The Tiniest Azalea

Alpine-azalea ( Kalmia   procumbens ) in fruit.

Alpine-azalea (Kalmia procumbens) in fruit.

One of the highlights of the botanical finds I had during this past trip to Newfoundland was the Alpine-azalea (Kalmia procumbens). This small shrub is a member of the Ericaceae that forms a cushion-like mound about 10 centimeters (4 inches) tall. Inhabiting northern, alpine regions around the world, it has tiny pink flowers tucked in between the leathery, opposite leaves. Like many of the plants I had wanted to see, I had missed this species in flower, but the fruits were just as cool. 

The compact growth form is known in botanical circles as a "cushion plant" growth form is found in alpine habitats across the world and across a number of plant families. These are actually masses of individual stems that grow very slowly and at the same rate so one stem is not more exposed than then another. This allows the plants to survive cold and harsh climates. Additionally, its tough leaf cuticles protect it from the cold winds that can dessicate the plants.

More details about this species can be found on Go Botany.  

Habitat for alpine azalea at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.

Habitat for alpine azalea at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.

Atlantic Puffins!

During my last visit to Newfoundland, my friend Emma and I made a ridiculous journey from across Newfoundland and back over the course of about 30 hours, all in the idea of seeing puffins. One of the folks that we met on the Long Range Traverse mentioned this great place on the east coast, where one could view a puffin colony from land. Intrigued, we drove to Elliston, NL to see some Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) --a first for both of us. It was a short trip, but well worth it. 

On this recent return trip that Martha, Ellery, and I recently took, one of our must-see stops was a revisit to Elliston, so Ellery could see her second-favorite seabird. Leaving Gander early on a Sunday morning, we stopped for a few hours on our way towards St. John's. The puffin viewing on this visit was amazing.  One of the fascinating things about this site, is that the island that the puffin colony is on is only about 150 meters from mainland. Its probably the closest that one can view these birds where one doesn't have to be on a boat. The morning we visited had puffins hanging out on the mainland, many of them only a few meters from where we were sitting.