Elk Flowers

I can tell which are my favourite wildflowers by the number of photos I take! And they all seem to be lilies: chocolate lilies, Queen’s Cup (aka bead lilies), and glacier lilies with a guest appearance from a budding Columbia lily. Great to see these early flowers; the rest should be following on strong in a couple of weeks.

Not much I need to say here, so I’ll just say what each photo shows:

  1. Chocolate lilies – we saw about as many as I’ve ever seen in one place on today’s hike, though quite a few were past their peak
  2. Chocolate lily flower close-up
  3. Queen’s Cup – a nice trio of leaves on this one
  4. A pair of Queen’s Cup flowers nestled together
  5. Glacier lilies!!!!!!
  6. I could take pictures of these all day; alas I had barely 2 minutes to grab what I could before we had to turn back
  7. Columbia lily in (double) bud – we saw many of these, all still in bud; in a week or two the meadows will be full of them, nodding in the breeze

It’s kinda funny looking at my Instagram feed at the moment. It doesn’t seem that long since I was lamenting the lack of colour in my feed; now it seems like it’s nothing by flowers! 🙂

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Forest flowers

Think forest hikes have nothing to see? I beg to differ, at least at this time of year! Here’s a selection of flowers seen along the trail to Norvan Falls from a couple of weeks ago: columbine, clasping twistedstalk, bunchberry, wild ginger, false lily-of-the-valley, and the bloom of the tulip poplar (which isn’t native to BC but it’s still one of my favourite trees).

Last Wednesday’s post was about Norvan Falls itself. This week, it’s about the many flowers we saw along the way – a surprising number to be honest.

  1. Plenty of western (red) columbine, also known as the rainflower – seeing so many of these was the first surprise of the hike.
  2. Clasping twistedstalk – the second surprise was finding so many of these flowers, well-hidden below their leaves. I hadn’t really looked closely at them before so it was lovely to discover the delicate little bells and to see the kinked stalk that gives the flower its name.
  3. Bunchberry – so we’ve seen plenty of this by now, but I can’t resist continuing my search for the perfect bunchberry flower to photograph!
  4. Wild ginger – this was the third surprise, finding wild ginger which I’d never seen along this trail before.
  5. False lily of the valley – lots of these in bloom, the hard part was knowing which patch to photograph. I decided on this one with a kilometre marker post as a background. We saw another photographer sizing up a big patch on our way back – I was almost tempted to wait and get the same patch as they were nicely lit, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
  6. Tulip poplar – OK so this wasn’t seen on the hike but near the community centre a few blocks from our apartment. We fell in love with tulip poplars when we lived in Maryland. Our first autumn there we drove out to Shenandoah National Park to see the colourful foliage and were struck by the tunnels of bright yellow created by these trees. And then the following spring we saw the first of their tulip-like flowers and we were hooked. It’s a nice reminder of our time on the east coast.

Norvan Falls

Norvan Falls on waterfall Wednesday. Not the most spectacular waterfall or hike, but every hike has its season and for Norvan Falls, that’s pretty much now with so much fresh spring growth and a good dose of forest flowers for company. The giant logjam is new since I was last there in 2015. I couldn’t resist including the yellow stream violet seeing as it’s also wildflower Wednesday – it was the only one still blooming!

Getting good photos of Norvan Falls is tricky. There’s often not much water flowing and on a weekend it gets busy so getting a hiker-free view is rare. However, on today’s visit (well, last Saturday’s in reality) I did manage to position myself to get clear views of the falls, either with no one in front of me or mostly hidden by other features.

  1. The falls drop about 10 m into a small pool – since they’re long and thin it’s hard to get them into a square crop, but somehow I managed!
  2. Further downstream the steep sides of the gorge can be seen – it looks quite idyllic from here, and this is the best angle on the area with a few nice boulders in the foreground.
  3. Behind me in the previous photo is this enormous logjam. I’m pretty sure this did not come over the falls, but there’s a drainage/debris chute off to the left that I’ve never explored that I suspect is a more likely source of it. The fallen Douglas fir trunks make for a colourful foreground.
  4. A tiny splash of colour, a yellow stream violet, one of only a few that were still blooming. All of the others along the trail had dropped their petals already. I’m pleasantly surprised how the phone camera focused perfectly on the flower.

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.

Floral assortment

An assortment of flowers near Mystery Lake for wildflower-Wednesday: bunchberry, paintbrush, and fireweed. I was surprised to find bunchberry still blooming, and this was the first time I’ve seen paintbrush on the North Shore. The fireweed photo is actually from Callaghan Valley (though there was plenty blooming next to the Mt Seymour parking lot), against a backdrop of thick smoke from the BC wildfires.

Guess who just found out how to post a slideshow on Instagram? Yay 🙂 I’ll try not to overuse it, but sometimes it’s nice to include a few photos in a single post to tell a wider story. The only downside is that it looks like the photos are forced to be square and I hadn’t prepared these photos with a square crop on mind, so I don’t feel they’re displayed to their best advantage.

Judging by the freshness of the bunchberry flowers, I’d say the North Shore (or at least that part of Mt Seymour) is about 3 weeks behind its usual bloom. We also saw quite a few fresh Queen’s cup, which was another lovely surprise. But the biggest surprise was the paintbrush: my eye was caught by the orangey-red colour on one of the ski runs, and then I found more along the edge of the open slopes just before we entered the forest. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen paintbrush on any of the North Shore mountains, though I have nagging memory of maybe seeing it once before somewhere else on Mt Seymour. I’ll need to scan our (ridiculously large) photo collection to be sure!

The fireweed photo is a bit of a cheat as it was taken the day before but I really wanted to show the smoky atmosphere in the background that couldn’t be seen in the fireweed photos I took in the parking lot. It was bad enough to put us off our original hiking plans…

More wildflowers

It’s been a great season for wildflowers – we saw something like 35 varieties over the weekend, 7 can be seen in this photo.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it’s really hard to capture the richness of some of these flower meadows. But with practice comes a better understanding of what it takes to get a photo that at least begins to show just how many flowers were blooming in these meadows. This is a little more detail-oriented than my earlier post, taken with the telephoto lens to try and isolate a few key flowers and allow the colours in the background to tell the rest of the story. It works well enough for me.

I have to admit, I was surprised that I only saw about 35 flower species (there were probably more that I ignored and/or didn’t know); the vast array on display led me to believe that there would be more, but in reality the meadows were dominated by arnica and valerian, with paintbrush, lupines, and columbine next, plus a lot of Indian hellebore adding to the expanse of green. Glacier lilies were still blooming in abundance near the shrinking snow patches, and there were still patches of anemones in flower in addition to the abundance of moptops.

I’m trying to resist posting another glacier lily photo, but my resolve is subject to sudden weakening on that front…

Columbia lilies

Columbia lilies in an open meadow for wildflower Wednesday – many of the orange blobs in this photo are Columbia lilies. Unfortunately my attempts to capture the extent of their bloom didn’t work out: I have a picture of orange dots in a field of mostly green. I’ve never seen so many in one place before, and it seemed like most of them had multiple flowers per stem, with as many as 5 on one.

I think this is my first Columbia lily photo on Instagram. I don’t have many photos of them because we simply don’t encounter that many on our hikes. I can think of a few places I’ve seen them, but they’re not as widespread as other flowers, and they don’t usually grow in abundance. Even where they do – such as the meadow in the photo above – trying to capture the sense of their number is really difficult as they’re tall and gangly flowers and they tend to be fairly spaced out. So I was happy to see that many of the stems had multiple flower heads, allowing me to get some more interesting photos, rather than simply a single flower atop a tall stalk.

One thing I noticed in taking pictures of these flowers with the Sony RX100II was that the red channel clipped very easily. As a result I have quite a few photos where the flowers are much yellower than in reality, and even processing from raw can’t bring the full detail back, so they remain kinda washed-out looking. I’ve got used to being a little cavalier with my exposure thanks to the dynamic range of the SLRs, and I guess this is one case where I well and truly hit the limits of what the smaller sensor can do. Darn. But now I know.