This journey began with a mystery. More than a decade ago, on a long weekend cottage trip with friends, I was told that there was a place, somewhere north of our destination on the Lake Huron shoreline — no one seemed to know where it was for sure — where there were carnivorous plants growing wild. The thought of seeing some of my favourite plants growing wild sparked a desperate need to find this elusive place. It stayed on my mind for quite some time until, on another visit to the area, I asked Davin’s dad about it. A few hours later I was standing on a boardwalk looking out across the fen, a peat-based wetland ecosystem, at northern pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) and slender-leaved sundew (Drosera linearis).
It was the end of the day when we finally found it, just minutes before the sun went down. There was hardly enough time to explore. I vowed to go back again soon. There was so much left to see.
Sometime later, I heard rumours that there were other fens just like it in the Bruce Peninsula along the Lake Huron shoreline and recently, I began looking into where they are. I located two more with possibility of a fourth, and so, last weekend, nearly ten years later, we rented a car and set out to find them. Because every journey needs a ridiculous name, we dubbed it The Fentastic Voyage.
Unfortunately, we did not make it back to the original fen at Singing Sands, but we did find most of the other fens on my list. The next few posts will be about the fens and the flora and fauna we found there.
Oliphant Beach and Sandy Coastal Wetland
The first location we visited is the shoreline wetland in Oliphant, Ontario, Canada. To call this a beach is not entirely accurate. Yes, there is a lot of sand, but it is also very shallow. After parking the car, we had to walk out for sometime through and around a series of pools before we hit the water, and even then it was very shallow. I suggest wearing rubber boats if you visit in the springtime and don’t want to get your feet wet.
The landscape just a little out from the beach was more like a fen, and it was there that I started to see the ground beneath me change from pure sand to a mix of peat/sand.
I also started to see signs of fen plant life, including many grasses and a few little bird’s eye primrose (Primula mistassinica).
I did a happy dance when we came upon this first flower and spent several minutes fixated on it, getting down on the ground to capture it from various angles with a host of cameras. Full coverage. Of course, it turned out not to be so special and I came upon several more throughout the course of the day. It was actually the most prominent plant in bloom. Still, you never forget the first and I have the pictures to prove it.
Tomorrow: The Oliphant Fen and Boardwalk