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.”


8 replies
    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thanks Tina; they were both new for me and both too tender for our zone ;( You could give a try to the grassnut, needs water spring and fall/winter and summer dry.
      Well, I am getting closer to organize my pictures for ORGS article; without the blog would be much harder.

      • Hollis
        Hollis says:

        You’re right, and I shall … follow the fossilized palm tree. For one thing, I have a trip planned to see the fossil sites and what was once a large lake surrounded by tropical vegetation … in southwest Wyoming! Thanks for stating the obvious ;-)

        • diversifolius
          diversifolius says:

          That’s great! I look fw to read more about this; something that not many are writing about (except in scientific journals of course).

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