wildflowers around the province. This book makes a nice companion to others I already had, and still others I hope to find through used book websites! I thought it would be fun to see some of the flowers and plants we met on our great adventure--I'm sure most of them aren't growing in too many fellow garden-bloggers' gardens...! So here's part one of my Bloom Day report for September.

Of course we would have to start off our Newfoundland and Labrador bloom display with the Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea), which also happens to be the provincial flower. This has long been a favourite plant of mine, although I haven't tried to grow it down by our pond. It's one of several carnivorous plants in Nfld (others include the sundew, Drosera sp., and butterwork, Pinguicula sp.) and makes its meals on a variety of hapless insects that fall into its pitcher-shaped leaves and drown in the water collected there.

The white-flowered three-toothed cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) is very pretty with its glossy leaves and starry flowers.

Looks like bunchberry (Cornus canadesis) doesn't it? It's not: it's the Swedish bunchberry, C. suecica, and yes, it was in flower in September. It differs from our common bunchberry by having scattered pairs of leaves along the stem, rather than the whorl of leaves just below the flowers. Also, the tiny flowers, surrounded by white petal-like leaves known as bracts--like those in poinsettia--are deep wine in colour, whereas the common bunchberry flowers are greenish-white. Dick Steele had told us about this plant, and we were really delighted to find it in bloom, rather than just in fruit.

Cotton grasses are charming little plants that are usually found in boggy areas. Yes, I got my feet a bit wet getting close to this one, but it was just too pretty to resist!

When I spied this tiny plant, I wanted to take it home with me! It's Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica) the only plant in its species; a tiny, evergreen sub-arctic alpine. I didn't take it home with me, but I'm quite sure that Dick or one of the other plant hunters got seed or cuttings from it. Wouldn't it be a charmer in an alpine trough?

Well, okay, you caught me. This isn't a flowering plant. It's dulse (Palmaria palmata) and we found it on the shore at The Arches, a provincial park just outside of Gros Morne. I had to eat some, and my colleague, after giving me a dubious look, snacked on a little of it too, to the great consternation of some tourists also scrambling around the rocks on the beach.

We found a LOT of sites with both sedums and saxifrages, including this small clump of S. rosea. Some that we found were in bloom, others were huge patches while still others were plants the size of my fingernail. I love sedums in all their glory, and could get seriously into collecting them, too.

A tiny bellflower growing between two stones on the beach at The Arches caught my eye. Another member of our group discovered a double-flowered bellflower along the way, but the photo she got was a bit blurred due to wind, and inconclusive as to whether it was a mutant or a different species.

Surprisingly, Newfoundland and Labrador has a LOT of orchid specie--43 species and 4 varieties, about the third highest in Canada--but this was the only one we found in bloom. Our best guess is that it's one of the Platanthera species, but we don't claim to be orchid authorities.

There's nothing else quite like Labrador tea, variously given the botanical names Ledum groenlandicum, Rhododendron groenlandicum, depending on which taxonomist you want to be bored by. There's also a smaller Labrador tea, L. palustre, which is more compact and has several other morphological differences, and which we admired greatly in various spots along our travels.

One of my favourite shore plants is Sea Lungwort, Mertensia maritima. As plant-people can tell by the genus, it's related to Virginia bluebells, and we found some still in flower--although the glaucous, blue-green leaves are enough to make me happy. I don't try to grow it at home, but maybe I should one of these days. Mostly I just enjoy it on the beach in Scotts Bay, or anywhere else I find it.

This isn't flora either, I realize, but it's the ever so delicious fruit of the bakeapple, (Rubus chamaemorus) also known variously as cloudberry, and incorrectly as salmonberry, which is another species (R. spectabilis). This particular berry is a bit stunted, probably due to inadequate pollination, given that it was on top of the rocky cliff at Battle Harbour. SEveral interesting things about bakeapples: the plants are dioescious meaning there are both male and female plants; also they are low-growing relatives of raspberries, with only one fruit on each stem; they're red when they're green and they're golden orange when they're ripe. (confused yet?) I love the burgundy fall foliage of the plants and would grow them for that alone if I had the chance.

There are a number of stories about why Newfoundlanders and Labradorians call this fruit Bakeapple. Some say it's because the cooked fruit tastes a bit like a baked apple, but I find that a bit of a reach. Others say it comes from a bastardization or misunderstanding of the phrase 'baie qu'appelle', (whether asking what berry this is called or what bay this is is also open to discussion.) Whatever the case, bakeapples are like Keith's beer, dulse, or liver--those who like them, like them a LOT! I happen to love them, although until this week I hadn't eaten fresh ones in longer than I can remember.

Bakeapples fetch impressive prices as fresh fruit--as muchttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifh as 50.00 for a gallon!--and are also used in making spreads, sauces, jams and jellies, and wines and liquours. Among the treasures I brought home are several bottles of the Pure Labrador products I mentioned in earlier posts, a bottle of bakeapple wine from Rodrigues winery in Nfld, and a bottle of Lapponia cloudberry liqueur from Finland. Rodrigeus is apparently making a bakeapple liqueur too, but I couldn't find it at the government grog shops, so contented myself with the one from Finland, which is very nice. It smells just like the berries--and tastes just like em, too--and will be perfect with dark chocolate--in fact, I believe that someone is making chocolates using bakeapples, but I haven't had any--if anyone would like to send me samples I'd be glad to review them!

This concludes a bit of a show-and-tell of plants we enjoyed discovering or rediscovering in our travels. I'll post a blogger's bloom day report of my own garden soon.


  1. My favorites-the tiny bellflower and the cotton grass. I am surprised the sedums grow there. They seem almost cactus like, so thought they came from a warmer climate.

  2. What an interesting post! I noticed most of the flowers were fairly small. Is that accurate? I was also intriqued by the orchid.

    Quite a post for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and certainly the most unusual.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  3. Now this is a very original contribution to GBBD, Jodi! First off: what a lovely book you bought!

    Pitcher Plant: brrrrr, carnivorous plants are not among my favorites.

    Cotton grass: kinda fluffy and cute!

    Diapensia: what a lovely little plant this is!

    Dulse: a snack!

    Sedum: years ago I didn't care for sedums and saxifrages for some reason. I have, since then, fallen in love with them.

    How wonderful that there are so many species of wild orchids to be found in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    The Labrador tea: can you make tea with it? Is that how it got its name?

    The Bakeapple sounds delicious; I'm very partial to fruit, especially in combination with chocolate! ;-)

    Lovely post Jodi and so informative too.

    BTW on Bliss we're going for a nice long walk so if you want to come, wear sensible shoes! :-)

  4. wow wow wow! So many teeny wee thingies and you managed to resist filling your pockets? - I'm impressed! That bakeapple is beautiful and the orchid and the cotton grass is really cool and and and... What is dulse exactly? - Seaweed?

  5. I really like your blog. I am a fellow maritimer and came across your blog when searching for info about heathers.

    If you heaven't already read it, there is a good book called "Traveling with wildflowers from Newfoundland to Alaska" by Phyllis Joy Hammond.

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Fun read, Jodi! I have never been to Newfoundland/Labrador and I am sooooooo envious! But your travelogue made me feel ALMOST like I was there with you. ;-)

  7. Sometimes the posts for GBBD surprise us when one flower pops up everywhere, loved and grown grow no matter what the zone.

    Your post takes us in another direction, Jodi - showing us flowers and plants we're not at all likely to see, let alone grow [or graze upon]. I like how you described the weather, and the drive through the windy place - you are an intrepid planthunter!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. Hi all and welcome to bloomingwriter!

    Sandy, there are native sedums in much of North America, even in cool climates like ours. Roland's Flora of Nova Scotia lists 4 species but two are likely escapes. This one is native.

    Carol, since we were in barrens and bogs and other very unsheltered, windswept areas, it follows that these plants are small and ground-hugging. WE were mostly on the lookout for small plants that are useful as alpine/rockgardening species, and the richness of flora in areas that look sort of empty from a distance is truly amazing.

    Yolanda, Labrador tea is indeed used as a tea substitute. The leaves are added to water that has been boiled, but you don't boil again after adding the leaves as a toxic substance can be released. I've tried it once years ago and it was pleasant, but I prefer other herbal teas. I just like the plant for its interesting foliage and flowers--never met an ericaceous plant I didn't love!

    Kris, dulse is indeed a seaweed, and a very popular snacking food in most of Atlantic Canada(also parts of Maine, I believe). Like many things it's an acquired taste, but I acquired the taste many years ago and love it.

    Anon, I do indeed have Phyllis Joy Hammond's book and love it--I must put a mini-review up in a few days.

    Dirty Knees, glad you enjoyed the 'trip'!

    Annie, it's fun to have way different plants profiled, isn't it? I thought it would give people something different to look at--and while I didn't include some (that will wait for another posting) we will all be surprised at what grows native in Nfld and Labrador, along with these plants profiled.
    I'll knock the barrens-dirt off my walkers and join the stroll!

  9. Gorgeous photography and plant illustrations, Jodi. I, like Carol, noticed how small many of these were and I'm guessing that if you didn't get down close and *personal* with these plants you would obviously miss many of them.

    Great post and incredible to see what grows naturally in your part of the world.

  10. Wonderful! The photos are exquisite -- I'd love to try some of that bakeapple wine. :) Welcome home.

  11. Hi Jodi,

    These were wonderful plants to see. I love the diapensia and the little bluebells. The Mertensia maritima looks exactly like the one I have in my garden ... which is also in bloom now too. It survived the frost.

    I like the pic of the Bakeapple - or is it the name that I like better? Makes me think of baked apples with lots of cinnamon and brown sugar.

  12. Jodi: Hope you are feeling better by now. I have always wanted to go on a plant hunting expedition. Thanks for bringing us all along!

  13. Amazing plants. I particularly like that small campanula. I also noticed that many of the plants were small. This is true of the 1 Newfy plant I have, the Labrador violet. It would be great if more of those little gems were made widely available. (I assume rock garden aficianados have some already.)

  14. I loved this post! So much interesting stuff that I'd not ever heard before. Now, even though I'd not wondered this, I do now - my Labrador Violets . . . do they originate there? They're new to my garden this year.

  15. I just wanted to say how much I;ve enjoyed your photos of New Foundland. They're incredible. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  16. For 2 pics of uncommon wildflowers in Nfld, visit http://www.flickr.com and search Litehouseman...... recent pics. I wondered what kind of Drosera it was.

    I have Indian pipes ... my nick there is arbolz

    Bill in Nfld.


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