Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Walk on the Wild Side

Wild flowers, that is!
(Camas lily) 

It is much too quiet in my house and my days are too empty and unstructured without Eddie and Shiloh to boss me around.  So in the absence of needy dogs (Mitzi is more like a cat - very independent and aloof, and with a very capable bladder), I signed up for some Elder College outdoor activities.  This week I went on a Spring Wildflowers Walk with them, at the  Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve  and then the Ecological Reserve on Mt. Tzouhalem. We saw dozens of kinds of flowers, and saw or heard many birds (heron, red winged blackbird, quail, ducks and geese, pileated woodpecker, and the usual assortment of sparrows, swallows, juncos, and chickadees) and a couple of bunnies.  

While the flowers were not as plentiful at the Somenos reserve,  that park had many other interesting features.  This post will focus on the Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve, and I'll do a separate one on the amazing Mt. Tzouhalem reserve in the next couple of days.  

The Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve is located just behind a residential area off Lakes Road and Trillium, in North Cowichan.  It is an 8-hectare park, where dogs on leash are welcome, and visitors are requested to stay on the trails.  It includes meadows, forest, and bog ecosystems.  

Entering the park

There are several information boards at the park entrance

Second largest Garry Oaks in BC

Because garry oaks are late coming into leaf,
they provide an excellent canopy of sunlight
for spring flowers. 

Camas lilies under garry oaks.
Camas lilies.
Camas bulbs were collected by First Nations,
the edible bulbs valued as a source of  food which tastes somewhat like sweet potato and
can also be ground into flour.
The First Nations people often burned off the underbrush on camus fields to encourage
the growth of the lilies, but the very thick bark of the garry oaks was resistant to
fire and thus the oaks survived.

When this tree was cut down, the core revealed old
surveyors marks from many, many years ago.  After the marks were made,
the tree continued to grow around the marks, and it was only when the newer growth
fell away under the saw that its secret was revealed. 

Old Surveyor's Marks

This tree bears permanent damage around its trunk, where
long ago someone had attached a barbed wire fence to it.
(Note the newer fence, with its own posts, in the background)

Sedge in the bog.  Sedge has triangular stems,
which differentiate it from grasses (round, notched stems) and
reeds (round smooth stems). 

More colourful sedges

A stump with bark growing over the top.
The garry oaks are often nourished underground by a beneficial fungus
which travels from tree to tree via the roots and allows the
bark to keep growing even after the tree has been cut down.

On the edge of the Garry Oak meadows,
we found these chocolate lilies in bloom

Lovely yellow sepals inside
the chocolate lily. 

Wild mustard growing near the bog

Wild red currant,
native to our region

Fawn lilies amid the garry oaks -
but too far away for my lens.
Splashes of white amid the green.

Further resources on the history and preservation of this beautiful area: 


Anonymous said...

beautiful I will have to visit there soon.
The red currents gave me a flash bac memory.
When my mother first arrived in Canada she picked some of the flowers to bring home. Soon she noticed an odor in the living room. Lovely to look at but in the house they smell like cat pee. Best left on the tree.


King's Mom said...

Again, this was one of your amazingly informative blogs Jean. I envy you getting out and becoming involved in so many other areas. Areas full of such beauty and interesting facts.
I never knew about the Garry Oaks. Cool roots system and fungus growth activity.
Thank you for sharing so much of your life!
Cant wait to see you in the summer!
Del and Mark and The Royals

Roger Barnett said...

Nice blog! The stump with regrowth appears to be a Douglas-fir, which are known to do that. It's due to root grafting, so there needs to be a live fir nearby. Love your blog. I had just spotted and photographed some way cool garryana in Oak Harbor (Whidby Is) Their form seemed a bit different than the norm for Garry oak, but probably not that much. It was the presence of red oak leaves as well as garry under the trees that got me wondering. As we have few in the Seattle area, I had to check online for images to see that the deeply thick and plated bark is a common characteristic of garry oak. If you do facebook, look me up..I'm an arborist and semi-pro photographer. There's a couple FB groups dedicated to cool trees, and I may post some of the images to them. One is "Big Tree Hunters"..