Fun Facts: Tiny Plants

EALT has added several new lands to our conservation efforts this summer. I've had the pleasure of being one of the summer staff who gets to have their "boots on the ground" and document the plants and animals for our baseline survey of each area.

One of these beautiful field days, I was taking a rest on the forest floor when I realized all around me were tiny plants with tiny flowers! It's amazing what comes into focus when you stop and observe for a moment. So I hope you’ve got your magnifying glass and identification guides to help you find these in a forest near you!

Bishop’s Cap (Mitella nuda)

Bishop’s cap is a super cool tiny plant! This little guy is found in wet forests. It can grow up to 20 cm tall but usually stays smaller in size.

Bishop’s cap is part of the family Saxifragaceae. One factor that identifies this family is the basal leaf - a leaf that is attached at ground level. Bishop’s cap's basal leaves are shaped like fluffy clouds and are easy to spot. However, the stalk and flower are trickier to find. What’s neat about this little plant, is the flower. If you look closely, you can see the flower itself with five petals. The petals are not like a typical flower petal, but rather are the bare thread-like skeleton of a petal, with green sepals below. So it's like a skeleton flower! How neat is that?!

 Bishop's Cap ( Mitella nuda )

Bishop's Cap (Mitella nuda)

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

This crazy, super small plant is part of the Droseraceae family. The three species in Alberta within this family are all insectivorous! Round-leaved Sundew is found in bogs and swamps and wet areas where Sphagnum mosses reside. You can only see the leaves of the plant in this picture - they're green with small red hairs on them. Just like in their name, there are sticky dew-like glands on the end of the red hairs. These sticky hairs actually trap insects! The plant curls the rest of the leaf around the trapped insect and releases enzymes to help breakdown the bug and digest it. Once digested, the plant opens back up, dropping the insect's hard exoskeleton out of the leaf. It's a good thing this plant is so tiny otherwise we'd have to worry about where we step!

 Round-leaved Sundew ( Drosera rotundifolia )

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis)

This is one of my favorite plants and I hope it will be yours too! When you first see the picture you assume that this flower will be about the size of blue bells. But this plant from the Caprifoliaceae family is quite interesting. You see, it's a trailing plant, which means that the stem of the plant lies on the ground and can grow up to 1 m in length. Growing upwards from this long grounded stem, there are many flowering stalks only a few centimeters tall! So you have to get on your knees to really notice this plant unless there's a large patch of flowers in one area.  Twinflower is named for the two tubular shaped, pink flowers that come off each flowering stalk. Did you know that the botanist Carolus Linnaeus actually created the scientific classification system for plants? Part of his name is included in the latin name for Twinflower, Linnaea. How cool is that?!

  Twinflower  ( Linnaea borealis )

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis)

Now that you have an idea of how small these flowers are, you will be able to find other tiny ones too. So get outside and find your own tiny plants! 

- by Felysia Green, Conservation Intern, EALT