Botanizing on the Strathcona Bird Search

From an email by Jocie to the Botany Group on June 14.

Last weekend I was up in Strathcona Park for the annual Strathcona Bird Search, which is always very enjoyable even if the weather was cool and showery.

View of Lady Falls

Though I was busy counting birds, there was the usual distraction of so many beautiful plants to look at, and waterfalls to admire! Here are a few highlights [click a photo to enlarge it]:

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2021 CVN Tree of the Year winner announced!

By Kerri Scott

For the first time, the annual “CVN Tree of the Year” has been chosen by public vote instead of by committee. The contest, inspired by European tradition and now in its fourth year, fosters a strong connection with nature by highlighting local trees that are cherished by the residents of the Comox Valley.

This year’s winning tree, nominated by Ted Grainger, is a western yew, located in the Cumberland Community Forest. Coming in a close second is a bigleaf maple found in Morrison Creek Park. Praised for its size and the swing in its branches, the maple was put forward for nomination by Marion Dulude’s Grade 6 class at École Puntledge Park. “Both are iconic trees for this area and have great but different stories attached to them,” says Karen Cummins, one of the organizers of the event.

CVN Tree of the Year 2021, a western yew, with (from left) committee members Karen Cummins and Susan Gravelle, and nominator Ted Grainger with his prize basket. (Photo: Dianne Grainger)

The western yew (scientific name, Taxus brevifolia, or Nuxalk name, kuts’ulhkwis) is a species of tree in the yew family, Taxaceae, and is native to the Pacific Northwest. “Taxus” is the Latin word for “bow”. Because yew wood is strong and stiff, it has been an important resource for coastal First Nations for millennia.

Nominated for its poetic beauty, this western yew symbolizes how community efforts, like fundraising and raising awareness, can protect and preserve threatened forests. Growing on a northwest-facing slope, just past the information kiosk, it is surrounded by artifacts from the former inhabitants of the historic Cumberland Chinatown.

“When you first see this tree, the smooth bark looks like a gnarly, twisted arbutus, but the outer foliage reveals it to be a yew tree. Its shape suggests a life of struggle and tenacity, but it is beautiful nonetheless,” says Ted Grainger, winner of this year’s gift basket and a painting by Sharon Niscak.

As conifers that produce berries, yew trees are unusual. This year’s winning yew is even more unique because of its expanse of exposed roots and wide branches. Approximately 9 metres wide and almost as tall, the squat and multiple-leader form indicates that the yew has grown in the shady understory and been shaped by the succession of the 80–100-year-old forest. This spectacular tree has grown with and around a cherry tree and is extremely slow growing. The papery, red bark—peeling and shredding on the tree’s many stems—while typical of this medicinal tree when it is not covered in moss, nonetheless sets it apart from the neighbouring trees.

Thanks to the passion and perseverance of Cumberland Community Forest Society, this western yew is one of the thousands of trees in over 500 acres of mature forests that have been protected.

CVN encourages everybody to go out and experience the beautiful and important nominated trees firsthand. According to Suzanne Gravelle “The list and location map will remain on the CVN website so the community can still tour and honour all the trees.”

The 2021 contest is dedicated to Cathy Storey. Her legacy is a testament to the CNV motto “to know nature and keep it worth knowing.”

For more information:

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Paradise Meadows not yet clear

Notes and photos from Alison M. on some of the first flowers blooming in the subalpine and other observations, distributed to the Botany Group on June 13. Click a photo to enlarge it.

We were up at Paradise Meadows last Friday (June 4th) on an overcast cool day,  and while the Meadows were open (photo #1), about half of the boardwalk still had crusty old snow that softens during the day, especially when it rains (photo #2)   This wet weather may help to clear away the snow – so perhaps by the end of next week.

The most exciting thing was the eerie “winnowing” of several Wilson’s snipe, around the ponds and in the area of Paradise Creek. 

On the floral front, there were lots of Caltha leptosepala (white marsh-marigold) in bloom amid the streams of snow melt-water (photos #3 and #4) .

In sheltered south-facing spots the Kalmia microphylla (western bog-laurel) was not quite open (photo #5).

(5) Western bog-laurel

Finally, to my embarrassment, a lonely sign [a plant identification sign placed by Alison in her work for the Strathcona Wilderness Institute], quite near the trail-head, had survived the heavy snow-pack! 

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Camas and candystick

From an email by Jocie to the Botany Group on June 9.

A few notes from our [Botany Group] members [click a photo to enlarge it]:

  1. Kate reported that there is some nice candystick (Allotropa virgata) emerging at Nymph Falls Park.
  1. Some notes from Joy about the camas bloom visible from the Dyke Road (with a close-up photo of camas from the estuary taken last year):

“A most wondrous sight greeted me this afternoon whilst driving along the Dyke Road.

In the mid-distance, between the river and the road, I spotted a large spread of beautiful blue that could have been low areas of water. I parked my vehicle, and with my binoculars I was thrilled to see that it was a largish display of camas (Camassia quamash) happily and generously blooming like a grand dame staging a comeback. Oh, so beautiful! There were the usual suspects in amongst the camas  and more so in the perimeter. The only one I can remember offhand is the orange of the castilleja, but there were more.

It was thrilling to see it bloom in such abundance after the heartbreak of losing the Kye Bay Road displays. It  would be wonderful to be able to see it from much closer, but my guess is that it is in some very boggy ground.

Too exciting! I hope others can stop by for a ‘gander’. I parked safely at the wide pavement by the Kus Kus Sum fence.”

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