Saturday, 11 August 2012

Boffins on Baffin

I love Canadians. Their quirky humour, their TV, the scenery.

While trawling for all things orchidy, I came across this little gem of bonkerosity that sums it all up.

Four botanists from Ottawa traversed 60 km of Baffin Island by canoe looking for plants no-one has ever studied. As they travelled, with shotguns on their backs to deter pushy polar bears, the Canadian Museum of Nature team found unusual ferns, Arctic versions of dandelions and … Arctic orchids.

With such a gigantic land mass, Canada’s Arctic has yet to be thoroughly explored by botanists. According to the Ottawa Citizen, they zipped through rapids in canoes laden with science gear and found ‘carpets’ of bright flowers, scarcely any weeds, and many plants that science has never identified.

One of their finds was the northern bog orchid. Small, innocuous and green, it’s found in dense patches all over the tundra. The article has a lovely photo of the orchid being preserved. (The photo above is a Tall White Northern Bog Orchid, or Platanthera dilatata (Pursh) Lindl, which probably has nothing to do with the finds on Baffin, but it's jolly elegant all the same and worth a look.)

The best bit of the article confirms my admiration for all things Canadian. ‘Other orchids were so easy to miss that they made up a game: Spot an orchid, win a piece of cake.’