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Written by: Nicole White

 

The COVID-19 outbreak is an exponential crisis, where each of us can literally save lives in our communities by heeding the precautions recommended by the WHO and Health Canada to reduce its spread.

 

We hope you're all doing your best to stay safe and healthy. A connection to nature can help reduce stress and enhance mental health, so we've prepared a list of resources and recommendations to help us all get through this time.

 

Books

Any book you can dream of can be ordered online in hard copy or ebook form. Also, while your local library may be closed, you may still be able to check out ebooks or digital audiobooks on their website. Here are a couple of our reading recommendations:

 

An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Johnathan Silvertown
Seeds piqued my interest while I was working as a lab technician to help develop seed bank technology in Nova Scotia. This book about the evolution, genetic beauty, and surprising diversity of seeds will be compelling to home gardeners and scientists alike.

 

 

Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces by Tara Nolan

Janel says, 'Mari-Ann is currently using her extra time to read our friend Tara Nolan’s newly released book and is loving it.'

 

Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants by Nichlas Harberd
The author uses a diary format to follow a single Arabidopsis thaliana (a common weed often used in scientific studies) specimen throughout its entire lifecycle. Sketches and storytelling are used to illuminate plant biology and meditate on the beauty of natural processes.

 

Bringing Nature Home by D. W. Tallamy

Summer says: 'Once you have read “Bringing Nature Home” and start making changes in your own back-yard, you will soon want to buy a copy for every friend and family member to help your efforts multiply. The review on the front of the book says it all, If you have a backyard, this book is for you.'

 

 

Online Resources

While museums and botanical gardens may be closed, you can still delve into natural history for free online:

 

Emily Dickenson's Herbarium
The reclusive poet was also a skilled gardener who independently studied plants at a time when women were excluded from the scientific community. Harvard has made a high-quality digital version of the herbarium she created in her youth here.

 

Emily Dickenson's Herbarium


The Cotton MS Vitellius C III

CanPlant cannot help you find which plants grow best in dragon's blood, but this Old English manuscript, made available by the British Library, can do that and then some. An interesting view for those interested in botany and medieval history.

 

The Cotton MS Vitellius C III

 

Create a Plant List with CanPlant
Create a free account on the CanPlant website, filter and search to find the right plants for where you are, and develop your own custom plant lists. Lists can be saved, downloaded, and printed!

 

Videos

The National Film Board of Canada
The NFB has many high-quality plant films and documentaries going back over five decades! All of these are available to stream for free in your browser.

 

Kingdom of Plants 3D
This David Attenborough documentary features as much diversity as an episode of Planet Earth, but it's all shot in a single location -- the world-class Kew Gardens in London.

 

Activities

Get Outside

Note: Please check the recommendations of your public health professionals for this one! In some cases, it may be advisable to stay indoors.

 

Christina says, 'Nature is one of the few things is still open for enjoyment. Go for a solo hike or jog in your favourite natural space. Studies have shown that immersing yourself in nature helps to reduce stress and improve mental health (something we all could use right now!)

 

Not only that, but maintaining physical activity and getting some good ol’ Vitamin D is important while we are all cooped up inside for the near future. Make it a time to reflect and be calm, or exert pent up energy or anxiety that many of us are feeling these days.

 

Hiking in Western Canada

 

AllTrails is a great (and free!) app that shows you trails in your area, and allows you to filter for less popular spots as we all try and maintain social distancing. As a safety precaution, be sure to carry your cell phone and have a friend or family member aware of your whereabouts if you do endeavour out alone.'

 

Forest (App)

Summer says, 'I personally find it very hard to “unplug” especially at a time like this when you want to constantly check the news for updates, not healthy! I use this app to temporarily lock my phone to stop me looking at it, it grows a virtual tree that will die if you stop before your time is up. Bonus, you get points that can be redeemed to purchase a real tree the company will plant through a tree planting initiative! '

 

Submit Photos to CanPlant

Do you have any photos in your collection of plant species you've identified? If you want to help CanPlant's mission, now would be a great time to see if you can help us fill in the gaps in our database. Use the Submit a Photo form, or Contact Us directly if you have a larger collection you'd like to share.

 

Join the Conversation

Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram, leave a comment, and let us know how you're connecting with plants and nature during this time.

 

Take care of yourself and your loved ones. And if you can, let a connection to nature help you be resilient.

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Written by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day celebration is “Sustaining All Life on Earth,” which recognizes biodiversity as a key component in protecting natural life.

 

To this end, it is important to acknowledge all species, including those that are often ignored or seen as not having any economic value to humans. We need to take a holistic perspective and recognize the interconnectedness of all living things. Although many plants are valued by people, many other species remain ignored but nonetheless have intrinsic worth and act as key components of ecosystems.

 

Here in Canada, we are still discovering and learning about our own plant communities. During Ontario Botanists' Big Year 2019 on iNaturalist, Kevin Gevaert discovered a plant that is new to Canada: Slender Three-seeded Mercury (Acalypha gracilens) -- surprisingly within the urban boundary of Caththam-Kent.

 

This past fall, while I was out exploring a section of the Niagara Escarpment with fellow ecologists Tristan Knight and Jose Maloles, Tristan discovered a moss growing on the cliff face which he identified as Fan Moss (Forsstroemia trichomitria). This species was rediscovered in Quebec in 2011 after not being seen in North America since the late 1800s. Since then, it has only been observed once in Ontario and once in Quebec.

 

Fan Moss: Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

Tristan’s discovery marked the second modern record for Ontario and fourth extant record in North America.

 

Jennifer Doubt, a botanist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, is currently documenting Fan Moss distribution and abundance in Canada, to help understand its conservation status.

 

Another recent discovery in northeastern North America is the Tall Beech Fern (Phegopteris excelsior), seen for the first time in 2019. Although it hasn’t been documented in Ontario yet, I believe it is only a matter of time before some keen observer is able to separate it from the closely-related and better-known Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera).

 

 I am often amazed in the ability of healthy, mature forests and plant communities to support substantial fungi and lichen communities, with many species still completely under the radar. Here too, there are likely many discoveries yet to be made.

 

For example, while recently exploring a swamp in Hamilton, I found a species of Chaenothecopsis fungi growing on Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) which appears to be new to science based on previous collections in Ohio. Another new species of lichen was recently discovered in swamps near Toronto, a stubble lichen (Chaenotheca selvae), which seems to have an affinity for stumps of mature Maple trees.

 

Photo by Carl-Adam Wegenschimmel

 

I think that these discoveries underscore how much we have yet to learn, even in places that are generally well-surveyed and emphasize the need to continue to study our ecosystems.

 

Discoveries like these also highlight the need to protect natural areas, which maintain biodiversity at both the local and global level.

 

Many wildlife observations today come from citizen science initiatives, which gather the unique experience and knowledge of individuals into centralized databases. These include eBird, created by Cornell University and the Audobon Society, and iNaturalist, offered by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

 

These apps make it easy for anyone to contribute to our understanding of biodiversity. This can create newfound appreciation and positive momentum towards sustaining our natural world. One of our big dreams for CanPlant is to use this kind of technology and public participation to enhance our understanding of Canadian plants and landscapes.

 

Are you an intrepid botanizer who would like to participate in CanPlant's work? You can use our Submit a Photo form to contribute your plant photos, or Contact Us directly if you have a larger collection you'd like to share.

 

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