poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Plaster Rock-Renous Highway

a view of a Black Bear

with 8 comments

One of the experiences of the past two weeks was the sighting of a young Black Bear (Ursus americanus) along the Plaster Rock – Renous Highway.  The Black Bear was only a youngster, probably a two-year-old born last January or February (2011).  He watched us a long time from the woods, appearing a little confused.  Eventually, he wandered away.  He was probably rejoining his mama – Black Bears stay with their mothers until they are 16 or 17 months old.

I have seen/smelled a few bears in my life:

§ Once, on a fishing trip with my Uncle, he told me to stop and sniff the air.  The smell was fetid, unforgettable.  He told me you often smell a bear but almost never see one.

§ When we first built our house, our young neighbor was riding his bike up our gravel heap and encountered a bear coming up the other side of the pile!

§ When we first lived in our community, we had a garbage dump.  We used to go to the dump on the weekend and join the other cars, watching the bears work their way through the garbage.  I remember one was inside an old refrigerator, opening and closing the door!

§ On a work excursion to Mount Carleton, we saw a bear running up the road ahead of us, but it disappeared before we could get close.

§ Once, on the Salmon River Road, on a drive to Bouctouche with my sister-in-law and niece and nephew, we saw a full-grown bear, on a run from one side of the road to the other.  He had very long legs and ran by stretching his front legs out and bringing his rear legs up between them.  He only hit the pavement twice, once with each set of feet!

§ On our trip through the Rocky Mountains, I saw a bear, species unknown, in a steep ditch beside the roadway.

Have you ever seen a bear???


©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

June 6, 2012 at 6:35 am

keeping watch for dragons #6 – Water Dragon

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The last full week in May, we took a day to drive the Plaster Rock-Renous Highway.  This is an isolated, but paved, stretch of road, called Highway 108, connecting the sides of the province through a large, unpopulated area.  The highway runs from Plaster Rock in the west, to Renous in the east and traverses three counties, Victoria, York and Northumberland.   It takes you across more than 200 km of wetland, hardwood, and mixed coniferous forest, some privately owned, and some Crown Land.  A large part of the area has been clearcut, but the road also passes through some wilderness of the Plaster Rock-Renous Wildlife Management Area and the headwaters of some of our most beautiful rivers.

From the east, the highway first runs along the waters of the Tobique River, across the Divide Mountains, and into the drainage of the Miramichi River, crossing the Clearwater Brook, and running along the South Branch of the Dungarvon River and the South Branch Renous River.

Along the way, we stopped at a boggy pond next to the road between Clearwater Brook and the Dungarvon, to listen to the bull frogs croaking.  There among the ericaceous vegetation filling most of the pond was a dragon for my collection.

look closely near the center of the photo… the single white spot is the spathe of a Wild Calla or Water Dragon

Water Dragon, more commonly known as Wild Calla or Water Arum, was present in the shallow, more open waters of the pond, appearing as startling white spots on an otherwise uniform backdrop of green and brown.

Wild Calla (Calla palustis L.) is also known as Female Dragons, Frog-cups, Swamp-Robin and, in French, calla des marais, arum d’eau, or aroïde d’eau.  It lives in wet, cold bogs, or along the margins of ponds, lakes and streams.

The Wild Calla belongs to the Arum family, along with Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema Stewardsonii Britt.) and Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Nutt.).  These plants have tiny flowers along a thick spike known as a ‘spadix’.  The spadix is enclosed by a leafy bract called the ‘spathe’.  The spathe of Wild Calla is bright white, ovoid and abruptly narrow at the tip.  The leaves are glossy green and heart-shaped.  The flowers growing among them are often overlooked.  On the pond, there were about ten visible spathes, and likely many more hidden among the plentiful leaves.

The various parts of the Wild Calla are considered poisonous since they contain crystals of calcium oxalate.  These cause severe irritation of the mouth and throat if eaten.  However, there is a twist to this story of a poisonous plant.  Scandanavian people, in times of severe hardship, prepared flour for ‘Missen bread’ from the dried, ground, bruised, leached, and boiled seeds and roots of Wild Calla.  Do I have to warn you not to try this at home!!!!????

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Linnaeus, the botanist who invented the binomial (Genus + Species) method of naming plants, described the laborious process the Swedish people used to remove the poisonous crystals from the Water Dragon in order to make flour.  To read Linnaeus’ account, see Mrs. Campbell Overend, 1872, The Besieged City, and The Heroes of Sweden (William Oliphant and Co., Edinburgh), page 132 and notes  ( Accessed May 29, 2012).




desperate harvest

‘… they can be satisfied with bark-bread, or cakes made of the roots of water-dragon, which grows wild on the banks of the river…’

– Mrs Campbell Overend, 1872


the pond beside the road

simmers, a kettle

of frog-croak and leather-leaf


spathes of Water Dragon

hug their lamposts, glow white

lure the desperate to the pond


bull-frog song deepens the shallows

the way voices lower when they speak

of trouble, of famine


people so hungry, harvest so poor

they wade in the mire

grind roots of Wild Calla for flour


needles to the tongue

burns to the throat

crystals of calcium oxalate, poison


worth the risk –

the drying,

the bruising,

the leaching,

the boil,

the painful test to know

if poison has been neutralized


the toughness of

the Missen bread



©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
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