Friday’s Seeds – Fritillaria

And a Happy New Year!

I’ve recently sown few species new for me: Fritillaria and Gagea – Fam. Liliaceae.  I hoped that the close-up pictures will reveal minute differences between the seeds, and I will be able to use them for species identification. I was wrong – partially.

There are slight differences, especially when looking at them by comparison, but fair to say it is (almost) impossible to ID these Fritillaria spp. only after their seeds (F. ruthenica is a bit distinctive). Other Gagea species might be very similar with G. taurica as well. Not surprisingly, many Lilium species have also look-alike seeds.

In this case we can only trust and hope that after a few years the bulbs will flower to reveal the names written on the labels. With the same spirit of hope we look forward to the New Year, as a better, safer, and peaceful one for all !

Gagea taurica seeds

  Happy New Year!

                                    – and keep sowing :)                             


Plants of the Canadian West Coast – III

From the shady side

As we are approaching the longest night of the year, it seems appropriate to present few species from the shady side. The characteristic rain forest of the area presents itself as an enchanted place with huge ferns, moss clad tree logs and boulders, and lichens of all sorts and shapes. One could easily imagine how handy rain gear would be if visiting in spring or fall!

Growing on a most beautiful mossy outcrop populated by reindeer lichen, Goodyera, hairy Arctostaphylos and ferns, was Plectritis congesta. Some plants were already with seeds, but a few were still flowering and looked very nice in deep pink on the background of moss covered rocks.

Plectritis congesta, the Sea blush (Fam. Caprifoliaceae), is an annual species, very adaptable to growing conditions and quite variable as height and flower colour.

A species abundant in cool and shaded damp places, was the broad-leaved starflowers – Trientalis latifolia (Fam. Myrsinaceae more recently). The species can be easily distinguished by its very broad leaves, which make the pinkish to white flowers look smaller than they really are. As well, Linnaea borealis was frequent in the same microhabitats.

Trientalis latifolia – all populations found had pink to deep pink flowers, some also presenting extra petals

There would be much more to say and show, but Christmas time is close, so I will end this trip with a few lichen images, so specific for the coastal rainy forest habitats (there are also species growing in full sun locations). Species shown here belong to the Cladonia and Cladina genera (reindeer lichens), but since I’m not a lichen specialist, I will abstain from assigning species names. We can just admire their most beautiful, intricate and delicate patterns.

And a Merry Christmas to all!


The Alien Invasion

You have perhaps guessed this is not the kind of invasion that H.G. Wells was talking about. It is about so-called ‘alien plants’ which manage to enter and invade, often as seeds, ‘territories’ where they not wanted and where they create havoc in the native plant communities.

Unidentified or wrongly identified seed species are often the cause; species sold as ornamentals and not assessed for their invasive potential; even souvenirs brought back from travels or gifts…

The latter is the reason of this post, which got to me second hand, from someone who received a gift card and pouch of ‘seeds’ of Orchis italica –  brought from La Rambla, a touristy market area in Barcelona, Spain. Note that there is the sign indicating – ‘airplane allowed’ (click on images to open the gallery).

This orchid species is endangered in some European countries, but seeds of cultivated origins are not prohibited. Opening the seed envelope came with a big surprise and even a moment of confusion. I knew in a way those were not orchid seeds, but I had a hard time accepting such blatant fake (yes, I still believe in honesty…).

After questions, guided links from SRGC forum, everything clearly pointed to fraud, and after more research, I can say most certainly that the seeds belong to a Persicaria species.

See a related link:

Which one?  Who knows, there are many species and quite a few of them are invasive, noxious weeds of the ‘alien’ kind. Luckily that many will only keep these sort of cards as keepsake.

Most probably a Persicaria spp. seeds – posing as Orchis

The BiCON regulation of the Australian and NZ governments, the no-no list of US and Canada, and other such systems put in place to deter such aliens, are highly justified.

If, and how well they work, this is another question!!!

From the cover of War of the Worlds – book by H.G. Wells – wikipedia :)

So, everyone beware of the aliens invasion! You can fight it too by ‘propagating’ this post through social media.


Plants of the Canadian West Coast – II

More snow is on the way for us (and bitter cold), but we are hiking on the Sooke Coast trail where there are many flowers ;) Enjoy and more to come…

As I mentioned in part 1, Sedum spathulifolium seems to enjoy the company of many other species: Triteleia/Brodiaea, Allium cernuum, Heuchera micrantha and Pentagramma, to note just a few. The contrast of its bluish rosettes with the violet flowers of Triteleia laxa was particularly exquisite.

Brodiaea coronaria

Triteleia laxa Brodiaea coronaria – corrected thanks to a SRGC forumist, grows from a small, edible corm (Fam. Asparagaceae) and flowers usually after the foliage dies back. Flowers can be light blue to violet, rarely white; especially attractive when growing in groups, with the flowers showing up among the golden, dry foliage.

Another Triteleia species encountered was Triteleia hyacinthina (fool’s onion). The plant can be variable in height (10-40 cm) and has compact umbels of white flowers (sometimes having bluish tints) with green midribs. I don’t know really know if to call this one Brodiaea…

Triteleia hyacinthina

Triteleia hyacinthina close-up

Allium cernuum, the nodding onion, was also found growing nearby and looked very attractive when drooping gracefully over a rock ledge.

Allium cernuum

Taking pictures of Triteleia, I noticed something glittering in the sun down the slope and approaching to see better, I noticed the goldback fernPentagramma triangularis. This lovely small sized fern can remain evergreen throughout the year when enough moisture is available.  In full sun and dry conditions, as I found it, it will curl its fronds and reveal the golden spores. I know the picture cannot show the reality of the ‘golden glitter’, but it’s true. What a great little fern for the rock garden!

Pentagramma triangularis – Goldback fern on Sooke Coast Trail

Meandering around beach pockets, the hiking trail enters sometimes into the forest (there is also an option to return through the woods to the trailhead). Majestic Douglas, Tsuga, Sitka spruce and Thuja plicata will accompany the path; it’s only after the bark that you can tell which one is which. A spectacular shrub encountered in large numbers as an understory, was the salal, Gaultheria shallon (Fam. Ericaceae).

Gaultheria shallon – Salal

This is an evergreen shrub, 1,5 m to 3 m tall, which can form very dense thickets. The leathery, thick leaves and the racemes of urn-shaped, white to pink flowers make it for a very handsome shrub. Fruits are purplish-black berries that are said to be sweetish and flavourful. Salal berries were a staple food for the NW coastal First Nations, who use to eat them preserved in oolichan (bear fat – correction thanks to a  sharp eye, oolichan or smelt is a fish – see end of the post for more info), pounded and dried into cakes (kept in woven baskets over the winter). There is also mention of mixing the fruits with salmon eggs to obtain a sweetish dish…

Gaultheria shallon


read more here – Eulachon, Oolichan, Candlefish, Hooligan 

“To Native Americans, the return of the eulachon meant the beginning of spring and a renewed food supply, literally saving lives and earning them the name “salvation fish” or “savour fish.”  They were the first fish to arrive in the river after a long cold winter when most of their stored food supplies had been depleted.   Unlike other fish oils, eulachon lipids are solid at room temperature, with the color and consistency of butter.  These fish are almost 20 percent oil by weight, allowing a fine grease to be rendered from their bodies and creating a high-energy food source that could easily be transported and traded with other tribes farther inland.”


The Last Adventure

Not so long ago I was wishing Harvey Wrightman and his family all the best in their new adventure of relocating the Wrightman Alpine Nursery from Ontario to St. Andrews. With great sadness I found out yesterday that Harvey passed away.

His passion and skill to growing alpine plants from all over the world were absolutely unique, at least for the Canadian plant world. I will always remember the visits to their open-house nursery day, which were akin to the alpine gardens of renown Botanical Gardens.

We wish him farewell in this, alas, last adventure, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family which continues the alpine plants tradition. He will be greatly missed.

Images from the nursery and rock garden at the Ontario location and also plants grown by Harvey are shown below in few previous posts.

Alpine Golden Nuggets from Wrightman Nursery

And then there were the Saxifrages…

Wrightman Alpines Nursery – Hello to a New Adventure!


Plants of the Canadian West Coast

Sooke Coast Trail – part 1

At this time of year we are in need of sunny/flowery images, so I’ll quit the propagation stories for a while (I am sure some readers got heavily bored ;). Chance made it that I got to visit Victoria (situated on the southern part of Vancouver Island) in late May, but never got to sort through the many pictures; few posts will take care of this now ;)

A short note for those who are not familiar with the region: the southern part of Vancouver Island constitutes the northern growing limit for many species, which are common otherwise on the US west coast down to the Californian coastal mountains. Victoria is considered the mildest city in Canada and enjoys a sub-mediterranean climate (yes you hear me well!) with mild winters (snow is a very rare event), rainy springs and falls and dry summers (hardiness considered, zone 7-8).

The first highly recommended hiking destination, in a short driving distance from Victoria, is the Sooke area. There are a few trails available, which can be done partially or entirely. The Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park was particularly impressive (follow link to see map and read more).


View from Sooke Coast Trail

Excellent views are opening all along the trail, which follows the rocky coast, only with a few passages going deep into the forest (usually to go around a pocket beach). In between taking pictures and stopping to admire the wild, rugged landscape, time flies; I would say that at least two days are necessary to get a good grasp of its beauty.  It is very hard to choose only a few pictures to show.


View from Sooke Coast Trail

Plants speaking, the first species that makes you go – WoW! Is the Pacific Madrone – Arbutus menziesii. Any time I encounter in the wild a species previously known only from picture, there is a special feeling, same like meeting a person known previously only from correspondence. I couldn’t shake hands with the Arbutus :) but I was happy to brush my hand over the exquisite cinnamon/red, exfoliating bark.


Arbutus menziesii on Sooke Coast Trail – Pacific Madrone, Arbutus

Pacific Madrone/Arbutus is an evergreen tree with many other qualities, glossy leaves and creamy clusters of flowers (attracting many pollinators) followed by red fruits; all making for a most beautiful tree. And there is more – the trunk and branches are twisting in various ways, to the point that sometimes they will hug and gracefully slide along the rocks’ contour. Its native range extends from:  SW  Vancouver Island to south Baja California. It is found growing in dry open forests, rocky slopes, on coarse or shallow soils.


Arbutus menziesii

Another ‘staple’ species of the region is Sedum spathulifolium – the broadleaf stonecrop. It seems able to grow absolutely everywhere: on moss-layered rocks, decomposed tree trunks, wind blasted rocks in full sun or cascading over shaded boulders. Truly spectacular! Probably half of my pictures contain this Sedum in various plant-associations. I liked it best together with Cladonia or a Cladina sp. (the reindeer moss); the white-silvery, lacy lichen bringing out the beauty of the bluish foliage and the contrasting red stems & yellow flowers.


Sedum spathulifolium and reindeer moss on Sooke Coast Trail


Sedum spathulifolium 


Sedum spathulifolium tumbling over the rocks

This post is getting a bit too long so more to follow…

Friday’s Seeds – Pedicularis

Pedicularis is an interesting, large and varied genus of hemi-parasitic species – now part of Fam. Orobanchaceae.  Included are many attractive species, unfortunately not easy to germinate/cultivate – which makes them even more desirable! Too bad these beautiful plants have such a ‘lousy’ common name – louseworts!

The seeds are quite variable as well, although I can only show four species. I’ve added google plant images links (in red) for those curious.

Pedicularis atropurpurea


Pedicularis atropurpurea seeds


Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum, the Moor-king lousewort


Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum seeds

Pedicularis nordmanniana


Pedicularis nordmanniana seeds


Pedicularis oederi


Pedicularis oederi


Their general common name: louseworts, allude to ancient beliefs that they would induce lice infestations in livestock.
I started some sowing experiments last year and I’m happy to continue.