A June visit to the Puntledge Bog

From an email by Jocie to members of the Botany Group on June 27.

A winding boardwalk, edged with lush salal and huge, shiny skunk cabbage leaves, leads to a small bog, known as the “Puntledge Bog” on the east side of the upper Puntledge River. A bench offers a place to contemplate this special place. There are stunted pines, and shrubs such as cascara, black twinberry, and sweet gale, as well as many small plants tucked in mats of red and gold sphagnum moss.

Bogs form in wet places that have poor drainage, leading to deep accumulations of sphagnum moss or peat. Due to highly acidic and nutrient-poor conditions, many plants and trees are not able to survive in a bog. However, other plants thrive under these conditions, and bogs are home to many interesting and unusual plants. 

Bogs act like a filter to purify water, and they also trap and store significant amounts of carbon. Conservation of bogs is extremely important, and integral to the health of the wetlands that connect to our watershed.

Here are a few botanical highlights from the bog in June:

1. Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) is a common bog shrub with attractive round clusters of white blooms. The leaves have wooly, rusty hairs beneath and were traditionally used to make medicinal tea.

2. Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) is an insectivorous plant with round leaves that are fringed with dew-tipped hairs.

3. Arctic starflower (Trientalis europaea) has beautiful star-shaped, pure white flowers.

4. Bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) has runners that criss-cross over the sphagnum moss. In the spring they have a lovely, inverted pink flower which later develops into plumb cranberry. 

5. Slender rein orchid (Platanthera stricta) grows right along the boardwalk but is easily missed due to the green colour of the flowers. Miniature orchid flowers bloom along the tall, slender stems.

6. Chamisso’s cotton-grass (Eriophorum chamissonis) is a sedge with rusty-blond, fluffy seed heads that were called “eagle down” by some First Nations groups. 

The Puntledge Bog isn’t on a map, but it can be easily accessed from Comox Lake Main Rd. The trailhead, on the east side of the river, is just before the bridge that leads to the dam parking and picnic area. It is an easy, flat trail downstream along the river and about a kilometre to the bog. 

The upper Puntledge River has an extensive trail system with hiking, biking and multi-use trails. For more information, check out our online nature viewing guide. Information is also available on the BC Hydro website.

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Anja Leikermoser, CVN Bursary Recipient, 2020

The 2020 winner of our $1000 Bursary Award is Anja Leikermoser, who is enrolled at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School in the French Immersion program and will be graduating this spring. She has been accepted into the Science Program at UBC to study environmental sciences, but has also applied to the Applied Science-Engineering faculty at University of Victoria. She hopes to pursue a career developing green technology to help promote a more environmentally sustainable future, marine biology or aquaculture.

Anja’s environmental volunteer work includes participating in: habitat restoration and salmon re-location projects on the Puntledge and Tsolum Rivers, broombusting in several locations around the Comox Valley, local beach cleanups, and planning for an extensive beach cleanup of debris deposited by storms in Cape Scott (which had been scheduled for this spring).

In addition, Anja is a straight “A” student and was the top student in many of her courses throughout high school, including Sciences Naturelles. She has been a volunteer with her school’s Rotary Interact club since Grade 9, helping to raise funds for local Rotary projects supporting teens at risk; and improving school facilities and other services in Honduras. Outside of school she participates at an elite level in sailing, and coaches sailing and skiing. Her references speak very highly of her and describe her great work ethic, professionalism, dedication and perseverance, team spirit and natural leadership abilities.

Congratulations Anja, and we wish you much success in your studies and future endeavours!

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Tree of the Year 2019

This old news from last year is being added to complete our coverage of the TOTY contest.

In the second year of Comox Valley Nature’s Tree of the Year contest, the award went to a very large Garry oak (Quercus garryana) in the parking lot of the Comox Valley Sport Centre on Vanier Road. This majestic specimen is one of the few left after the Centre was constructed, and is surrounded by a small fence. This area possibly has the largest number of Garry oaks on public land in the Valley.

This tree was nominated by Annette Boulter, who remembers it from years as a student at nearby Georges P. Vanier Secondary School. CVN presented Annette with a gift basket at the general meeting in February of 2019.

Fred N. and Cathy S. presenting Annette with the contest prize.
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Featured plant: Honeysuckles

From an email by Jocie to members of the Botany Group on June 10.

Here is a bit about honeysuckles, in the genus Lonicera, that are found in our area. Keep a lookout for Utah honeysuckle! Alison found it a few years ago in the McKenzie Lake area of Strathcona Park.

In June, growth and daylight come to a peak, and wild honeysuckle vines spill over the tops of shrubs and fir trees. This high-rigger of plants is quite an acrobat, twining up tree trunks, coiling around limbs, and sending out exploratory green shoots that dangle in the air.

Tucked in a bed of blue-green leaves, clusters of bright orange flowers appear, drawing the eye upward. Trumpet-shaped with a pool of nectar at the base, they attract hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies. 

The honeysuckle family, or Caprifoliaceae has around 890 species and 42 genera worldwide. The genus Lonicera is named after the German botanist Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586) and includes about 180 shrubs and vines found mainly in temperate zones of both hemispheres. Honeysuckles typically have opposite leaves, and a pair of leaves that are fused at the base to form a cup beneath the blooms (the botanical term for this is connate, if you care to know!). Flowers are tubular, and the plants produce inedible berries.  

Look for these 4 species of honeysuckle (the most common ones) in the genus Lonicera that are found on Vancouver Island:  

1.     Orange honeysuckle, or western trumpet (Lonicera ciliosa) is found across southern BC, but is more common west of the Cascades. The species name ciliosa refers to hairs found along the leaf margins. Unlike the creamy white, scented blooms of the English honeysuckle or woodbine (Lonicera peridymenum) which are pollinated by moths at night, orange honeysuckle is unscented, due to the fact that it is primarily pollinated by hummingbirds which are attracted to bright colours rather than scent. Children of the Saanich first nation used to enjoy sucking the sweet nectar from the base of the flowers. I remember doing this too, while waiting for the school bus!

2.    Purple honeysuckle, or hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) frequents drier habitats such as those found on Denman and Hornby Islands. The species name hispidula refers to the stiff bristles that are sometimes found on the stems. This is more of a crawling vine, and not as eye-catching as orange honeysuckle, though the purple flowers tinged with yellow are attractive in a subtler way. 

3.     Utah honeysuckle (Lonicera utahensis) is a more unusual species on Vancouver Island. It has been recorded from the Buttle Lake corridor and some of the mountains in Strathcona Park, and other scattered places on Vancouver Island. This one is easy to identify when in bloom, with twinned cream-coloured flowers that are followed by twin red berries (photo from Manning Park.)  

4.     Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) is a common shrub that likes to grow in moist habitats, often near streams and wetlands. It is the least honeysuckle-looking of this group of plants, as it is not a vine. It has distinctive twinned yellow flowers and shiny black berries that are quite bitter. Northwest coast peoples considered them inedible, and the Kwakwaka’wakw believed that eating the berries could cause loss of speech. 

Domestic honeysuckles, introduced from Europe, are ubiquitous in local gardens. Some of these, such as Lonicera etrusca are quite aggressive, and have spread to wild areas on parts of Vancouver Island. Care must be taken to keep these species under control! (Photo from my patio: requires frequent heavy-handed pruning!)

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