West Mabou Beach Dunes

August 30th, 2012 | by | 1 Comment
Published in Botany, Dunes, Landscapes
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

West Mabou Beach

West Mabou Beach, on the west side of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, has a gorgeous sandy beach and striking dunes.

A real highlight on our east coast trip, the stunning beach, great swimming and some good birding,made West Mabou Beach Provincial Park an excellent nature viewing destination. Not to be overlooked, however, was the fascinating botany of coastal dune ecosystems.

Of course, trading off child-minding meant that our botanical explorations had to be short. Even so, Jocie and I were able to find a couple of unusual plants at the top of the beach where the American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) begins to climb down from the dunes.

Dunes at West Mabou Beach

Native American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) grows down from the dunes.

At West Mabou Beach, American beach grass is a native east coast grass. It can also be found on Vancouver Island, but there it is considered invasive and can seriously alter dune ecosystems (see Eflora BC’s American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) description of this plant). In Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, ongoing effort is being made to remove introduced American beachgrass and European beachgrass from the dunes.

Ironically, the two unusual looking plants that we found were both introduced.

Prickly Saltwort (Salsola kali)

Prickly Saltwort (Salsola kali) has a variety of common names including Russian thistle.

Common saltwort (Salsola kali) is a distinctive looking plant that has a variety of common names including prickly saltwort, Russian thistle, and prickly glasswort. The common name seems to be associated with the habitat in which the plant is found. Coastal species are more likely to be called saltwort or glasswort, while those found inland in fields go by thistle.

Both common names suit the appearance of the plant. Its leaves and stems are fleshy, suggesting a saltwort. The entire plant is very prickly which would suggest a thistle. Near the ocean, it is a pioneer species, adapted to living in the shifting sand at the edge of the dunes.

Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)

The bizarre looking, prickly seeds of Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) make it very easy to identify.

The large spiky seed pods of Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) are also distinctive in appearance and make the plant easy to identify. The name “Jimson” is a shortened version of Jamestown and references the location where a group of  soldiers who ate the leaves of the plant in 1676 experienced 11 days of intense hallucinations. That being said, Jimsonweed is extremely toxic and contains tropane alkaloids including atropine, hyoscine, and hyoscyamine. Misuse of jimsonweed as a hallucinogenic has resulted in death.

Once you start looking at plants more carefully it becomes easier to appreciate (and spot) the species that don’t quite fit. Such was the case with these two non-native plants at dunes at West Mabou Beach. It’s amazing what you can find!


Responses

  1. Island Nature  :: West Mabou Beach Birding says:

    August 30th, 2012 at 11:20 pm (#)

    […] beaches to visit on Cape Breton Island. The combination of superb swimming, birding and botanizing (more on that in a later post) make it a natural destination for any naturalist. Ideally, it would be good to arrive early and […]

Record a Comment

by

Related Posts

Follow Island Nature

Subscribe to Island Nature via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 143 other subscribers

Island Nature on Tumblr

  • photo from Tumblr

    Payzant Falls on the Juan De Fuca trail close to Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A bit of a short slog through some muddy trail to get to this location (about 3km from the trailhead) but well worth it. Best on an overcast day, with too much sun there’s too much contrast.

    Fuji X-T1, VSCO Kodak Portra 160 film emulation.

    02/22/16

  • photo from Tumblr

    365/365
    Light Show at Kye Bay

    Kids and I took a break from northern light hunting to do a little light painting dance down on the wet sand flats at Kye Bay on New Year’s Eve. Looks like a satellite did a walk through as well. Nice way to end the year and finish up this 365 Day Project - it’s been challenging at times but overall well worth doing.

    Fuji X-T1, Fuji Classic Chrome camera profile, 125 second exposure

    01/03/16

  • photo from Tumblr

    364/365
    Oyster Bay at Night

    Kids and I drove north to Oyster Bay with the hopes of maybe seeing the northern lights which were forecasted. We were clouded in but I decided to take a photograph anyway - this is looking northeastish, the underside of the clouds are lit by the lights of Campbell River.

    Fuji X-T1, 30 second exposure

    01/03/16

Photos of the Day from Island Nature’s Flickr Group

Disclosure

Island Nature is a member of the Canadian Amazon Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to books on amazon.ca. A small percentage of each sale helps support this web site and you pay no additional fees for the book!

Copyright

Creative Commons License

Images and writing by Dave Ingram are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Island Nature copyright.