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!