BOTANICAL EVALUATION OF THE GOAT ISLAND COMPLEX, NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK
CATALOGUE OF SPECIES
THE ALGAL FLORA
"[At the Whirlpool rapids] strangely enough, not only does the water look like the waves of the ocean beating upon the land in a storm, but there is almost a sea smell in the air, although the water is really fresh. A green seaweed-like growth covers the rocks, and perhaps the smell may proceed from that; in any case, it is distinctly noticeable" (Alec-Tweedie, 1913).
Certainly the more conspicuous species of algae cover the shallow waters around the Three Sisters in blooms, one corresponding to early spring, for example, and contribute to the green color on the bark of trees. They add to the fragrances and colors that enhance the excitement and interest of being in the cataract environment.
Over the years, loss of atmospheric moisture from decreased river levels, the cutting of the central and peripheral (slope) forests and consequent aggravation of desiccating factors present in the natural environment will have contributed to loss of species diversity and abundance among hygrophytic vegetation, of which the algal flora is certainly characteristic.
The Niagara algae have not been studied in detail by anyone, to my knowledge, but it might prove an interesting subject. Clinton, hunting a particular moss in the wet conditions on the talus slopes near the Horseshoe Falls, returned home with what turned out to be "a singular Conferva," or moss-like filamentous alga (Oct. 21, 1865, Clinton's Journal). Clinton did not appear to have studied this group otherwise.
In the treatment of the cryptogam flora of the vicinity of Buffalo (Day, 1883), Prof. David S. Kellicott of the State Normal School of Buffalo authored the algae section. He, "unfortunately, ... has not been able to give to their study more than a small portion of this time, and that only during the last few seasons" (Day, 1882). Day hoped that a "revised list of the Algae of Buffalo will be issued by the Society" at some future time. Kellicott had been more interested in the entomological collections of the young Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, and published several papers in its Bulletin series. He was "foremost among Buffalo microscopists in the study of freshwater protozoa and prominent in all microscopical activities of the Society" (Robertson, 1938).
In Kellicott's publication, following his nomenclature, the following stations appear:
Arthrosiphon alatus Rabenh. "On dripping rocks under Biddle stair-case, Niagara Falls," Harvey.
Chroococcus rufescens Naeg. Niagara Falls, Wolle.
Chroolepus aureum Kuetz. [probably now Trentepohlia aurea (L.) Martius] Niagara Falls.
Cladophora canalicularis Roth. Three Sisters Islands, Niagara Falls, Wolle.
Diplocolon heppii Naeg. Niagara Falls, Wolle.
Gloeocapsa sparsa H. C. Wood. Wet rocks at Niagara Falls, Oct. 28, 1882.
G. janthina Naeg. Cliffs, Niagara Falls, Wolle.
G. aeruginosa Kuetz. Niagara Falls.
Gomphonema herculaneum Ehrb. Niagara. Rabenhorst's "Flora Eur. Alg."
Mastigonema orsinianum Kuetz. "On rocks in rapids of Niagara River," Wolle.
Nostoc commune Vauch. Niagara Falls, Oct. 28, 1882. "Abundant on moist ground, rocks, etc. Our plant agrees well with Rabenhorst's description except in the distance between the cells: - ours having the cells not loosely, but closely connected, H. C. Wood points out the same variation."
Scytonema austinii H. C. Wood. (?) [sic] Wet rocks, Niagara Falls.
Scytonema cataractae H. C. Wood. "This species grows abundantly in Niagara River on the rocks below the great cataract," H. C. Wood.
Scytonema chrysochlorum Kuetz. Shaded rocks, Niagara Falls, Wolle.
Scytonema hagetschweilerii Rabenh. Forming a dark brown coating on wet rocks, Niagara Falls. "Probably Wood's S. cataractae," Wolle.
Symphyosiphon incrustans Kuetz. On rocks exposed to the spray of Niagara Falls, Wolle.
Symphyosiphon contarenii Kuetz. In same situations with the last, Wolle.
Zonotrichia chrysocoma Rabenh. Moist earth, Niagara Falls, Wolle. "Wolle suggests that Wood's Z. parcezonata is probably only the young growth of this species (Bull. Torr. Bot. Club., Vol. VI, p. 138)."
Zonotrichia mollis H. C. Wood. Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, H. C. Wood.
Zonotrichia parcezonata H. C. Wood. Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, H. C. Wood. "Wolle suggests that Wood's Z. parcezonata is probably only the young growth of this species (Bull. Torr. Bot. Club., Vol. VI, p. 138."
The above reference to a collector named Harvey under Arthrosiphon alatus Rabenh. ("On dripping rocks under Biddle stair-case, Niagara Falls," Harvey) is to William Henry Harvey, Professor at Trinity College, University of Dublin, the author, in 1858, of "Nereis Boreali-Americana. III. Chlorospermeae" [Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge 10(2):1-140]. Many of Prof. Harvey's specimens of the Chlorospermeae, or Green Algae, "were personally collected by myself [i.e. Harvey] in 1850, when travelling in America" although he notes observing living (vidi vivam) material of Arthrosiphon (as Petalonema) at the base of Goat Island in 1849 (Harvey, 1858). "When at Niagara Falls in the autumn of 1849, I collected on the rocks under the Biddle Stairs specimens of a large decumbent Scytonema ...." Harvey declined to name it because of deficiencies in the described species in Kuetzing's treatment of that genus.
In 1872, H. C. Wood published "A contribution to the history of the fresh-water algae of North America" [Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge 19. 241:1-262]. Wood made collections of algae at Niagara Falls, at the base of Goat Island around and behind what is today known as the Bridal Veil Falls. It is probably because Harvey and Wood worked at the Falls and published their Niagara collections that Francis Wolle was attracted later to the same locality.
Niagara Falls is the type locality for Scytonema cataractae H. C. Wood (Wood, 1871) "in flumine Niagara prope cataractam" where it "grows abundantly in Niagara River on the rocks below the great cataract." The Cave of the Winds is the type locality for two species of Zonotrichia: Z. mollis and Z. parcezonata (Wood, 1872).
The Clinton Herbarium owns a soft green paper folder containing several green loose sheets on which are mounted specimens of algae. This comprises an exsiccat of freshwater species issued by Francis Wolle and entitled "Fresh Water Algae of the United States." Although not issued formally, that is, not having the features of a published book in the sense of Sayre (1975), for the purposes of convenience these collections are here referred to as an exsiccat. One of the earlier curators of the Museum's botanical collections indicated on the back of this volume that the Buffalo Society received these collections on February 20, 1877.
Most of the numbers in this algae exsiccat cite no locality from which the specimen was collected, giving only typical substrates in which the species grows, such as warm or cold springs or ponds, wet ground, submerged stones, rocks, pools, greenhouse walls, casks of water, and elsewhere. A few do cite localities: Colorado is mentioned once (no. 90), a station in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (12), two from Buffalo, New York (nos. 11, 51), one deriving from variously Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado (no. 13), and one, perhaps a type specimen, from a locality called "Glen Onoko" (no. 2). It is rather striking how many specimens in this segment of the exsiccat state that derive from Niagara Falls, one, in fact, is indicated as from the Three Sisters Islands (no. 88; see list below).
Included in this volume of specimens is an unpublished, handwritten letter by Rev. Wolle to Miss Mary S. Wilson of Buffalo, New York, dated March 28, 1877. Miss Wilson was a research associate of the early Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, later becoming Curator of Botany of that Society, and contributed the checklist of lichen species then known for western New York State and adjacent Ontario (Day, 1883; see lichen section). Miss Wilson, for a time, showed an interest in algae, having donated a number of species of marine algae to the New York State Museum in 1874 (Peck, 1874, see bryophyte section). In Kellicott's list of the algae around Buffalo, she contributed a record of Chroolepus aureum [now Trentepohlia] from Caledonia in Livingston Co.
Wolle's letter begins "I have just finished my pressing duties concerned with the close of a school term, & have taken up the algae you so kindly sent me. They afforded me a twofold pleasure. One is examining a number of plants I had not seen before, & another in tracing them from old names to those of modern application."
Wolle's book entitled Fresh Water Algae of the United States, which was published in 1887, succeeded the issuing of the specimens of the exsiccat in the Clinton Herbarium collections. "He distributed specimens, some numbered, some not, with meager data and the printed title FRESH WATER ALGAE OF THE UNITED STATES, which are in many herbaria" (Sayre, 1975).
Reverend Francis Wolle (1817-1893) was a Moravian minister, "Deacon and Presbyter of the church, and head, for twenty years during and after the Civil War, of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies, a quite celebrated school." He is familiar to algologists as author of the three important and widely known volumes: published in 1884 was Desmids of the United States and List of Pediastrums, a sizable work comprising fifty-three colored plates with 110 illustrations. Three years later (1887) came his two-volume work entitled The Freshwater Algae of the United States, Complemental to Desmids of the United States. This was illustrated by 117 colored plates with 2300 figures. In 1891 there was published his Diatomaceae of the United States, containing 120 plates with 2300 figures" (Humphrey 1961). These were some of the first fundamental treatments of these organisms in the North American flora by an American botanist.
A serious student of insects and spiders in his earlier life, Wolle turned to the algae in later years. He was also "inventor of the first machine for making paper bags, having had, as a child, to help the family paste bags by hand for his father's store" (Conger, 1971). His grandson, Philip Weiss Wolle, continued Francis' influence by being a charter member of the Phycological Society of America, and, for 16 years, printed the News Bulletin of that society. "In these early and struggling days, the News Bulletin, extensive bibliographies, membership lists, and the meetings were the only means of keeping the Society alive" (Conger, 1971). Philip "carried on extensive distribution and exchange of his grandfather's and his own collected materials" (Conger, 1971). Such collections probably included representatives of other organisms, such as bryophytes.
The specimens from Niagara Falls in Francis Wolle's exsiccat may have derived from collections made by Mary Wilson, but it could easily be assumed he collected them himself, as there are many specimens of bryophytes the labels of which say they were collected by Wolle at the Falls (see section under bryophytes). Wolle seems to have known of George Clinton, for he wrote in his letter to Miss Wilson: "Judge Clinton, in his recent [lectum? lecture?] tells of the 'lumpers and splitters' among botanists. M. M. The ... (the late) commenced, or rather proposed a new arrangement upon the 'Lumpin' plan. Boract ... [?] his successor advocates the plan, but I cannot reconcile my mind to it, although in part it certainly is very good." And for Mary Wilson, some advice from the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies: "Permit me to say don't be discouraged in your desire to acquire knowledge of the algae of the country. A very little here, and a little there will in the course of time accumulate. I never set out to know much, but to try to enjoy the little that comes in my way. [signed] Truly and respectfully, Francis Wolle."
Wolle assisted in the determination of several specimens of algae for Kellicott, which appear in the Buffalo checklist, and appears to have contributed records from western New York and adjacent Ontario.
Reverend Wolle's herbarium is at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois (Sayre, 1975) and the herbarium of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, holding Wolle's herbarium and types, with further material at the Clinton Herbarium (BUF), the herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), and elsewhere. His correspondence is at FH, G, GH, and NY, while manuscripts, correspondence and drawings are at the Philadelphia Academy. Additional material relevant to Niagara Falls may be sought at these institutions.
NIAGARA SPECIMENS IN WOLLE'S EXSICCAT: "Fresh Water Algae of the United States"
No.[..] Cladophora glomerata (L.) Kuentz. Hab. Niagara, 1876, Francis Wolle.
No. 50. Symphyosiphon incrustaus [sic] Kz. Hab. Rocks Niagara, 1876, Francis Wolle.
No. 60. Scytonema Hagetschweileri Rab. Hab. Niagara, FrancisWolle.
No. 80. Scytonema Tolypotrichoides Kuentz. Hab. Niagara, Aug. 1876, Francis Wolle.
No. 84. Mastigonema orsinianum Kuentz. Hab. Niagara, Aug. 1876, Francis Wolle.
No. 88. Cladophora canalicularis Roth Hab. Three Sisters Islands, Niagara, Francis Wolle.
No. 91. Diplocolon Heppii Hab. Rocks Niagara, Aug, 1876, Francis Wolle.
No. 93. Tonotrichia chrysocoma Rab. Hab. Niagara, Aug. 1876, Francis Wolle.
Smith (1933), in his treatment of the genus Scytonema for the United States mentioned that "the only American records of [the] occurrence [of Scytonema alatum (Berk.) Borzi are from limestone cliffs at Niagara Falls and in Minnesota" (see Harvey, 1858). Porphyrosiphon notarisii (Menegh.) Juentz. "has been collected in Florida, South Carolina, and at Niagara Falls. The record for the last named station is, however, open to question," Smith (1933) citing Wolle (1887). "The single species of the genus, Diplocolon heppii Naeg., was first collected in this country on the limestone cliffs at Niagara Falls (Wolle, 1877), where it grew as a blackish-brown stratum of considerable extent" (Smith, 1933). Actinocyclus niagarae H. L. Smith was found in Lake Erie: the epithet only referring to the fact that that species is always found with Stephanodiscus niagarae (Smith, H. L., 1878). As of this writing, the literature for Stephanodiscus niagarae had not been found to determine if Niagara Falls may be the type locality for this species as well.
The genus Bangia is the only genus of the family Bangiaceae found in fresh waters (Smith, 1933). The species Bangia atropurpurea, "a widely distributed fresh-water alga in Europe, especially in hard waters" (Smith, 1933), appears to be "invading" the Great Lakes system. Hamilton and Neish (1988) report the best habitat for species of red algae, including Bangia, are "streams that are exposed to direct sunlight, have a current flow greater than 10 meters per minute and are not too turbid. ... Rocks and boulders in the faster flowing regions of the stream are the best habitats for red algae." "... the great majority [of fresh water algae: Rhodophyceae] ... are rather closely restricted to the well aerated waters of rapids, falls, and mill dams in cold rapidly flowing streams" (Smith, 1933). The high-energy open environments at Niagara Falls should prove a fine subject of study for this group (see also Lin & Blum, 1977; Damann, 1979).
One specimen of Bangia has been recently found on the dolomite ballast stones at the head of Goat Island:
Bangia atropurpurea (Roth.) Ag. Niagara Falls, on limestone rocks in upper decameter of Niagara River at southernmost tip of Goat Island, R. Zander & P. Eckel & 4740, July 8, 1979 (BUF).
An abundance of a terrestrial alga of the genus Trentepohlia (probably T. aurea (L.) Martius] may be noted growing on rocks in the Three Sisters, being conspicuous on rocks below the bridges, as a reddish-orange cast on the calcareous boulders especially in the cool wet autumn and spring, turning brown in the warm, dry weather of summer. It looks and feels like felt, being velvety to the touch. This is an aerial species of algae noticable throughout the Niagara River Gorge in cool, shady places. It was reported from Niagara Falls in 1883 by Kellicott (in Day, 1883) (as Chroolepus aureum). This distinctive alga can be seen throughout the Niagara River Gorge, and is frequent on boulders at the base of Goat Island.
I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Dr. Harold Robinson, curator of bryophytes, Smithsonian Institution, in certain aspects of this report.