Love in the Cold / Marie Curtis Park: November 9, 2018

By this time of year, almost all flowers have closed up shop and are no longer looking their best. An amazing exception to this is Witch-hazel; a shrub which is common in the woods at Marie Curtis Park.

This shrub is currently in brilliant bloom and I often see it this way well into December.

Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

The reason that this is especially interesting is because these are insect-pollinated flowers. Except for the midges we sometimes see at Col Sam Smith Park these days, what other insects are you seeing? How are these flowers pollinated?

A naturalist named Bernd Heinrich discovered the secret. There is a group of winter moths who are active on cold nights. These remarkable creatures use their energy in order to shiver. This enables them to considerably raise their body temperatures. Enough to fly about and pollinate Witch-hazels.

Have you ever wondered who Witch Hazel was? Hazels are a group of shrubs native to the Northern Hemisphere. Both High Park and Rouge Hills have many of them. The Witch-hazel leaf is thought to look a bit like the Wych Elm leaf and the shrub was originally called the Wych-hazel. Witch-hazel is a lot more fun as a name.

Here are some images of Marie Curtis Park as it looked this morning in steady rain, high wind and a temperature of 3 degrees:

As you can see, this did not deter our walkers:

Our best bird sighting was a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Here are some photos I got of bluebirds in the spring at Rouge Hills:

Eastern Bluebird (male)

Eastern Bluebirds

Species list: mallard, American black duck, ring-billed gull, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, American robin northern cardinal, American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, American tree sparrow, white-throated sparrow.  (13 species)
I was able to get a photo of some Mallards:


some Puffballs:


a Red Maple Leaf:

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

and two tree species.

Butternut (Juglans cinerea)

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

It is difficult to get near the Hickory because it is surrounded by thorny Blackberry shrubs.

Common Blacberry (Rubus allegheniensis)

Miles Hearn


I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.

– Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)



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