The Serpentine Tablelands of Newfoundland

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Boland
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The Serpentine Tablelands of Newfoundland

This is where I have been working this past 2 weeks. The Tablelands are a large plateau located in Gros Morne National Park. the rocks here are serpentinized peridotite..the rocks turn orange as they oxidize. The resulting soil (and I use the term loosely) is toxic to most plants hence the area looks like a moonscape or almost desert-like. However, they do get plenty of rain...enough that pitcher plants grow in the gravel! There is a new pole line going through this area and I had to botanize where each pole was to positioned so that no rare plants were destroyed...and the region does have plenty of rare plants from a Newfoundland perspective. The only drawback was that it was late in the season (Aug 1-14) for many of the plants. Still I'll share a few of those I did see.

You can see in the first pic that the highway passes right along the base of the plateau..this is where the new pole line will be located. the second pic is called Winterhouse Brook Gorge and the third is the snow-melt river that flowers through the gorge.

Boland
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One day I did hike up the gorge to the top of the plateau.  Here are some scenes.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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The most common shrubs are Juniperus communis and Larix laricina.  many of these are completely prostrate and estimated to be well over 100 years old.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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Potentilla fruticosa is also common...some are upright but many are again prostrate and barely keeping their roots in the ground.  The top of the plateau has some gabbro rock and here grew Empetrum eamesii.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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Some of the herbaceous plants....Campanula rotundifolia, Sarracenia purpurea (yes, they grow in gravel!), Sibbaldiopsis tridentata

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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A dwarf form of Osmunda regalis, Saxifraga aizoides and Packera paupercula

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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some endemics on our serpentine...Cerastium terrae-novae, Solidago uliginosa var. linifolia (aka Solidago purshii) and Aremeria maritima var. labradorica.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Boland
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another endemic is Minuartia marcescens.  Artemisia borealis is most commonly found on serpentine too.  Silene acaulis is opportunistic!  Still a lingering bloom or two but the dwarf birch growing in the center may spell the end for this plant.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

What a different and fascinating area!  The colours of the landscape, as shown particularly in your second set of photos, are just amazing - the orange (yet with what seems to be a slight greenish tinge) is a great and unusual backdrop to the plants!  
It's interesting to see the familiar wide-spread species (Potentilla fruticosa, Larix laricina, Campanula rotundifolia, Sax. aizoides) growing in such a different  setting... and so many completely new ones.

Thanks for posting these, Todd - great to see, especially since the Maritimes is really such a distant land from here that so few of us seem to make the journey!  

Re. the rare plant survey, and at a time when many things are probably past blooming... Wow, that's where the expert plant ID skills come into play, needless to say!!  Impressive and enviable!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Good stuff Todd!  Looking at the scenery, I'd almost swear that I was out in dry Western USA rather than Newfoundland, certainly an education for many of us with preconceived notions of what Newfoundland is all about.  Just how dwarf is the dwarf Osmunda regalis?  It looks like a real find to me.  Many other great looking dwarfed plants in such a rigorous climate!

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Really cool, Todd.
Had it not been for those "telephone poles" in the first pic, I might not have realized the grandiose height of the plateau!  Those poles are really tiny...

Not knowing what peridotite is, what makes it toxic, and is it so only if it is oxidized?

Did the pitcher plants catch any bugs?  (Rather, are there any bugs to catch?)

I guess I am not surprised that a Sarracenia sp. grows there if there is ample water.  Here we have many bog plants that are quite happy in wet sand.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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