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Learn: Sustainable Food Systems

The Food Systems Lab’s new Instagram series, developed by Trinity student Freyja Moser, focuses on different aspects of our food systems. In total there are five series: Garden Who Knew?, Unexpected Edibles, Pollinator Profile, Citizen Sci You Can Try, and Native Plant Spotlight. To learn more, click on the link below the thumbnail or scroll down this page. Discover the fascinating world in which we and our food systems are part of and connect with our community to support sustainability. Posts are created by the Food Systems Lab’s Research Assistants and volunteers.


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Introduction to the New Series:
Accessible Text: Introduction to the New Series

We’re going to be starting 5 Instagram series relating to different aspects of our food systems. For the rest of the summer each series will be updated weekly with a post. So, stay tuned for lots of exciting updates and get ready to learn!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Introducing…

5 new Instagram series that will provide lots of food for thought! Swipe left for descriptions of each series.

Image: planted seedling

Slide 2: Garden Who Knew?

Surprising information and hidden stories about gardens and the plants we eat everyday.

Image: close-up picture of vegetable garden

Slide 3: Unexpected Edibles

Parts of plants that you didn’t know were edible and how to use them in the kitchen.

Image: zucchini flower

Slide 4: Pollinator Profile

Information on a featured pollinator and extraordinary tales about the insects, birds, rodents and more within our food systems.

Image: bee on a flower

Slide 5: Caterpillar Counts

Updates on caterpillar counts being done on U of T campus and information about life in the trees.

Image: green foliage

Slide 6: Native Plant Spotlight

Incredible plants from Toronto ecosystems and exploring how they fit into our food systems.

Image: purple blossoms

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Garden – Who Knew 1: Pepper Flowers
Accessible Text: Garden - Who Knew 1: Pepper Flowers

This is our first post as part of our new series “Garden Who Knew?”

One of the first things to start flowering in the gardens was pepper and, having never seen an actual pepper plant before, I was very surprised that it had flowers which faced towards the ground. As I did more research about this peculiarity, I uncovered this story. It left me wondering about what sustainability means in our food systems as well as the the future of domestication and other forms of crops alteration.  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Garden Who Knew?

No frowns, Why Peppers flower upside down

Images: flowering plants

Slide 2: Pepper Domestication

The domestication of peppers dates back to Mexico before 6000 years ago. Today there are 5 core domesticated pepper species and thousands of varieties. The ancestors of domesticated pepper are from the Capsicum genus (members of the Solanaceae family alongside tomato and potato). Today domesticated peppers look quite different than their wild ancestors, including the flower’s downward orientation. This is because of pepper’s domestication syndrome.

Image: Wild Pepper Plant

Slide 3: What is a Domestication Syndrome?

Traits targeted by domestication comprise a species’ domestication syndrome. E.g. when dogs were domesticated, certain traits were targeted. These traits make up the domestication syndrome of dogs. The exact domestication syndrome of the peppers is still not entirely clear, but…

Image: illustration of a dog with traits labelled

Slide 4: Pepper Domestication Syndrome

A suggested trait involved is having downward oriented or “pendant” flowers/fruit. For farming, pendant flowers/fruit was desirable as it allowed the poland to support larger fruit. Pendant fruit were also hidden by foliage, preventing them from being eaten by birds.

Images: (left) bird eating wild pepper and (right) a large, pendant oriented domesticated pepper

Slide 5: The Consequences

Though the traits selected for domestication discouraged predation from birds, it also encouraged predation from pests. Pepper weevils are more likely to consume domesticated peppers meant for consumption than wild peppers. Pesticides are one way to deal with pepper weevils, showing how domestication could be a double-edged sword. On one hand it allows for better produce, on the other hand it could encourage pests and pesticide use.

Images: (top) beetle and (right) a person spraying pesticides on a field

Slide 6: What does this mean for Sustainability?

All in all, human domestication of pepper plants is the reason why many peppers in our gardens flower upside down. Our food systems contain thousands of domesticated plants which have been drastically changed by humans. These plants are no longer part of their original ecosystems.

Can our food systems which have been altered to such a degree still be sustainable? Should sustainability in food systems be considered from a human perspective only? Or should we consider all perspectives in an ecosystem? (i.e., should we also consider the food systems of the birds themselves)?

Slide 7: Sources

  • Carlo, T. A., & Tewksbury, J. J. (2013). Directness and tempo of avian seed dispersal increases emergence of wild chiltepins in desert grasslands. Journal of Ecology, 102(1), 248–255. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.12180
  • Chabaane, Y., Haseeb, M., & Benrey, B. (2021). Domestication of chili pepper has altered fruit traits affecting the oviposition and feeding behavior of the pepper weevil. Insects, 12(7), 630. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12070630
  • Kraft, K. H., Brown, C. H., Nabhan, G. P., Luedeling, E., Luna Ruiz, J. de, Coppens d’Eeckenbrugge, G., Hijmans, R. J., & Gepts, P. (2014). Multiple lines of evidence for the origin of domesticated chili pepper, Capsicum annuum, in Mexico. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(17), 6165–6170. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1308933111
  • Lee, H.-Y., Ro, N.-Y., Patil, A., Lee, J.-H., Kwon, J.-K., & Kang, B.-C. (2020). Uncovering candidate genes controlling major fruit-related traits in pepper via genotype-by-sequencing based QTL Mapping and genome-wide association study. Frontiers in Plant Science, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2020.01100
  • Paran, I., & van der Knaap, E. (2007). Genetic and molecular regulation of fruit and plant domestication traits in tomato and pepper. Journal of Experimental Botany, 58(14), 3841–3852. https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erm257

Post created by Freyja Moser

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Unexpected Edibles 1: Carrot Tops
Accessible Text: Unexpected Edibles 1: Carrot Tops

Carrot tops – not just a topping, they can be the star of your dish! This is the our 2nd new series that we will be introducing: “Unexpected Edibles”. Learn how all parts of the carrot can be used in cooking!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Unexpected Edibles – Carrot Tops

Unusual and unexpected edible parts of fruit and vegetable plants

Image: carrots growing in the garden

Slide 2: Carrot Tops

Want to avoid additional food waste? Or did your carrot plants not produce many carrots? The tops of carrots can actually be eaten and can be prepared in many different ways

Carrot tops can be eaten raw but are very bitter, so they are often cooked or blanched to minimize this flavour

Fun Fact: Carrot tops are high in vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium!

Image: a bunch of carrots

Slide 3: Carrot Top Pesto

One of the most common ways of preparing carrot tops is in pesto:


  • 1 cup carrot tops
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Rinse carrot tops and discard stems
  2. Pulse together carrot tops, spinach, garlic, cashews, salt and pepper in a processer, occasionally scraping down the sides
  3. Slowly add olive oil and pulse until smooth

Full recipe at: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/carrot_top_pesto/

Image: a mason jar with carrot top pesto

Slide 4: Carrot Top Tabouli Salad

If you enjoy some bitter flavours then carrot tops can be added to salads, like this summery tabouli salad:


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot top


  1. Combine bulgur with 1 cup boiling water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt for 30 – 60 mins
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients together and toss well

Full recipe at: https://abraskitchen.com/carrot-top-tabouli/

Image: two bowls of carrot top Tabouli salad

Post created by Gabrielle Diez

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Pollinator Profile 1: Cuckoo Bees
Accessible Text: Pollinator Profile 1: Cuckoo Bees

This is the 3rd series we’re introducing, “Pollinator Profile”. It’s going to bee pretty cool!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Cuckoo bees
Possibly the laziest bee in nature! (But very clever)

Images: images of cuckoo bees

Slide 2: What is a Cuckoo bee?

  • Just like Cuckoo birds, Cuckoo bees got their name because of their kleptoparaditic behavior (in other words, they steal from their host!)
  • Some are social parasites: these types of cuckoo bee kill the host queen and replace her
  • Others are brood parasites: the female cuckoo bee lays her eggs in the host’s nest. The host then raises the young as if they were her own.

Slide 3: What is a Cuckoo bee? (continued)

  • Cuckoo bees mostly parasitize host species that are closely related to them (it’s called Emery’s Rule!)
  • There are many species of Cuckoo bee (which is why the Cuckoo bees in the photos look very different)
  • Fun fact: 15% of all bees in the world exhibit the behaviors of cuckoo bees (Frankie et al., 2014)

So you probably have seen a cuckoo bee before!

Slide 4: Now you may be wondering…

How exactly do they parasitize other bees?

  • After the eggs of the female cuckoo bee are fertilized, it will search for suitable nests to lay them
  • Once in the nest, the female cuckoo bee cuts holes in the host bee’s brood-cell caps and lays her own eggs inside
  • When the bees hatch, she will kill the host bee’s eggs

Slide 5: How to identify a Cuckoo bee?

  • Females lack pollen collecting structures (aka the scopa)
  • Females do not construct their own nests
  • They have little body hair
  • They have very thick exoskeleton
  • They have big mandibles (a pair of appendages near the mouth)
  • Adult bees don’t have pollen baskets on their leg
  • Active in summer and spring

This is a pollen basket. Image: Cuckoo bee on a flower.

I found this interesting because this bee (not a cuckoo bee) has very large pollen sacs. (I took this photo near the U of T soccer field)

Slide 6: Cuckoo bees in Canada

  • Macropis cuckoo bee: the lineage of cuckoo bee that parasitizes Macropis bees
  • Image on right: host bee. The bee on the right (Macropsis nuda) was collected by the Packer lab in Caledon, Ontario
  • Image on left: Cuckoo bee. The bee on the left is Epeoloides pilosulus, a Macropis cuckoo bee discovered in Alberta’s Elk Island National Park (Ryan Oram 2010)

Slide 7: Cuckoo bees in Toronto?

Image on left: We saw this bee at the High Park Nature Centre. It could be a Cuckoo bee of the Spechodes genus or it could be a member of the host genus Lasioglossum.

Images on right: host bee? and Cuckoo bee?

Because of how similar host species can look to the cuckoo bees which parasitize them, it can be difficult to determine which a bee is. What do you think?

Slide 8: More photos!

This is a cuckoo bumblebee! This kind of cuckoo bee has a lot of body hair

Image on left: Cuckoo bee on the tip of a finger

This is a male cuckoo bee from the Attenborough species discovered in 2018

Image on right: close up of preserved Cuckoo bee

Slide 9: Sources

  • Frankie, Gordon W., Thorp, Robbin W., Coville, Rollin E., Ertter, Barbara. (2014) “California Bees & Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists”. Berkeley: Heyday, Pp. 112-125.
  • Michener, C. D. (2007). The bees of the world. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • https://www.planetbee.org/planet-bee-blog//native-bee-series-cuckoo-bees
  • https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.php?identification=Cuckoo-Bee
  • https://wildlife.org/rare-cuckoo-bees-known-range-expands-in-canada/
  • https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44045331
  • https://www.yorku.ca/bugsrus/resources/galleries/boc
  • https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61432505
  • https://www.greatsunflower.org/Sphecodes
  • https://inaturalist.ca/observations/108780191

Post created by Serena Qiu

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Citizen Science 1: Caterpillars Count
Accessible Text: Citizen Science 1: Caterpillars Count

Our 4th series: “Caterpillars Count!”. This series will follow an ongoing citizen science project that U of T students have contributed to. This post gives a brief introduction to the project and the benefits of being involved. Future posts will have more updates about the counts and what is being seen around campus

Check out the Caterpillars Count! website for more information about the broader project.  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Global Citizen Science Project at U of T: Caterpillars Count!

What is Caterpillars Count?

Starting in summer 2021, U of T students have been contributing to a global Caterpillars count which was started by the University of North Carolina.

As a contributor to this project, 30 trees were selected around Trinity College to observe. During the growing season we monitor these trees weekly for signs of caterpillars and other arthropods.

Image: two people look up at a tree

Slide 2: Why is Caterpillars Count! Important?

Caterpillars Count! encourages citizen scientists like us to make field observations in our local communities. This helps provide data for global research! Through our collected data, scientists determine if caterpillar, plant, and bird populations, as well as their interactions, are affected by climate change.

We hope to continue our counts yearly to allow for the tracking of annual trends.

Slide 3: Why participate?

  1. Get outside and connect with nature (with illustration of hands cupping a globe)
  2. Learn to identify trees and insects (with illustration of an insect)
  3. Develop field observation skills (with illustration of person looking through a magnifying glass)
  4. Make connections with other volunteers (with illustration of 3 people sitting together)
  5. Make a difference as a citizen scientist! (with illustration of an open book)

DM us if you are interested!

Post created by Sophie Tan

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Unexpected Edibles 2: Zucchini Flowers
Accessible Text: Unexpected Edibles 2: Zucchini Flowers

This is week 2 of “Unexpected Edibles” and today we’re learning about zucchini flowers. In some places this may be more of an expected edible, but still more unknown and very tasty! View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Unexpected Edibles

Unusual and unexpected edible parts of fruit and vegetable plants: Zucchini Flowers

Image: potted zucchini with flowering buds

Slide 2: Zucchini Flowers

If you don’t want to wait around for your zucchini gourds or if you have too many flowers, why not try eating the soft, yellow blossoms!

Zucchini flowers can be consumed raw – as a salad ingredient or a colourful garnish – or cooked.

Male flowers are commonly harvested as female flowers can later grow zucchini gourds.

Tip: Make sure to check your zucchini flowers for bugs and eat the flowers fresh and fast!

View reference link.

Image: close up of a zucchini flower

Slide 3: Fried Zucchini Flowers – Fiori de Zucca Fritti

Bring the flavour of summer to your table with this easy Italian delicacy!


  • 4 zucchini flowers
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 dash salt (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Remove the stem and stamen of male flowers and the pistil of female flowers; Gently rinse the flowers, then dry with paper towel
  2. Mix flour and water to the consistency of pancake batter
  3. Add oil to pan and bring to medium high heat
  4. Gently coat flowers with batter and fry until both sides are golden and crispy; Remove and use paper towel to absorb excess oil

View full recipe. And for more information about fried squash zucchini blossoms, click here.

Image: cooked zucchini flowers.

Slide 4: Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Stuff your flowers to add a twist to the flavours!


  • 16 zucchini flowers
  • 300 g (10.58 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 100 g (3.53 oz) grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or parmesan cheese)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • oil for frying


  1. Rinse flowers, discard stems, and dry thoroughly
  2. Blend ricotta cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano into smooth paste; Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
  3. Open flower petals and fill with filling, then close the petals to keep filling in place
  4. Coat with flour and fry in hot oil until a golden crust is formed

View full recipe.

Image: cooked zucchini flowers.

Post created by Cathy Zuo

Design by Gabi Diez

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Pollinator Profile 2: Yellow Striped Bumble Bee
Accessible Text: Pollinator Profile 2: Yellow Striped Bumble Bee

Week 2 of “Pollinator Profile”: the Yellow Striped Bumblebee! This post gives a break down of the bee, why it’s at risk and what you can do to help (see slide 7 for specific steps to take). We’ve recently planted some goldenrod and bergamot in our gardens to help support this bee!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Yellow Striped Bumblebee (Bombus terricola)

Why these vital insects are in danger and how we can help

Image: Yellow Striped Bumblebee on blossoms

Slide 2: Yellow Striped Bumblebee: Quick Facts

  • The Yellow Striped bumblebee was once a common bee species in North America
  • Yellow Striped bumblebees have been seen in every province and territory in Canada – except Nunavut
  • They can thermoregulate: a rare ability amongst insects! (They shiver to create heat in their thoracic muscles)

Slide 3: Yellow Striped Bumblebee: Pollination

  • Yellow Striped Bumblebees are economically and ecologically important species because of their pollination abilities
  • Due to their thermoregulation they are able to pollinate in low temperatures
  • They pollinate many agricultural crops: Cranberry, Potato, Alfalfa. blueberry

Slide 4: Yellow Striped Bumblebee: Pollination (continued)

  • Yellow Striped Bumblebees use “buzz pollination” to collect pollen:
    • They use vibrations to remove pollen from flowers
      which incidentally fertilizes them
  • Yellow Striped Bumblebees are known to “nectar rob”
    • They bite holes in the base of flowers to steal the nectar

Image: Yellow Striped Bumblebee standing on a flower

Slide 5: So why are these bees in Danger?

  • Yellow Striped Bumblebee populations have drastically decreased since the 1990s
  • Scientists are still unsure of the exact reasons for this decline
  • Possible local factors: pesticide use, habitat loss, competition from non-native species
  • Possible larger factors: climate change and infections
    from commercialized bees

Slide 6: So why are these bees in Danger? (continued)

  • Yellow Striped Bumblebees have been designated as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
  • Even so, no formal recovery strategy has been made
  • Species of concern do not receive habitat protection from the Ontario Government

Image: Yellow Striped Bumblebee standing on a flower

Slide 7: How Can we Help the Yellow Striped Bumblebee

  • Report Yellow Striped Bumblebee sightings to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Join citizen science projects such as Bumblebee Watch to contribute to bumblebee conservation efforts
  • If you see a Yellow Striped Bumblebee on your property you may be eligible for stewardship programs to help conserve the species

Links mentioned in post:

Slide 8: Plant Native Flowers!!

One of the most impactful ways to help Yellow Striped Bumblebees is to plant native flowers in your garden

Some flowers Yellow Striped Bumblebees love are:

  • Viola adunca
  • Solidago ssp. Canadensis
  • Monarda fistulosa
  • Symphoricarpos occidentalis
  • Rosa acicularis

Images: each flower above

Image 9: Sources

Post created by Gabrielle Diez

Design created by Serena Qiu

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Garden – Who Knew 2: Cucumber Tendrils
Accessible Text: Garden - Who Knew 2: Cucumber Tendrils

Week 2 of “Garden – Who Knew?”: though we were delayed in making this post, you shouldn’t delay in learning about the truly fascinating mystery of cucumber coils! And if you have the chance, take a look at the coils themselves right in our gardens!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Garden: Who knew?

Wrap your head around this! The mystery of how cucumber plants use tendrils to pull themselves towards sunlight.

Image: cucumber tentrils

Slide 2: Why do cucumbers have tendrils?

The tendrils of cucumbers allow them to climb upward so that they can get exposed to sunlight. When the tendrils sense a support, they coil. The coiling shortens the tendril’s axial length, pulling the plant upward. The mechanism of how tendrils sense surfaces is still unknown to scientists!

Images: Tendril senses the support and Tendril starts coiling

Slide 3: What is the mystery?

The mystery is about HOW the tendrils coil. Our team planted a lot of cucumbers in the gardens this summer and I noticed a very interesting phenomenon – the tendrils are coiled in a very specific way. Do you notice anything odd about the coiled tendril in the photos below?

Images: coiled tendrils around metal bars

Slide 4: What is the mystery?

Great! You just made a discovery! Charles Darwin also noticed this odd coil which he termed “helical perversion”.

Diagram: opposite handed helices connected by helical perversion

Helical perversion occurs through a special way of coiling where tendrils coil in both directions. This is necessary because both ends of the tendril are fixed, so the coils need to cancel out.

Slide 5: “Unwinding” the mystery

What happens when you pull both sides of a spring or phone cord? The coils unwind. But if you pull on a coiled cucumber tendril, the tendril will actually ‘overwind’ (make more coils)!

Images: Tendril is pulled; A new coil is made

Slide 6: “Unwinding” the mystery

The tendril overwinds because of its internal structure. When the tendril is under tension, a fiber ribbon of specialized plant cells asymmetrically contracts. This occurs because ventral (underside) cells of fiber ribbons are more lignified than dorsal (upper) cells.

Image: Cross-section of tendril. Ventral cells (top-left cells in E that are magnified in G and H) have greater lignin content (shown in blue) (Gerbode 2012)

Since lignin is a hydrophobic, stiff substance, the ventral side of the tendril is less extensible. Thus, when the tendril is pulled, the ventral side shrinks longitudinally relative to the dorsal side. This causes ‘overcoiling’ instead of unwinding.

Slide 7: A Garden Perspective

Cucumber tendrils are what allow the plant to climb upward towards the sunlight, but only when there is something that they can grasp onto. In urban growing spaces with limited room, like our raised beds, that means that we must provide cucumbers vertical supports. Only in places with more room, like our roofs, can they sprawl.

Image: Cucumbers in our raised beds supported by a cage

Image: Cucumbers sprawling on the roof

Slide 8: Sources

  • Gerbode, S. J., Puzey, J. R., McCormick, A. G., & Mahadevan, L. 2012. How the cucumber tendril coils and overwinds. Science, 337(6098), 1087–1091. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1223304

Information for this post comes almost entirely from the above paper and its authors. Please read the full paper to get a more complete account of this mystery and the tremendous amount of work that went into uncovering it.

Popular articles:

  • How cucumber tendrils curl. Science. (2012). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from Science.org
  • Unwinding the cucumber tendril mystery. Science Friday. (2015, December 18). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from Science Friday

Post created by Serena Qiu

Design by Freyja Moser

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Citizen Science 2: Bumble Bee Watch
Accessible Text: Citizen Science 2: Bumble Bee Watch

Week 2 of “Citizen Sci You Can Try” (replacing “Caterpillars Count”)*: learn about Bumble Bee Watch! This important initiative offers a way for anyone to contribute to saving these vital pollinators!

*Since there hasn’t been much life in the trees around campus, we decided that it would be more interesting to post about various citizen science projects rather than focus on Caterpillars Count. If you’re still interested in Caterpillars Count, feel free to send us a message on Instagram!  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Citizen Sci: You can try!

Bumble Bee Watch

Slide 2: What is Bumble Bee Watch?

  • Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and monitor bumblebees in North America
  • Bumble Bee Watch helps researchers determine the status and conservation needs of specific species
  • Bumble Bee Watch is not meant to replace traditional scientific surveys, only to compliment them

Slide 3: What is Bumble Bee Watch? (continued)

  • To participate, community members take pictures of bumblebee sightings and submit them to Bumble Bee Watch
  • Submitted files are reviewed by experts
  • Most participate individually but there are official volunteer surveys, such as at Pinery Park
  • Bumble Bee Watch has currently received over 100 000 records!

Image: bumblebee approaching a flower

Slide 4: Why is Bumble Bee Watch Important?

Bumble Bee Watch accomplishes several things:

  • Helps locate rare or endangered species
  • Allows individuals to learn more about bumblebees and conservation efforts Allows citizens to connect with community scientists

Slide 5: Why is Bumble Bee Watch Important? (continued)

  • Bumble Bee Watch has made significant contributions to conservation science
  • It has located 41 bumblebee species across Canada and the US
  • In the 2010-2020 time period Bumble Bee Watch records identified 28% of all unique bee sighting locations and 32% of new forage plant genera

Image: bumblebee extracting nectar from a flower

Slide 6: How to Report a Sighting

  • Take a photo of the bumblebee sighting
  • Upload the photo to www.bumblebeewatch.org or to the free IOS and Android app
  • On the Bumble Bee Watch site, record the photo’s date, location, and flower visited (if possible)
  • Sightings will then be verified by an expert

Post by Gabrielle Diez

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Native Plant Spotlight 2: Silver Maple
Accessible Text: Native Plant Spotlight 2: Silver Maple

Native Plant Spotlight: Silver Maple! A key component of Toronto’s tree life. Also, for more information about Toronto’s street tree program, check out this PDF. Anyone can submit a request for a road-side tree planting by calling 311, though only some tree species are readily available.  View post on Instragram

Slide 1: Native Plant Spotlight

Silver Maple: A Key component of Toronto’s tree life

Image: illustration of flowers and leaves

Slide 2: Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

  • Range: Commonly found in Southern and Central Ontario
  • Size: Up to 35m with a 100cm diameter trunk
  • Leaves: Light green, 15-20cm long with whitish undersides
  • Bark: Young – smooth and grey; Older – shaggy, darker brown

Images: Silver Maple tree, close up of leaves, close up of keys and bark

Slide 3: Care

  • Rich soil with high organic matter
  • Full sun
  • Moist
  • Due to its hardy nature, Silver <aple is a part of Toronto’s street tree program and is common throughout the city

Images: icons of shovel, sun, water and buildings

Slide 4: Supported Wildlife

  • Silver Maple celebrates the Spring early in Ontario! This fast-growing tree with early blooming flowers produce seeds that feed numerous hungry animals!
  • Squirrels, chipmunks, and many birds (grosbeaks, finches, woodland ducks) depend on silver maple for food.
  • Silver maple has weak wood that can easily fall or break, but this also means that it can provide cavities and dens for wild-life.

Images: illustration of a squirrel and photo of the tree’s blooming flowers

Slide 5: Natural habitat

Silver Maple is a dominant species in some moist forest communities (on floodplains, lake fringes, and streamsides). Some of these forest types are pioneer to intermediate in succession – they cannot be maintained without disturbance or management.

So, would silver maple be as prolific in Toronto without management? What impact has the maintenance of silver maple had on wildlife here?

Image: view of a lake with Silver Maple trees

Slide 6: Silver Maple vs Red Maple

Though similar, there are a couple differences between the maples. For instance, red maple has shallower lobes. It is easiest to tell them apart in fall when the leaves change colour.

Images: close up of Silver Maple leaves and Red Maple leaves – when leaves are green and when the leaves change colour.

Slide 7: References

Post created by Sophie Tan and Freyja Moser

Template by Yue Chen

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Garden – Who Knew 3: Companion Planting
Accessible Text: Garden - Who Knew 3: Companion Planting

Companion planting, planting certain vegetables next to each other has many benefits! We’ve implemented companion planting with several of our crops in our gardens. Swipe to learn about the benefits of companion planting as well as the specific companion plants we have used! View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Garden – Who knew?

Better Together: the Unexpected Benefits of Growing Some Plants Together

Images: close up of a flower and growing planting

Slide 2: What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is a method of growing different plant species together for mutual benefits. The benefits of companion planting include:

  • attracting more pollinators
  • repeling pests
  • enriching the soil
  • controling exposure to sunlight

Image: Companion planting in St. Hilda’s front yard

Slide 3: What is Companion Planting? (continued)

Plants with nectar-rich flowers can attract pollinators to pollinate nearby plants. Many plants also secrete chemicals that repel specific pests that some plants are prone to have.

Plants like beans can fix nutrients into the soil. Tall plants can block out sunlight for plants that prefer to grow in shade. The garden becomes more diverse and healthy with companion planting.

Image: companion planting in St. Hilda’s front yard

Slide 4: Companion Planting in Trinity Gardens

Tomato & beans: In the backyard, we planted tomatoes and beans together. Peas and beans fix nitrogen into the soil, an essential nutrient for tomato plants.

Images: Tomato and beans growing together in St. Hilda’s back yard

Slide 5: Companion gardening in Trinity Gardens (continued)

Tomato & basil: Basil & tomato not only pair well together on a plate, but they are also good companion planting partners. The aroma of basil plants can protect tomato plants from insects, specifically flies and aphids. Meanwhile, tomato plants provide shade for basil plants, which prevents them from wilting.

Image: Tomato and basil plants growing together in St. Hilda’s front yard

Slide 6: Companion gardening in Trinity Gardens (continued)

Tomato & Marigold: Marigolds are good for keeping pests away by attracting pests to themselves. They secrete chemicals that deter pests like nematodes and whiteflies. Marigolds also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to the garden and predators that feed on pests. We planted marigolds together with tomatoes, kale, and radish in the front and back yard.

Images: Tomato and marigolds growing together in St. Hilda’s back yard

Slide 7: Sources

  • Ahmad, H., Kobayashi, M., & Matsubara, Y.-ichi. (2020). Changes in secondary metabolites and free amino acid content in tomato with lamiaceae herbs companion planting. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 11(12), 1878–1889.
  • B. H. & S. B. (2007). Marigold as a trap crop against tomato fruit borer(Lepidoptera:Noctuidae). International Journal of Agricultural Research, 2(2), 185–188.
  • Chemung.(n.d.). Companion planting. New York; Cornell University Cooperative Extension Chemung County.
  • Utah State University. (2010). Utah Pests News spring 2010. Utah Pests News Spring 2010 – Utah Pests. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from web.archive.org

Post created by Serena Qiu

Design by Freyja Moser

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Citizen Science 3: eBird
Accessible Text: Citizen Science 3: eBird

Learn about eBird! eBird is a popular citizen science project that has been growing during the pandemic. Not only does eBird data inform bird conservation though, it could also do the same for pollinators. You can learn about this by listening to episode #204 of “PolliNation” (a podcast by Oregon State University which has many interesting episodes on pollinators and is definitely worth looking up).  View post on Instagram

Slide 1: Citizen Sci You can try!


Image: illustration of a bird

Slide 2: What is eBird?

eBird is the world’s largest bird community. eBirders contribute over 100 MILLION bird sightings per year!

“Our goal is to gather this information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education” (About eBird).

Slide 3: How to participate?

To participate, eBirders can start with a basic online bird-watching training course.

When you sight or even hear birds, you can use TheCornellLab to identify the bird and submit the time, location, numbers, and species to eBird.

You can contribute to bird conservation and science by recording your bird’s observations on the eBird website or app.

There is a large birder community waiting for you!

Slide 4: Why is eBird Important?

  • Helps locate rare or endangered species
  • Allows individuals to learn more about birds and conservation efforts
  • Documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends through checklist data collected within a simple, scientific framework
  • Allows citizens to connect with community scientists

Slide 5: Birds and Bees

eBird data is also being used to study pollinators. This is important because there is more data available on birds than pollinators.

Researchers look at certain habitats and landscape features to see what type of bee species are present. They can then see what bird species are indicators of these environments (and indirectly the bees that frequent them).

In this way, a link is made between bird and pollinator data.

To learn more, see the podcast in the caption featuring Josée Rouseau

Slide 6: How to Report a Sighting

Image: screenshots of mobile app – eBird Mobile

Designed by Sophie Tan & Gabrielle Diez

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Native Plant Spotlight 3 – Touch-me-nots
Accessible Text: Native Plan Spotlight 3: Touch-me-nots

Slide 1: Native Plant Spotlight


Image: illustration of flowers

Slide 2: What are touch-me-nots

– Impatien capensis, also known as jewelweed or touch-me-nots, is a species of summer-blooming wildflower that is native to eastern North America.

(Do you know why it is also called Jewelweed? [the answer is in the end])

– Touch-me-nots are known for their seed pods that pop when touched. The seeds can be sent up to 2 meters away from the parental plant! [1]

– Fun fact: the Latin name “Impatiens” is derived from the seed’s impatience to be popped out.[2]

– Let’s find out what makes the seeds disperse this way!

Figure: Impatien capensis seed pod ready to explode (Credit: Steve & Alison)

Slide 3: Key information

Size: Jewelweed can adapt its size to the available resources. In dryer conditions, it can be below 30cm tall. In ideal conditions, Jewelweed can grow up to 150cm tall.

Habitat: Jewelweed prefers riparian habitats (e.g. Moist woodland openings, wet meadows, ditches). Jewelweed can tolerate disturbances. [2]

Pollinators: Hummingbirds, bees

Flowering time: July – early fall

Figures: Impatien capensis has spotted flowers (Credit: Go Botany)

Slide 4: A detailed look at the seed dispersal mechanism

-Seed dispersal mechanisms determine the distribution and size of the population of a species. Therefore, it is important to understand how different species disperse their seeds.

– Impatien capensis employs a ballistic dispersal mechanism, which is also referred to as a process of explosive dehiscence, to spread seeds.

-When the ripe seed pods of impatiens capensis are touched, the internal tension will cause them to burst open and eject the seeds out.

Figure: Photo shots of Impattien capensis seed pod exploding

Slide 5: A detailed look at the seed dispersal mechanism

– The seeds are loosely attached to the columella.

– The valves coil to store mechanical energy

– After receiving an external force, the valves rapidly curl inward. It is a result of the turgor pressure due to the internal tension generated by the coiling of the valves.

– The stored mechanical energy is released and some of it contribute to the ejection of seeds

Figure: Illustration of the key structures of the seed pod

Slide 6: A detailed look at the dispersal mechanism

Screenshot of a video clip of Jewelweed seed pod explosion (Video Credit: Joe Coelho)

Slide 7: Evolution in action?

Is there a pattern of how the seeds are launched? Do the plants “know” how to launch the seeds to achieve the maximum benefits of seed dispersal? The short answer is yes.

Research done by Marika Hayashi et. al has shown that the launch angle of seed dispersal is not random [3]. The samples in their experiment generally show launch angles that are close to the optimum launch angle for the median launch speed. In other words, the parent plants are dispersing the seeds as far as possible.

Slide 8: Evolution in action?

It is beneficial to disperse the seeds further away. It is often easier for seeds to survive away from the parent plant because there is less competition between them and the parent plant. More resources are available to the seeds.

Slide 9: Some last thoughts…

Jewelweed has many other interesting features. As a native plant in Canada, Jewelweed was historically used as a medicine for itch relief. Want to know more about this fascinating native plant? We will explore the healing power of this plant in our next article on the native plant spotlight series. Stay tuned!

[Answer to the question on page 2]: Touch-me-nots got their other nickname ‘Jewelweed’ because the water drops on the hydrophobic leaves after a rain looks like little Jewels (images).

Slide 10: References

[1] Mori , A. (2016). Spotted Jewelweed – Impatiens capensis. The Blazing Star, North American Native Plant Society, 17(3), 15–16.

[2] Aldoori, H. (Oct. 22, 2020). Common Jewelweed. Highpark- nature centre. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://highparknaturecentre.com/index.php/blog/2020/common-jewelweed

[3] Marika Hayashi, Kara L. Feilich, David J. Ellerby, The mechanics of explosive seed dispersal in orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 60, Issue 7, May 2009, Pages 2045–2053, https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erp070

Post created by Serena Qiu; Template by Yue Chen

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