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southern Alberta
lacks chlorophyll
S of Calgary
Pterospora andromedea
Calgary to Waterton 264 km
Canyon Church Camp
159 miles
Family: Monotropaceae
urn-shaped flowers
Listed: S2
driving time roughly 3 hrs
in woods at the camp
Red Rock Canyon Parkway
© Anne Elliott 2017
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Anne Elliott
Waterton Lakes National Park
7 July 2017

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Late afternoon on 9 July 2017, I arrived back home from a wonderful three-day trip to Waterton Lakes National Park. I had just been on a one-day bus trip to this beautiful park on 24 June 2017, so felt very lucky to be returning for a longer stay so soon. I travelled there and back with friend, Darlene, who had very kindly offered to take me, and we had a fun time, seeing so many interesting things. Thank you SO much, Darlene - I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated being able to go on this trip with you!

The rare plant in this photo was seen in the woods at the Canyon Church Camp in Waterton Lakes National Park, where a number of us recently stayed for two nights. I had only ever seen this species twice before, once in the Cypress Hills and once in Waterton (plant had already gone to seed). However, in July 2016 and July 2017, I saw this plant by the Canyon Church Camp. Also found it along the Blakiston Falls Trail (near Red Rock Canyon) last year.

"The visible portion of Pterospora andromedea is a fleshy, unbranched, reddish to yellowish flower spike (raceme) 30-100 cm in height, though it has been reported to occasionally attain a height of 2 meters. The above-ground stalks (inflorescences) are usually found in small clusters between June and August. The inflorescences are hairy and noticeably sticky to the touch. This is caused by the presence of hairs which exude a sticky substance (glandular hairs). The inflorescences are covered by scale-like structures known as bracts. The upper portion of the inflorescence has a series of yellowish, urn-shaped flowers that face downward. The fruit is a capsule. Like all members of the Monotriopoidiae (see Monotropa), Pterospora andromedea lacks chlorophyll (trace amounts have been identified, but not enough to provide energy for the plant or to color it). Plants exist for most of their life as a mass of brittle, but fleshy, roots. They live in a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, in which plants derive all their carbon from their associated fungus, but the relationship is not yet well understood. The term for this kind of symbiosis is mycoheterotrophy." From Wikipedia.


It was wonderful to again be surrounded by such magnificent scenery, go on a few walks/hikes with plenty of time to look for, and photograph, wildflowers, insects, and a few birds and animals. Lots of good company with around 20 (?) people, some of whom I already knew and lots of new faces, too. The trip was organized by Nature Calgary. Everyone was free to go wherever they wanted each day, but for the two nights, we stayed at the very basic Canyon Church Camp, off the Red Rock Parkway. Dorm-style cabins (about which I will say nothing, lol!), but they do have showers and even flush toilets at the camp. We were fed SO well - lots of variety and good food. We were given two breakfasts and two suppers, plus a packed lunch for the two days. Our huge thanks go out to Jean Kennedy, the camp cook, who cooked and prepared these great meals for us! Jean was there in 2015 and 2016, when I attended this weekend, and it was really good news when I was told that she would be there again this time. The food was so much enjoyed and greatly appreciated!

We arrived in Waterton (from Calgary) around 1:00 pm on Friday, 7 July 2017, stopped and had lunch in town and then went to see the Cameron Falls on the edge of town. The cold spray felt so good on such a hot day! Afterwards, we drove up the Akamina Parkway, to Cameron Lake, stopping along the road to photograph a few of the thousands of beautiful Bear Grass flowers. Many were growing along the edge of the road, but in places, you could look through the forest and see many more. We also stopped to look at the Penstemon plants, and I was delighted to see a small Orange False Dandelion plant in bloom. I've only ever seen about three of these plants before.

A very quick stop at Cameron Lake itself and then we were on our way back down the Akamina Parkway so that we could go up the Red Rock Canyon Parkway, to visit the beautiful canyon with its amazing red rocks. On the way there, we made a quick stop to check for a Lazuli Bunting. We were in luck, but I could only get very distant shots of this beautiful little bird. At Red Rock Canyon, I told Darlene to go on the Blakiston Falls trail if she wished, which is what she did, and I would stay around the Canyon bridge area. I wandered along the edge of the canyon for a while, trying to find a tiny bit of shade. Found a few wildflowers to photograph and there was a spectacular view of some of the mountain peaks.

After a while, we needed to get to the Canyon Youth Camp, where we would be staying two nights. Supper was being served at 6:00 pm, but we could check in any time after 5:00 pm. After supper, most people went on a hike up to Crandell Lake, but I decided not to go, as I remembered what the trail was like. I did follow everyone for just a very short way but knew that I was not going to do the rest of the hike. Instead, I walked around the camp, finding a few flowers to photograph, and then I bumped into the camp manager and we got talking. I mentioned one of my favourite plants, Pinedrops, that I had seen last year on one of the paths that led out of the camp. The manager said he had already checked, but had only found last year's dead stems. He took me back to the location - and I spotted several new stems partly hidden in the long grasses. He was so happy to see that this plant was doing well, after all. He also took me on a short walk through the edge of the forest and down to the river. About 20 minutes after we got back to the camp buildings, a Black Bear wandered along the edge of the same trees that we had walked through to get to the river! Could only get a really poor photo that I probably won't post - or maybe I will, just for my own records. Shortly after this sighting, everyone else arrived back at the camp, and it was time to get to bed before all the lights were turned off.

Our huge thanks to Andrew for organizing this trip so brilliantly! He has been organizing these annual weekends for a number of years now. A great time was had by all.


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