It has been a while since I wrote a blog. The splendour of Harewood Plains in bloom has provided the inspiration to get one done. I hope you enjoy it!
In late April through May, Harewood Plains in Nanaimo puts on a magical show with a bounty of flowering plants. This area, which stretches along the southwest of the southern portion of Nanaimo Parkway, from just uphill from Cranberry Road overpass to Harewood Mines Road overpass is unique because of its shallow soils creating a magical
Outline of Harewood Plains. The meadows in this Google Earth image appear as light brown areas. Access is from McKeown Way (off Extension Road) or Lotus Pinnatus Way (off Harewood Mines Road).
network of meadows that host a spectacular diversity of flowering plants. These are normally quite wet at this time of year, but this year they are quite dry, which may affect some of the flowering species. The fields are usually dominated by a combination of sea blush (Plectritis congesta), monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus ) and common camas (Camassia quamash ) creating a spectacular pink, blue and yellow canvas. The careful observer will find lots of other flowers, however. Among these are as many as 10 rare red- or blue-listed plants, including 80% of all bog bird’s-foot trefoil, Lotus pinnatus, in British Columbia. Harewood Plains is one of only five locations for this red-listed species in Canada.
Common Camas (Camassia quamash) in full bloom in the foreground with Sea blush and Monkey flowers in the distant background.
Over the past two years I have visited different parts of the Harewood Plains to observe the wonder of the flowering meadows, as well as the insects that take advantage of the bounty. In most cases I have been able to identify the flowers, but there are some tricky ones, for sure. Surprisingly, there is no comprehensive checklist or pictorial key of Harewood Plains flowers on the internet, which provides an opportunity to create a resource that is accessible to the public. As incumbernt President of Nature Nanaimo, I have suggested that we undertake such a project over the next few years. Stay tuned for updates!
Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) with Monkey flowers (Mimulus guttatus) in the background. In this photo Common camas are not yet in bloom, but their slender leaves can be seen in the foreground.
Yellow monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus) brightens up the Plains with large groups of bright yellow flowers.
Death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) surrounded by Sea blush. While Common camas was an important food source for First nations, Death camas is not edible, as the name clearly states!
Spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) and Sea blush.
Western trillium (Trillium ovatum) grows in more shaded locations. Flowers can be white or pink, and occasionally maroon.
Common camas visited by a Western spring azure (Celastrina echo)
Chocolate lily (Fritillaria camschatcensis) grows in small groups.
Look closer and you may find the gorgeously delicate Alaska saxifrage (Saxifraga ferruginea).
Fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum) flowers early and can be found in richer sites in scattered groups of up to a few dozen plants.
Broad-leaved stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) can be found in various places. This specimen grew under a Douglas-fir near Lotus pinnatus Park.
If you venture into the forest, you may find the spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata), a fascinating orchid. It is a myco-heterotroph, which means that it acquires its nutrients from fungal mycelia from fungi in the Order Russulaceae. Hence, it lacks photosynthetic tissues, and lives as a parasite!
If you look closer, you will find numerous small, but beautiful flowers, sometimes with equally small and beautiful visitors. These Scouler’s popcornflowers (Plagiobothrys scouleri) are visited by a longhorned fairy moth (Adela septentrionella), which are common at Harewood Plains in May.
The same species of flower visited by a Cedar hairstreak (Callophrys nelsoni).
These are just a very small sample of species that I managed to identify, hopefully correctly. This is the time of year to get out and enjoy the show.