Hanging out in forests is actually therapeutic. The Japanese even have a name for it which is shinrin-yoku, defined as making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. This act of just being in a forest is seen to improve the immune system and to help people to reduce stress. Several studies show us that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, lower sympathetic nerve activity, increased immunity and promote anti-cancer cells. A small study in 2007, in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, showed a significant increase in Natural Killer cells (NK cells) after spending time in a forest that lasted for 7 days after the forest bathing. NK cells are important mediators in anti-tumor immunity (against cancer cells). There were other similar studies performed with similar results. So get out there and take your kids. There are so many beautiful forests and trails here in Ontario. It's better for you and your pocketbook than going to Vaughan Mills shopping centre on the weekend.
When hiking through the woods I am always interested in the forest floor. There is an abundance of plant life there. Some of the plants are poisonous, others edible and some of them medicinal. Each plant has its own time of year for flowering or fruiting. So I decided to teach my daughter to identify our plant friends.
I thought I would share with you what we found in case you decide to go on a spring nature hike of your own. Just remember that plant life is in a delicate balance and we shouldn't really disturb what is there.
What we found in Thornhill Woods was pretty much the same as what we found in Mono Cliffs with the exception of a few plant species.
The white 3 petal flower is the wildflower of Ontario, Trillium grandiflorum. The mottled leaves around it are from the Trout Lily.
The list of plants we found so far are:
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionaceae)
Canada Violet (Viola canadansis)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Comfrey (Symphytum off.)
Red Baneberry (Actea rubra)
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