Spring Wildflowers of Greater Victoria

I love spring! I mean, I really, really love spring! It may have something to do with being born in spring. But more concretely, this is the time of year when the Greater Victoria NatureHood bursts forth with multitudes of blossoms. By this year’s 44th annual Victoria Flower Count, there were nearly 66 billion blossoms counted between March 4th and the 10th. But of course, many, many more were missed.

The  most underrepresented must surely be the wildflowers. Although they’re native to the region, having evolved and adapted to the region’s unique climate and geography over hundreds of years, the delicate blooms of wildflowers are often overwhelmed by the more abundant and showy introduced species of flower plants.

 

To find these delicate beauties, all you need to do is visit one of the region’s parks or protected areas between mid-March and mid-June. You might be surprised to discover that one or more of these special places is right in your neighbourhood!

In the forest, under full or partial shade, at this time of year, you’ll likely come across these exquisite blooms.

Out in the meadows, among the Garry oaks or scattered over rocky bluffs, the following wildflowers run riot.

But the blossoms of wildflowers aren’t just found on the ground. Looking up at eye level in the shrubs, your eyes may alight on these gems!

Now, every wildflower I’ve shown you so far relies on chlorophyll to convert the sun’s energy along with carbon dioxide from the air and water to create sugar which the plants use, along with nutrients from the soil, to produce new growth, like leaves and blooms.

But what about these strange individuals? Not a chloroplast to be found anywhere in them. So how do they survive?

Striped and Spotted Coralroot are saprophytes. They draw the necessary nutrients from dead and decaying plant material.

Are these wildflowers also saprophytes? They don’t have chlorophyll either.

Paintbrush and Indian Pipe also lack chlorophyll; however, they’ve evolved to take nutrients from surrounding plants by tapping into the mycorrhizal fungi network. These plants are called parasites because they draw the energy needed for growth from other living plants.

If you’d like to learn more about the wildflowers and plants found within the Greater Victoria NatureHood, I strongly recommend getting a copy of the Revised Plants of Coastal British Columbia (including Washington, Oregon and Alaska” by Pojar and Mackinnon. Published by Lone Pine in 2004.

Have fun getting to know the wildflowers of the region! Remember to get down on your belly to be eye level so as to truly appreciate their exquisite beauty!

 

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An Interview with Mary Haig-Brown:

Mary Looking Out Window

A few days ago, I had the immense pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Mary Haig-Brown. She’s a bit of a local hero when it comes to restoring degraded streams in the Greater Victoria region, although Mary would be the first to downplay her contribution and instead point to the effort carried out by many others. She has volunteered countless hours over the years to stream restoration through the Friends of Tod Creek, Peninsula Streams Society and Habitat Acquisition Trust. And she shows no signs of slowing down.

That she’s so passionate about streams and creeks will come as no surprise to those who recognize the last name. Mary is the second oldest of the four children whose parents were Roderick and Ann Haig-Brown. Her father wrote numerous popular books and articles about rivers and fishing. He was also an ardent conservationist who spoke out eloquently and forcefully against rampant logging and dam-building that were destroying fish habitat.

Mary and I chatted for more than an hour and half while sipping tea and nibbling on chocolate chip cookies she had just made that morning. It is my hope, and likely hers as well, that you’ll feel inspired to get involved with restoring streams, even those that have long been buried or seemingly lost forever. Mary says, you just have to be persistent and believe in the possibility.

 

 

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World Wetland Day Feb. 2, 2021

 
All over the planet, wetlands are being degraded and destroyed faster than the Amazon rainforest.
 
Here in Canada, Ducks Unlimited estimates that our country has lost as much as 70% of it’s wetlands. In parts of the prairies, that percentage is as high as 90%. Like the prairies, BC’s coastal wetlands have also been hit hard by human development. Estimates of the loss in this region range  between 60 – 70%.
 
Wetlands are not waste lands. They provide countless ecological services for free, such as water purification, flood protection, and wildlife habitat. These functions could save governments and taxpayers millions of dollars in building new or repairing existing infrastructure such as water treatment plants or dike systems.
 
There are also strong moral, ethical and even spiritual reasons to protect and restore wetlands.
 
The following short documentary, which I produced five years ago, underscored the urgent need for farmers and the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to get much more serious about engaging in this vitally important work.
 
It was broadcast by Shaw Community Stations in those three provinces on this day.
 
It’s message is just as relevant today as it was five years ago.
 
I hope you enjoy it.
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