On the sunny morning of July 8, 2016, Long Point Basin Land Trust hosted a exciting walk through the wildflowers. The event was held at the Lake Erie Farms, which is part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Southern Norfolk Sand Plain Natural Area. LPBLT and its supporters helped raise funds for the purchase of this 400-acre property by NCC west of Walsingham.
Mary Gartshore, an LPBLT Director and an expert in ecological restoration for this area, led the group of more than 18 attendees, including NCC’s Program Director – Southwestern Ontario Kristen Bernard, through the former tobacco fields. Mary explained the process of modern restoration that was used to create the young oak savanna now present at this site. Just 10 years ago the barren fields were planted with roughly 100 local plant species ideally suited to the dry sandy conditions.
Some of the species spotted included Wild Lupine and Venus’ Looking Glass, which both had already gone to seed. Many of the Brown-eyed Susan, Virginia Mountain Mint, Showy Tick-Trefoil, and a few Butterfly Milkweed were still in full flower. Along with the native flora, participants spotted a Scarlet Tanager and Purple Martin, and witnessed some beautiful butterflies including a Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tailed Blue, and Orange Sulphur.
As the walk neared its end, we saw an area that had been left as a control by NCC. No restoration work was done on this patch during the initial planting. After 10 years the control area was dominated by Quack Grass, an aggressive non-native species that left very little room for much else to grow. This experiment proved how successful the restoration technique used at Lake Erie Farms had been in establishing native plants.
In spring 2016, LPBLT secured some funding that was used to spray the Quack Grass in the control area. With the quack grass knocked back, Winged Sumac, a rare species that only has a small population in Norfolk County, was able to quickly move into the control area in large numbers.
With continued support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, Long Point Basin Land Trust will be hosting similar Nature in the Neighbourhood events at their other nature reserve properties throughout the summer.