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An Interview with Dan Stuart
September 20, 2018 by Laura McClintock

Spring flowers get most of the notoriety, but fall brings a rich diversity of beautiful and interesting wildflowers. Dan Stuart will be teaching folks all about them on a fantastic fall floral exploration on Oct. 13. We had some questions for Dan and he generously answered.

HPNC: Why do you love fall wildflowers?

Dan Stuart: I always find myself so eager in the spring to brush up on my plant ID after a long winter, but admittedly with field work and other responsibilities it's easy to lose enthusiasm as the season goes on. Fall wildflowers are so bright and showy, like nature sending one last reminder to enjoy what's left of the year. Somehow they always help me snap back into it for a few weeks before the weather gets nasty.

HPNC: Which are neater - grasses or flowers?

Dan Stuart: Incomparable! Wildflowers are easily a more diverse group than grasses in Ontario, but there is something intrinsically amazing about our native grasses that once covered a large portion of the continent. Wildflowers are generally easier to identify for most people, but there is a whole super-complex world of graminoid ID (grasses, sedges, and rushes) for those willing to take a deeper dive.

HPNC: What has been your favourite Aster you’ve seen in High Park?

Dan Stuart: It's always exciting to see an uncommon aster, so for me it has to be Sky Blue Aster, which is a tallgrass prairie and oak savannah specialist. Plus you can beat its scientific name: Symphyotrichum oolentangiense. Say that three times fast.

HPNC: What’s a flower ID essential you always take on a hike with you?

Dan Stuart: No question - a weather-beaten copy of Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. I destroy and re-purchase this book probably every 2-3 years through sheer frequency of use.

HPNC: Why is High Park a good place for fall wildflowers?

Dan Stuart: For an urban environment (and actually really anywhere in Ontario), High Park has an impressive fall wildflower diversity, partly due to rare tallgrass prairie and oak savannahs that provide habitat for a number of unusual plants. Ontario's only fall-flowering tree, Witch Hazel can be found in a few places, which is one of my personal favourites. High Park also boasts 12 native species of Goldenrod and 11 native species of Aster - at this workshop we will endeavour to see them all.

Dan Stuart is an ecologist, naturalist, and avid hiker, having worked for the University of Guelph and the environmental consulting sector since 2009. Dan currently works for Azimuth Environmental Consulting, Inc. in Barrie, Ontario as a terrestrial ecologist with a focus on botanical inventories and restoration ecology, but also undertakes studies to evaluate the habitats of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and Species at Risk. He holds Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry certifications in Ecological Land Classification, the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, and is a designated Butternut Health Assessor. Dan also sits on the executive committee of Tallgrass Ontario, where he helps to oversee and facilitate grant applications, monthly board meetings, and implementation of numerous tallgrass prairie creation, restoration and maintenance projects throughout Southern Ontario.

For more information about adult workshops and to register, please click here.

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