The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora
By G. U. Hay, 1896
On the southern side of Squaw Cap Mountain we obtained a fine view of that great central watershed of the Province from which some single peaks rise, two thousand to two thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea. There is easily picked out an old friend of former years-Bald Mountain on the Tobique, a trifle higher than the elevation on which we are now perched, tired and panting, but delighted. Away off to the southwest is the monarch of them all-Katahdin, in Maine, over five thousand feet high. From the north side the view is scarcely less imposing-the ranges and peaks of Quebec with the valley of the St. Lawrence beyond them. Just opposite to us, Slate Mountain, only three miles away, was wreathed in smiles of a rapidly descending sun, and beckoned us invitingly, but we turned regretfully away with many promises of a return which I hope will not lack fulfilment.
What a tramp that was! How tired we were! But when we looked over the treasures in the tin box, there was no weariness. We were delighted to see even a warden, and he looked curiously at our driers and press and the plants stowed away in them.
The river from the mouth of the Upsalquitch down is settled, and we soon come to the estuary, studded with islands, their alluvial soil rank with vegetation. On one of these islands-at the mouth of the Metapedia, we find the Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) and the Wild Ginger-root (Asarum Canadense). From Morissey's Rock we took a parting view of the Upper Restigouche, and what a grand view it was. Here we found Aspidium fragrans again, Woodsia hyperborean, Woodsia glabella, and near by Pellaea gracilis and the Small-flowered Anemone (Anemone parviflora).
We found eleven plants new to the province which are given in an appended list [note: list is omitted, as the plants have already been mentioned] with others rare or little known before. Of all our native orders the ferns seem to be of greater variety on the Restigouche than elsewhere in the province. The Leguminosae family come next in abundance, then the conifers, the Rose family, and the Composite. The Heath family is rarer in species here than anywhere else in the province. The presence of many alpine plants, especially near the mouths of rivers flowing in from the mountainous parts of south-eastern Quebec, is of interest.
[The following appear to be comments made by members of the audience after Hay had given his talk]
Dr. Mathews said that Mr. Hay's paper was the most important contribution to the botany of the province since Dr. Bailey's paper, descriptive of his trip up the Tobique and down the Nepisiguit in 1867. The area of country extending from the St. John River to the Restigouche and down the valley of that river, is a plateau country underlaid by Silurian slates, and through this the valley of the Restigouche has been cut. Owing to the considerable amount of lime in those slates the produce a fertile soil, for having been formed under the sea, they are rich in animal remains. The fact that they are thus calcareous, and that they are full of cleavage planes and cracks, highly inclined, helps to given them a natural drainage, and thus improve the capabilities of the country for farming purposes. [Note: "Calcareous soil" is formed largely by the weathering of calcareous rocks and fossil shell beds. Different varieties usually contain chalk, marl, and limestone and frequently a large amount of phosphates. They are often very fertile.]
The remnant of this plateau cut and carved by the Restigouche in past ages, now stands out along its lower courses as slate hills and ridges; but towards its mouth outbursts of igneous rocks have further broken up the plateau and produced hills and ridges…
The absence of heath plants, to which the writer of the above essay refers, is a good feature in the flora, as it indicates the absence of a barren, rocky and water-soaked country, such as these plants delight in. And notwithstanding the shortness of the season and the proximity of this plateau to a hill country on each side, it should contain considerable areas of good farming land, available for settlement.
Mr. S. W, Klein said that a number of the plants referred to in the paper were of a subarctic type-Aspidium fragrans especially. This taken in conjunction with the fact that the estuary of the Restigouche and Bay Chaleur were frozen over early in the fall and only opened in May, would seem to show that further botanical exploration in this part of the province might result in the discovery of more plants of a northern character than are now recorded.