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New field guide to western Newfoundland’s limestone barrens about more than flowers


The exposed limestone rocks along the Northern Peninsula look boring enough to the average passerby.

In fact, little thought was given decades ago to forging Route 430 right on through some of the limestone barrens in the Strait of Belle Isle area.

The highway may have been charted differently if more was known about the presence of the rare and some unique species of plants that call these barrens home.

Three of the tiny plants growing there are not found anywhere else in the world. They are able to thrive in their harsh, exposed habitat because they aren’t overtaken or overshadowed by the faster-growing, more southern plants.

These days, the limestone barrens are better protected.

Now, thanks to a new field guide, anyone who wants to enjoy observing the tough little arctic-alpine plants and other features of the barrens can get to know the area even better.

“Exploring the Limestone Barrens of Newfoundland and Labrador” was co-authored by retired ecologists Michael Burzynski and Anne Marceau of Rocky Harbour and retired botany professor Henry Mann of Pasadena, who taught at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

The field guide is being launched in Room FC2014 at Grenfell tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The 367-page book contains colour photos and provides information on about 300 species of wildflowers, trees, shrubs, ferns, fungi, lichens, insects, birds and mammals found in and around the barrens.

It also discusses the geology, landforms and fossils of the limestone barrens, along with information about sites to visit and conservation efforts.

Burzynski said the natural treasures of the limestone barrens can be hard to notice to anyone who doesn’t know what to look for or where to look for it.

“The neat thing about the white rocks at Flowers Cove that just look like fissures going into the ground, for instance, is that all you see is bare rock when you look at it,” aid Burzynski. “But there are a bunch of rare plants growing at the bottoms of those one- or two-metre deep holes and cracks. It’s really quite amazing.”

The limestone barrens only take up a total of about 40 square kilometres in patches spread throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of it is found between the Port au Port Peninsula, the Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador.

The Gros Morne Co-operating Association, with help from the Humber Natural History Society, published the book. All profits will go back to the Gros Morne Co-operating Association.

It can be purchased through the co-operating association, the Grenfell Campus bookstore and Island Treasures.

White Rocks Trail in Flower’s Cove, where rare plants live in deep cracks eroded in the limestone bedrock.
Fernald’s braya, one of the species found nowhere else in the world but on western Newfoundland’s limestone barrens.

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