Tancook Flora and Fauna

Compiled by Sarah M.J. Pelley and Mary C. Crawford

The following brief and incomplete survey of Flora was compiled in five visits to Big Tancook Island in the Summer of 1989.

Big Tancook lies roughly six miles offshore in Lunenburg County's Mahone Bay. The island has been inhabited since the early eighteenth century. Originally primarily agricultural, the 250 inhabitants now depend largely on the fishing industry. The last cattle left the island in 1983, leaving pasture and hayland to be overgrown, largely with Rubus spp. Woodlands are largely Black Spruce, and there are several vibrant marshland habitats.

The soil of Tancook is Bridgewater Drumlin and Bridgewater Sandy Loam, two of Nova Scotia's most fertile soil types. The combination of a rich soil, temperatures nearly 5 degrees F warmer than the mainland, and reflected light from the surrounding water makes many Tancook species larger than their mainland counterparts. Common species also reflect slight variations in comparison to the mainland, perhaps because of isolation in an island habitat.

In contrast to other offshore ecosystems in Lunenburg County, Big Tancook has a rich and abundant Flora. Many of the species are typical Ballast Weeds, others are associated with agriculture. Yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) seems to be a recent arrival, perhaps introduced in the gravel brought from the mainland to upgrade the five miles of road on Big Tancook. Other species are notable by their absence: ie Arbutus (Epigaea repens), Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), Poison ivy (Rhus radicans), Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens).

For the purposes of this survey, species have been divided into the following habitat groups:

1 Marsh and wetland
2 Evergreen forest and margins
3 Grassland and agricultural
4 Coastal margins

Many sedges, grasses, pondweeds, etc., have been deemed beyond the scope of this survey and its authors, each group needing a more specialized approach and a longer time-frame.


Britten and Brown
Roland and Smith

Group 1

Marsh and Wetland

Marsh cinque-foil Potentilla palustris Photo by John Egbert
Water parsnip Sium cicutaefolium
Bulb-bearing loosestrife Lysimachia terrestris
Jewel weed Impatiens capensis Photo by Elaine Stevens
Small forget-me-not Myosotis laxa
Water plantain Alisma subcordatumPhoto by Project Runeberg
Broad leaved cattail Typhaceae litifoliaPhoto by Project Runeberg
Burr reed Sparganium americanumPhoto by Project Runeberg
Water-smartweed Polygonum punctatum
Willow Salix album Photo by Marco Bleeker
Blue flag Iris versicolor "Wild Flowers" by Homer House (1934)
Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum Photo by Mimi Kamp
Turtlehead Chelone glabra Photo by John Egbert
Sweet gale Myrica gale Photo by Henriette Kress
Tear-thumb Polygonum sagittatumPhoto byJ.R. Manhart
Peppermint Mentha spp. Photo by Henriette Kress
Dwarf St. John's wort Hypericum mutilum
Water horehound Lycopus americanus Photo by Mimi Kamp
Hemlock parsley Conioselinum chinense

Group 2

Evergreen and Forest Margins

Bayberry Myrica pensylvanica
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana
Spirea Spiraea latifolia
Meadow rue Thalictrum polygamum
Fireweed Epilogium angustifolium Photo by Mimi Kamp
Blueberry Vaccinium spp.Photo by Thomas Schoepke
Juniper Juniperus communis Photo by Michael Moore
Witherod Viburnum cassinoides
False Lily-of-the-valley Unifolium canadense
Starflower Trientalis borealis
Lambkill Kalmia angustifolia
Rhodora Rhododendron rhodora
Alternate leaved dogwood Cornus alternifolia
Twinflower Linnaea borealis Photo by John Egbert
Wood sorrel Oxalis montana
Round leaved Pyrola Pyrola rotundifolia
Indian pipe Monotropa uniflora
Lady slipper Cypripedium acaule Photo by John Egbert

Group 3

Grassland and Agricultural

Caraway Carum carvi
Burdock Arctium minus Photo by Mimi Kamp
Red clover Trifolium pratense
Field horsetail Equisetum arvense
Pigweed Chenopodium album
*Goosefoot Chenopodium urbicum*
Yellow rocket Barbarea vulgaris
Pearly everlasting Anaphalis margaritorea
Wild Carrot Daucus carota
Dame's rocket Hesperis matronalis
Charlock Brassica arvenis
Wild strawberry Fragaria spp. Photo by Michael Moore
Vetch Vicia cracca
Dandelion Taraxacum spp.
Raspberry & Blackberry Rubus spp. Photo by Marco Bleeker
Mouse-ear chickweed Cerastium vulgatum
St. John's wort Hypericum perforatum Photo by Mimi Kamp
Goatsbeard Tragopogon pratenis Photo by Henriette Kress
Perennial sow thistle Sonchus arvensisPhoto by Fall dandelion Leontodon autumnalis
Knapweed Centaurea nigra
Hedge bedstraw Galium mollugo
Hops Humulus lupulus Photo by Michael Moore
Gooseberry Ribes spp.
Stitchwort Stellaria graminea
Creeping harebells Campanula rapunculoides
Mullein Verbascum thapsus Photo by Marco Bleeker
Silverrod Solidago bicolor
Common hawkweed Hieracium vulgatum
Canada thistle Cirsium arvense
Broad leaved plantain Plantago major Photo by Michael Moore
Mallow Malva moschata
Japanese knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum Photo by Marco Bleeker
Ox-eye daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum Photo by Mimi Kamp
New York aster Aster nova-belgii
Lady's thumb Polygonum persicaria
Heal-all Prunella vulgaris Photo by John Egbert
Yellow wood sorrel Oxalis stricta
Pineapple weed Matricaria matricarioides Photo by Mimi Kamp
Rose Rosa rugosa spp.
Dog rose Rosa virginiana Photo by John Egbert
Avens Geum marcrophyllumPhoto byJ.R. Manhart
Trifolium repens
Red-rooted pigweed Amaranthus retroflexus
Blue-eyed grass Sisyrinchium montanum
Speedwell Veronica officinalis Photo by Thomas Schoepke
Fragrant goldenrod Euthamica graminifolia
Narrow leaved aster Aster laterifolia
Lady's tresses Spiranthes lacera
Bouncing Bet Saponaria officinalis Photo by John Egbert
Pale St. John's wort Hypericum ellipticum
Toad flax Linaria vulgaris Photo by Mimi Kamp
Bugle Ajuga reptans
Eyebright Euphrasia americana
Evening primrose Oenothera biennis Photo by John Egbert
Stickseed Lappula echinata
Yarrow Achillea lanulosa Photo by Mimi Kamp Leaves of Yarrow Photo by Leona Halley Henderson
Sheep sorrel Rumex acetosella
Couch grass Agropyron repens
Curled dock Rumex crispus
Scentless chamomile Matricaria inodora
Bull thistle Cirsium lanceolatum
Lupin Lupinus polyphyllus
Groundsel Senicio vulgaris
Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis Photo by Henriette Kress
Wild buckwheat Polygonum convolvulus
White sweet clover Melilotis alba
Narrow leaved cow wheat Melanpyrum lineare
Hedge weed Erysimum officinale
Purple leaved willow herb Epilobium coloratum
Scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis Photo by Mimi Kamp
Goutweed Aegopodium podagraria
Mayweed Matricaria maritimaPhoto by Marco Bleeker
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare Drawing by Mimi Kamp
Black medoc Medicago lupulina
Canada fleabane Erigeron annuus
Yellow rattle Rhinanthus crista-galli
Cleavers Galium aparine Photo by Leona Halley Henderson
Goat's beard Aruncus aruncus
Chickweed Stellaria media Photo by Mimi Kamp
Canada goldenrod Solidago canadensis
Noble goldenrod Solidago speciosa
Fringed orchid Habernaria lacera

*Note: Chenopodium urbicum is a feature of Big Tancook gardens, where it flourishes as a weed. Collected by Burgess on ballast heaps at Pictou in 1883** it is not seen elsewhere in Lunenburg County.

**Roland and Smith 1969 edition

Group 4

Coastal Margins

Beach pea Lathyrus japonicus
Ragweed Ambrosia artemisiefolia
Purple angelica Angelica atropurpureaPhoto byHugh Wilson
Nightshade Solanum dulcamara Photo by John Egbert
Black nightshade Solanum nigrum
Sea lungwort Mertensia maritima
Upland cranberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea
Seaside goldenrod Solidago sempervirens Photo by Mimi Kamp
Sea rocket Cakile edentula
Cranberry Vaccinium macrocarpum
Scotch lovage Ligusticum scoticum
Sea blight Suaeda maritima
Veiny pea Lathyrus venosus
Seaside artemisia Artemisia stelleriana Photo by Leona Halley Henderson
Sea kemps Plantago maritima

Note: Big Tancook Island also has it's own cultivar of cabbage. Sauerkraut was made extensively on the island in the past. Seed was saved from year to year resulting in a cabbage cultivar with a small, tight head suitable for kraut. It is still being planted today.

My Contributions

Bunchberry Cornus Canadensis Photo by Mimi Kamp
Field Pussytoes Antennaria howellii
Starflower Trientalis borealis
Northern white violet Viola pallens
Rough bedstraw Galium asprellum
Fragrant bedstraw Galium triflorum
Sea-milkwort Glaux maritimaPhoto by Thomas Schoepke
Water-hemlock, Spotted cowbane Cicuta maculata
Water-parsnip Sium suave
Wild Lily-of-the-valley, Canada Mayflower Maianthemum canadense
Tall white lettuce Prenanthes altissima
Bugleweed Lycopus virginicus Photo by Robyn Klein
Alsike Clover Trifolium hybridum
Field pennycress Thlaspi arvense
Common sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Spiny-leaved sow-thistle Sonchus asper
Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
Common cinquefoil Potentilla simplex
Hop clover Trifolium agrarium
Hedge mustard Sisymbrium officinale
Wild radish Raphanus raphanistrum
Mossy stonecrop, Wallpepper Sedum acre
Beggar-ticks, sticktight Bidens frondosa
Mouse-ear Hawkweed Hieracium pilosella
King devil Hieracium pratense
Rough-stemmed goldenrod Solidago rugosa
Slender fragrant goldenrod Solidago tenuifolia
Marsh St. Johnswort Hypericum virginicum
Knotweed Polygonum
Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit
Fumitory, Earth-smoke Fumaria officinalis Photo by Robyn Klein
Brown knapweed Centaurae jacea
Slender blue flag Iris prismatica
Blue-eyed grass Sisyrinchium angustifolium
True forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides
Common or Marsh skullcap Scutellaria epilobiifolia Photo by Robyn Klein
Sweetflag, Calamus Acorus calamus
Seabeach dock Rumex pallidus
Shepherd's purse Capsella
White pond lily Nymphaea odorata Photo by Mimi Kamp
Wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Black cherry, Choke cherry Prunus serotina
Labrador TeaLedum groenlandicum