p. 3936
N


No. 1468.

THE BOTANICAL EVIDENCE OF MARINE CONDITIONS IN HAMILTON INLET, LABRADOR.
M. L. FERNALD, Sc.B.,

Fisher Professor of Natural History (Botany) in Harvard University.


I have been actively and practically continuously engaged since 1891 in research in and teaching of botany (systematic and geographic) in Harvard University, and for twenty-three years I have devoted the summers to intensive field studies of the flora from New York State to Newfoundland and Labrador.

1.—INACCURATE BOTANICAL STATEMENTS IN THE FIRST KINDLE REPORT ON HAMILTON INLET.


It is necessary, before proceeding with a detailed consideration of the botanical evidence presented by Dr. Kindle, to examine carefully his status as a botanist and, consequently, his ability to use botanical data without error.
Dr. Kindle has published two articles upon the flora of Hamilton Inlet. The first of these, “ Notes on the Forests of Southeastern Labrador,”1 appeared in 1922 ; the second, as a portion of his report on the “ Geography and Geology of Lake Melville District, Labrador Peninsula,”2 in 1924. In the first article the quality of its author's botanical knowledge became perfectly apparent. On page 62, in describing the Lake Melville district, he said :
“ The white birch (Betula pendula) is a very common tree ” ; and, at the bottom of the page, he continued :
“ The principal trees in the approximate order of their abundance in the Lake Melville district are : black spruce (Picea mariana, B. S. P.) ; white, or canoe, birch (Betula pendula, Roth, var. ?) ; tamarack (Larix laricina, Koch) ; fir (Abies balsamea, Mill) ; white spruce {Picea canadensis, B. S. P.) ; balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera, L.) ; yellow, or grey, birch (Betula lutea, Michx. f.) ; black, or white, birch (Betula lenta, L.) ; trembling

1 E. M. KINDLE, “ Notes on the Forests of Southeastern Labrador,” Geogr. Rev. xii, 57-71 (Jan. 1922).
2 Canad. Dept. Mines, Geol. Surv. mem. No. 141 (1924).

p. 3937

poplar, or aspen (Populus tremuloides, Michx.) ; ground juniper (Juniperus communis, L., var. depressa, Pursh).”
Now, to any careful botanist, who knows the trees of Canada and of Labrador, it is at once obvious that the author of the above statements does not know them. The tree of eastern America which has been mistaken for the Old World Betula pendula is quite unknown from Labrador. I write with assurance because it was I who first recognised the existence of a second species of canoe birch in eastern America and called attention1 to it under the erroneous name, B. pendula. Subsequently, it was described as an endemic eastern American species and in a recent study2 I have discussed it and its range, as Betula coerulea grandis, Blanchard. So far as known from actual specimens it occurs from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to the region of the city of Quebec, thence south into New England. Dr. Kindle's party contained a student, Mr. R. H. Wetmore, subsequently one of my students, who was instructed to collect specimens of all flowering plants seen ; but Mr. Wetmore's collection, which I personally examined, contained no material of Betula pendula or of B. caerulea grandis. The white or canoe birch of Lake Melville is the regular and abundant canoe birch (Betula papyrifera) which abounds in the forests of boreal America and which was recorded by the great student of the Labrador Peninsula, A. P. Low, as “ common. . . . about Hamilton Inlet . . . at the head of the inlet, trees up to ten inches in diameter are not uncommon.”3 Dr. Kindle did not mention this ubiquitous tree in his first account of the forests of the region, though in his second report he made the correction.
Again, let us consider the other birches : “ Yellow, or grey, birch (Betula lutea . . . .) ; . . . . black, or white, birch (Betula lutea . . . :).” Mr. Wetmore's collection contained no specimen of either of these comparatively southern species ; Low, who certainly knew Labrador, in listing the trees of the Peninsula (including the Hamilton drainage) did not mention either of them ; Robert Bell and A. T. Drummond,4 both competent botanists, in their detailed map of ranges of Canadian trees did not recognise B. lenta as extending north of the United States and they indicated the northern limit of B. lutea as hundreds of miles south of Lake Melville. The latter species was not found as far north as Anticosti by Schmitt,5 nor about Lake St. John by Marie-Victorin.6 On the accompanying map I have indicated the approximate northern boundaries of both B. lutea and B. lenta, the range of the former derived largely from Bell and Drummond, of the

1 FERNALD, “ The Relationships of some American and Old World Birches,” Am. Journ. Sci., Ser. 4, xiv, 179 (1902).
2 FERNALD, “ Rhodora,” xxiv, 171 (1922)
3 A.P. LOW, “ Report on Explorations in the Labrador Peninsula along the East Main, Koksoak, Hamilton, Manicuagan and Portions of other Rivers,” Geol. Surv. Can. Ann. Rep., n.s. viii, Part L. 32 (1896).
4 Map showing Northern Limits of the Principal Timber Trees, in DRUMMOND, “ Canadian Timber Trees ” (1879).
5 SCHMITT, “ Monographie de l'Ile d'Anticosti ” (1904).
6 MARIE-VICTORIN, “ Etude floristique sur la region du Lac Saint-Jean ” (1925).

p. 3938

latter from Blanchard, who, pointing out the confusion of the two species among lumbermen, concluded : “ a line drawn from Portland, Maine, to Montreal will mark its eastern and northern limit.”1


The Botanical Evidence of Marine Conditions in Hamilton Inlet, Labrador
(111 kb)


The last species enumerated by Dr. Kindle as one of “ the principal trees ” is “ ground juniper (Juniper communis, L., var. depressa, Pursh).” Even if an author does not know whereof he is writing, he might be put on guard by the names “ ground juniper ” and “ var. depressa.” The only form of Juniperus communis in Labrador is a depressed shrub, var. montana, Ait. (not var. depressa Pursh), forming prostrate mats or carpets and never rising more than a foot or two from the ground. In a list of “ principal trees ” it has no more place than does “ partridge-berry ” (Vaccinium Vitis-Idoea) or the “ ground hurt ” (Vaccinium uliginosum).
To the botanist, therefore, it is sufficiently clear that Dr. Kindle is undoubtedly a better geologist than botanist and that his botanical statements cannot be accepted as final until they are most rigidly verified.

2.—MISLEADING STATEMENTS OF HABITAT IN THE SECOND KINDLE REPORT.
The plants collected in Hamilton Inlet by Mr. R. H. Wetmore were identified by Mr. Wetmore under my direction, and I stand back of the identifications. Mr. Wetmore's original report2 was published by him in


1 W.H. BLANCHARD, “ The Range of the Black Birch to be restricted,” Rhodora, xiii, 206, 207 (1911).
2 R.H. WETMORE,, “ Plants of the Hamilton Inlet and Lake Melville Region, Labrador,” Rhodora, xxv, 4-12 (Jan., 1923).

p. 3939

January, 1923, as an independent article entitled “ Plants of the Hamilton Inlet and Lake Melville Region, Labrador.” He there enumerated twenty stations or areas from which collections were made and modestly stated that “ this does not represent an exhaustive study of the flora of the area covered, for the Survey itself was pre-eminently hydrographical and geological in its intent, hence those elements in the work were stressed accordingly ; also the mode of travel of our party—by motor-boat and canoe—was conducive only to botanizing those points at which stops were made.” It was this report which I helped prepare and with which my responsibility ceases.
The details of the second report on the flora, included as pages 23-27 of Dr. Kindle's “ Geography and Geology of Lake Melville District, Labrador Peninsula,”1 in 1924, were not referred to me and I had nothing to do with the statements of the preferences of the plants for littoral, brackish or fresh conditions, nor with the deductions drawn by Dr. Kindle from the list. My thirty-five years of active botanical exploration of the region from western New York to Newfoundland and Labrador would have led me to quite different statements and conclusions. Furthermore, the statements of habitat for many of the species listed in Dr. Kindle's report are so opposed to the statements of such distinguished and authoritative Canadian botanists as the late Professor John Macoun2 and Professor Marie Victorin,3 that the contradictions are at once apparent. John Macoun, during a long lifetime Chief Naturalist of the Geological Survey of Canada, had an intimate know-ledge of plants of all Canada ; Marie-Victorin, Professor of Botany at the University of Montreal, since the death of Macoun, the outstanding systematist of eastern Canada, knows the flora of the lower St. Lawrence and the Gulf as no other Canadian has known it. Surely no one will question whether the active botanists, Macoun and Marie-Victorin, or the geologist, Kindle, state more accurately the habitats of plants.
When we turn to the deduction by Dr. Kindle, that Iris setosa var. canadensis, Polygonum viviparum and Ranunculus lapponicus are “ salt-loving plants ” which have shown “ inability to extend their range west of the head of the Narrows,” we are at once forced to the conclusion that his wish was father to his thought. In his independent publication in Rhodora Mr. Wetmore, assistant on the Survey, who was detailed to collect the plants, explicitly stated that Iris setosa var. canadensis occurs on the “ South side of Lake Melville, from Carter Basin to English River ” and on “ Shores at Sabascachew Bay ” (Stations 16 and 20 of Mr. Wetmore's paper). The discrepancy between this original and independent statement and the later one in the Kindle report, that it does not extend west of the Narrows, is apparent.

1 E.M. KINDLE, Can. Dept. Mines, Geol. Surv. Mem. no. 141 (1924).
2 MACOUN, “ Catalogue of Canadian Plants,” Parts I-IV, Geol. and Nat. Hist. Surv. of Canada (1883-1888).
2 MARIE-VICTORIN, “ La Flore du Temiscouata ” (1916).

p. 3940

The other two plants which, not found by his party west of the Narrows, seem to Dr. Kindle to “ afford very clear botanical evidence of the change that takes place in the salinity of the water west of the Narrows,” are Polygonum viviparum and Ranunculus lapponicus. To an experienced botanist their citation as plants indicating saline habitats is a further indication that Dr. Kindle was so convinced that the Narrows is a natural check to saline water, that any plant found by his party only from the Narrows eastward was to his mind an inhabitant of brackish or saline soil. Polygonum viviparum, however, is a widely dispersed plant of fresh soil, found across the northern parts of Eurasia and America and southward on cool shores or mountains. Its occurrence in Canada was thus summarized by John Macoun : “ Quite common on cold, boggy points along lakes in the northern part of Canada ” ; its range is thus given in Gray's “ Manual of Botany ” : “ Alpine summits of New England, shores of Lake Superior, Colorado and Utah to Alaska and Greenland.” That certainly does not make it an indicator of salinity. Here is the statement in Dr. C. E. Moss's “ Cambridge British Flora ” of its distribution in Great Britain : “ Damp, mountainous grassland and grassy ledges of mountainous cliffs,” a British range indicated on the accompanying map traced directly from Professor Moss's publication. This map, with the areas occupied by Polygonum viviparum dotted, clearly demonstrates the lack of foundation for Dr. Kindle's assertion that this species can grow only where there is strongly saline water. (See Map on next page.)
Similarly, the third plant specially selected by Dr. Kindle as strictly dependent on salt water, Ranunculus lapponicus, is an arctic species which occurs southward in America on cold or mossy places to Labrador, the Lake Superior region and the Canadian Rocky Mountain region. On the Hamilton drainage, instead of “ not extending west of the Narrows,” as Dr. Kindle states, it has been known for thirty years from Seal Lake at the head of the Nascaupee River (entering the western end of Lake Melville at Northwest River), where it was collected by A. P. Low in 1896.(1)
The Kindle report lists forty-five species of flowering plants as occurring in brackish or littoral habitats, but there is absolutely no question that twenty-four of these species are in no case specially characteristic of sea-beaches. These twenty-four species are enumerated below ; and I have appended statements of their habitats as given by experienced Canadian and American botanists.

HIEROCHLOE ALPINA.—On the summits of high mountains and northward (Macoun) ; exposed hill crests (St. John)2; alpine regions, New England, New York and norhtward (Gray's Man.) ; south to the high mountains of New England and New York (Britton and Brown, 111, Fl.) ; granitic mountains (Fernald).3

PHLEUM ALPINUM.—Mountain summits and elevated mountain slopes (Macoun) ; exposed hill crests (St. John) ; alpine regions of New England and northward (Gray's Man.) ; south to the

1 See J.M. MACOUN, “ Canadian Record of Science,” January, 1897, p. 267.
2 ST. JOHN, “ A Botanical Exploration of the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” Canada Dept. Mines, Vict. Mem. Mus. Mem. no. 126 (1922).
3 FERNALD, “ The Soil Preferences of Certain Alpine and Subalpine Plants,” Rhodora, ix, 149-193 (1907).

[1927lab]




Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home