A quartet of coltsfoot

A quartet of coltsfoot, another early bloomer that’s easy to overlook as it looks kinda weedy from a distance and grows in wet marshy ground. But get close up and it shows off its lovely florets, not to mention its pretty good golf ball impression. Enough to make anyone smile 🙂

It was only last year that I truly appreciated the flowers of palmate coltsfoot for the first time. I’d taken photos of it before and generally thought it was a straggly-looking plant without much in the way of interesting flowers. After being put firmly right I decided that this year I would endeavour to take some photos that showed just how nice a flower it really is. My favourite photo is probably the first one, showing the florets as they begin to flower.

From a distance, the florets don’t look like much – just some dots on the end of green stems. Then there’s the fact it grows in wet places which likely puts off most people from getting anywhere near it in the first place. The second photo is my attempt to show this with the muddy stream I had to jump across and NW Marine Drive in the background. See what I mean? Why would anyone stop to take a closer look at these flowers? I’m sure I got a few strange looks from passing cyclists and car occupants as I stooped and crouched to get the angles I wanted.

The most obvious feature of coltsfoot when it’s in bloom is its golf-ball-like head of florets on a cabbage-green stalk, surrounded by a handful of leaves. This year I was pleased to find a really lovely golf-ball impression with the third photo. OK so it doesn’t look quite as much like a golf ball when viewed close up, but from a distance it’s quite convincing. I really like how the florets look a bit like birds’ nests complete with eggs in this photo.

Finally, like a floral firework, the florets open out to produce a veritable feast for pollinators with dozens of tiny flowers to visit. The fourth photo caught my eye as it looks a bit like a smiley face. Doesn’t it? 🙂

So there you go – a quick tour of an under-appreciated wildflower. Maybe it’ll tempt you to check it out for yourself?

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Spring colour

My Instagram feed seems to have taken on a monochrome look lately, so here’s some springtime colour for wildflower Wednesday

Flower roll-call:

  1. Pretty shooting stars – rare near Vancouver as they prefer drier conditions
  2. Skunk cabbage, also known as the swamp lantern – great name!
  3. Western trillium – barely blooming, I normally expect these to bloom before the fawn lilies
  4. Fawn lily buds – like glacier lilies, it’s not uncommon for them to produce a couple of flowers per stem
  5. White fawn lilies in bud and bloom – yay! The show is just beginning!

I start to get itchy photographic fingers about this time of year ever since I found my first fawn lilies at the very end of my photo-a-day project back in 2012. While Lighthouse Park is my favourite place to go look for them, I found a small patch growing in the Rainforest Garden at the UBC Botanical Garden a couple of years ago and – since I can get in for free – figured that it’d be worth checking out. And that’s exactly what I did last Sunday afternoon.

But it’s not just about the fawn lilies: the gardens have a little patch of Garry Oak ecosystem where other flowers bloom. Among the first out are the gorgeous pink shooting stars, and so perfectly named. In a few weeks it looks like the main flowers there will be nodding onion, but I’m hoping to find others too.

Of course, after a decade of hiking in BC, I now look forward to the sight (and, yes, smell) of the fresh skunk cabbage, their cheery yellow “lanterns” pushing up through marshy ground. And I always love seeing trillium – it doesn’t grow in abundance like it does in Ontario so it’s always a treat to find it growing. Again while Lighthouse Park has been my go-to spot for the longest time, I found many more blooming in Campbell Valley Regional Park last year.

On my travels that day I found a few more early flowers too, which I’ll save for another post. All in all, a pretty good afternoon, and it’s got me really in the mood for spring.

The time of flowers

Couldn’t resist going back for another photo session with the fawn lilies 🙂 I even found a pink one! And yes, just one, hiding out among the false lily-of-the-valley.

I just knew it would happen – the draw of documenting this year’s fawn lily display was too strong and I headed over to Lighthouse Park once again with a bit of time in hand so I could crawl around on wet moss and grass in my attempts to capture the perfect flower photo. Quite a few of the flowers were past their peak, and one patch in particular that I was hoping to capture had already flowered and were now well into their seed-pod phase. But I still found plenty to admire, plus I found a couple of new patches off the beaten path to carefully investigate next year.

After my recent escapades with getting flower photos I’ve decided that our next camera absolutely must have a tilting or articulating/fold-out screen. It’s simply impossible to look through a viewfinder that’s anywhere from 4 to 12 inches off the ground without getting wet, muddy, or trampling other plants. I used Live View on the SLR for framing where possible, but even then it’s hard to see a 3-inch (vertical) screen so close to the ground. Worse, the reflections off the screen make it almost impossible to see what you’re framing, what the camera’s focusing on, or what you’ve taken. So once again I ended up using the compact camera for more shots than I expected, despite it being trickier to focus correctly (by which I mean it’s harder to get it to focus on the correct subject).

But as I mentioned above, this visit had one little surprise in store for me. As I walked back to the parking lot, I noticed something pink at the far edge of a patch of false lily-of-the-valley behind a big cedar. I leaned against the split-rail fence, zoomed in, held the camera at arm’s length and took a snap just for the record. It really did seem to be the only one as I couldn’t see any other leaves. I’ll be sure to look out for that again on future visits, and, if no one’s looking, I just might hop the fence for a closer look…

Star of the show

The star of the show, a white fawn lily in full bloom.

I’ve been itching to get back to Lighthouse Park to photograph the fawn lilies this year, especially as some of my Instagram friends have been posting lovely fawn lily photos of their own, but I’ve been waiting for a fine day as it’s no fun trying to get flower photos when it’s dull and light levels are low. Not that it was easy taking this photo as the flowers were constantly swaying in the breeze – I had to time my shots for when a flower stopped moving for that brief moment.

This was just a quick visit to the park really for me to be able to get at least one decent photo of this year’s bloom. Of course I can’t resist going back with a little more time to take a few more…