Monday, May 10, 2010

Heritage: Aggie's Wildflower Walk

Madeleine McDowell examined a plant with her cane in the the Magwood Sanctuary in Toronto, Ontario on 9-May-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In the 1860's, what is now the Warren Park neighbourhood of Toronto was a relative wilderness adjacent to Lambton Mills. In 1865, a newly-widowed Agnes Dunbar Moodie Fitzgibbon was left nearly-destitute, and with her oldest daughter not in good health, chose to move the area. There, she was inspired by the spring flowers to make the first Canadian botanical book. With text written by her author aunt Catharine Parr Traill, Agnes Moodie illustrated "Canadian Wildflowers," and the two went to great lengths to ensure that the book was published entirely in Canada in 1868.

A portrait of Agnes Moodie after she re-married (in 1870) to a military man named Chamberlain was found in the Lambton House in Toronto, Ontario on 9-May-2010

Thus, the area around Warren Park holds a special significance in Canadian history. While residences have displaced much of the wild space present in the 1860's, park space remains along the Humber River and the Magwood Sanctuary still exists at the foot of Bâby Point. It is in the Magwood Sanctuary that direct descendant of the plants illustrated in "Canadian Wildflowers" still grow.

A wild ginger flower was found in the Magwood Sanctuary in Toronto, Ontario during the wildflower walk on 9-May-2010

It has become an annual tradition for an "Aggie's Wildflower Walk" to take place on Mother's Day to explore the area to see what species from "Canadian Wildflowers" still exist in the area. Quite often, the bulk of the interest comes in the Magwood Sanctuary, as was the case this year. With an early spring, some of the expected wildflowers were past their peak. Ontario's provincial flower, for example, the trillium, had largely faded from white to pink, but was still present. Amongst the interesting species found were Jack-in-the-Pulpit, May apples, wild ginger, celandine, and a wide variety of violets. Most interesting, oak trees were sprouting out of the ground at the edge of sanctuary, creating a new generation of trees descended from those that were there in the 1860's.

White trillium, and other flowers faded to pink, were found in the Magwood Sanctuary during Aggie's Wildflower Walk on 9-May-2010

Upon completion of the walk, the group returned to the historic Lambton House, and were treated to tea from our guide for the walk, local historian Madeleine McDowell. Sometimes it's hard to believe the history in one's own neighbourhood--especially when it is growing in the ground.

More photos from Aggie's Wildflower Walk will appear in a future update to my photo site

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