Monday, September 26, 2011

Plants of the West Coast Trail

A leftover non-plant I should've put in the last post:

I've seen these elsewhere, but I've never been able to identify them until now.  They've always reminded me of type of Chinese herb, called "wun yee" in Cantonese, but they're not fungi.  Rather, they are a type of lichen.  The closest image match I could find was Peltigera membranacea.  Note the long tendrill-like rhizomes on the underside that allows these lichens to grow atop a layer of moss, which is a great evolutionary feature to have to outcompete in territory where every inch of rotting wood is covered by moss or other vegetation. I've only seen them in very dense, moist understories on rotting logs.

On to the true plants!  My interest in plants started with berry-bearing plants, as those usually yielded some sort of reward for correctly identification.  Unique-looking photogenic flowers also usually tempt a photograph out of me.  So here they are.

The Salal is one of the more common plants one may encounter on any west coast hike.  The berries are covered with fine hairs, and I've never been tempted to eat them until this trip when I just had a taste.  Not sour...not sweet...just sticky and moist.

Rosy Twisted Stalk
Thought this was hooker's fairybell at first, but I found a better photo online with a closer match to twisted stalk.  The berry apparently has a mild flavour, though I didn't try.

Some ferns do naturally branch, like the maidenhair fern.  Most, do not, so this licorice fern poking up next to the boardwalk immediately caught my attention.

Do you see the face?  Like something out of a Tim Burton movie, I think.

In recent years, I've grown fond of maindenhair ferns because of the distinct shiny black stems and the rounded arrangement of the fronds.  I obviously haven't been observant enough, because there are plenty of other ferns that have black stems, like this:
I can't seem to find other ferns with my web searches that look like this, in this part of the world.  This shall remain a mystery.

Flowers and leaves would place it in the Mint family (Lamiaceae), but I can't find any positive IDs online.

Harry Potter's jellybeans (locally known as False Lily Of The Valley - Maianthemum dilatatum)
The berries are apparently edible, and many parts of the plant were used for medicinal purposes by native peoples.

We saw many destroyed flowers/seeds of skunk cabbage.  Many times, we saw a crunched up seed pod dozens of metres away from the plant, .  Even with a bit of research, I couldn't figure out what animal did this.  Perhaps it was just a pole-carrying hiker.

We let out a collective cheer as we exited the damp forest into this sunny bog

I was excited to see sundews in dense bunches at my feet, most of them flowering in the sunshine of the bog (sorry, no closeups)

At the end of each day, we'd inevitably spill out onto a beach where we'd ultimately set up camp.  This last photo of a petrified dragon (technically a plant) will segue us into the next post descriving my favorite part of the journey, the fauna.

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