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…

10 replies
  1. Tina
    Tina says:

    Oh, this post is such a treat! I visited Victoria in October (as well as Vancouver). Boy, did I ever fall in love. I only spent a weekend in Vic, but I’d love to go back and spend more time there. Gorgeous photos and thanks for the info on East Sooke, it’s on my bucket list!

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      There will be more Tina :) It is beautiful, worth going back. I usually write an article or two for the Ontario Rock Garden Soc. over the winter and posting in the blog helps me organize the pictures. Plus that it fits well to recount the summer days when the white season arrives.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      I am sure it’s possible Tina if you really want; but then, in time you may discover that some things are not as ‘rosy’ here as well. In any case I recommend as location the West coast :))

  2. Hollis
    Hollis says:

    Neat to see Pacific Madrone — it’s an “old friend” from when I lived in California. I agree–so beautiful, especially the trunks and larger branches. It’s uncommon in the southern coast ranges where I lived, and was always such a treat to find.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      It was be plenty in and around Victoria; also cultivated in the city. I really like it, a sort of a tree that ‘has it all’. Too cold for it here ;(

  3. mrsdaffodil
    mrsdaffodil says:

    Lovely post – I’ve hiked many of the trails in East Sooke Park. Our sub-mediterranean climate has been hijacked by cold and snow this week (and even colder next week, it looks like).

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Yes, there is a broad wave of cold air and snow (more I should say for us). Even so, one could tell only after the state of the roads that they are never snowplowed?! :)

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