Gatineau River Heritage Paddle: A Guide - Second Edition

Some Natural History

The Forests of the Gatineau Valley

The forests bordering the Gatineau River between Wakefield and the Chelsea Dam demonstrate all that is beautiful and diverse in the species and forest types of this part of western Quebec.

On the dry, rocky and southern exposed sites, white pine and red oak are typically found in association. On the moist sites where the nutrient flow is good, yellow birch is frequently found with hemlock (hemlock more on north facing slopes) and sugar maple with a small component of white spruce and balsam fir.

On well-drained forested sites, American beech, sugar maple and ironwood are found typically mixed with the occasional white ash, basswood and black cherry, the latter three at their most northern range. At the water's edge one typically find waterloving species including white cedar, a favourite winter food of white tailed deer, balsam fir as well as the occasional willow.

Interesting Flora and Fauna

Pterospora andromeda (pinedrops). Discovered in 1951 in the woods beside the Pélissier grotto. A threatened member of the blueberry family, pinedrops resemble reddish spike up to 1 metre in height found in June-August. Lacking chlorophyll it is a parasitic plant with a close association with mychorrizal fungi.

Spawning beds of the (Moxostoma macrolepidotum) and the silver redhorse (Moxostoma anisurum) are both found in this part of the Gatineau River. Although not at risk at this time it is closely related to the Copper redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi) which is endangered. Both species of fish are in the sucker family and as such are bottom feeders whose diet and habitat is subjected to hydro dam, urbanization, recreation, agriculture and deforestation.

Douglas' knotweed (Polygonum douglasii) and Appalachian sedge (Carex applalachica). Discovered in 1920 along the Gatineau River, Douglas' knotweed is considered to be a vulnerable species with only 19 findings in all of Québec. It is a thinly stalked herb growing 3-80 cm in height with small pinkish flowers forming in the last week of July. The Appalachian sedge is considered to be susceptible and is found in 35 locations in Québec. It grows to about 22 cm in height and flowers the first week of June. It grows in dry rocky areas and is a pioneer species after fire.

Potential hibernacula for bats (non-confirmed) as part of the old Winning Church and Co. mine.

American cancer-root (Conopholis americana). This is a parasitic plant that feeds off the roots of beech and oak; it is found in a hardwood bush on a rocky outcrop and was discovered in 1959. It produces 15 cm high spikes which closely resemble pine cones. It flowers the second week of June and is considered vulnerable with only 33 sightings in Québec.

Western Chorus Frog. These are one of the smallest frogs in Quebec, a pale grey to a dark brown with the males (1.9 cm-3.2 cm) smaller than the females. Their call sounds like a fingernail on the teeth of a comb. In Canada they are only found in the extreme south of Quebec and Ontario. They are considered rare and are associated with wetlands. Agriculture and urban development have threatened this species. All amphibians are susceptible to wetland drainage, pollution and weather conditions because they breathe through their skin.

Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulatum). Two individuals were spotted in 1982 with another verified in 2004. Considered susceptible, this beautifully marked snake can grow to a metre or more. Non-venomous, it is marked by red, brown and white blotches and feeds on rodents. It is listed as susceptible.

Upland white aster (Solidago ptarmicoides) and northern dewberry (Rubus flagellaris). The upland white aster is a large (45 cm) member of the goldenrod family which has beautiful white flowers in August. Considered susceptible it was first found on a rocky outcrop in 1911. Northern dewberry is considered to be a susceptible species with 31 other sightings in Québec. It is a spreading shrub in the berry family resembling strawberry. It has a small white flower which appears the first week of July followed by a blackish fruit which forms later in the summer.

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