Terry’s Blog #4 – Wildflowers vs. Quads
So here I am in front of my computer, both physically and mentally tired from yesterday’s field trip, and more than that, I am emotionally down. The trip was everything I had hoped for, but there was an unexpected aspect to the trip that was very depressing. I organized a field trip for the nature photography group, which is a sub group of the Comox Valley Naturalists’ Society, to Harewood Plains in Nanaimo. There were five of us that went down from Comox and Courtenay, and the main purpose was to see and photograph the display of wildflowers.
This is a spectacular place for wildflowers. It is composed of second growth forest with open meadows on a bedrock formation with a thin layer of soil and moss that supports many species of spring wildflower. Much of the meadow areas are awash with the blue, pink and yellow of Common Camas, Sea Blush and Yellow Monkey’s Flower. In amongst them we found two species of saxifrage, stonecrops, Meadow Death Camas, Menzies’ Larkspur, Small-leaved Montia and many others.
There are ten species of either red-listed (endangered) or blue-listed (threatened) plants here. One of these, the Bog Birds-foot Trefoil is found only here and in two other locations in Canada, one on Gabriola Island and one in Ladysmith. In total about 80% of Canada’s population of this beautiful little flower is found at Harewood.
The area is privately owned and has no official protected status. Although there are signs telling people about the fragile habitat and rare plants, these are largely ignored. The big problem is the people with trail bikes and quads. Because the soil is so thin it doesn’t take much too literally tear it up and expose the bedrock beneath. Once exposed like this I would imagine it would take many years for the soil to be replaced and the area to be re-vegetated. I had visited the area last year with a group, and upon seeing it this year was appalled at the amount of damage that had occurred in the meantime. There were tracks in many places where people had gone off the main trail with their quads, and in one place someone had gone around and around in circles, tearing up much of the vegetation. Once the bedrock is exposed like this, because the area is on a slope the water will find the path of least resistance and run down the areas of exposed rock causing the vegetated areas to become drier and most plants to die.
I’m not sure if people who do things like this just don’t understand what they are doing or if they do and just don’t care. It is probably a mix of both, but whatever the reason, this sort of behavior makes me sick. I know that a proposal has been put to the City of Nanaimo that the Harewood Plains be given some protected status, but I am concerned that if action isn’t taken quite quickly much of the area will be destroyed. I can only hope that the city council has enough intelligence to act quickly on this proposal, but knowing human nature I have my doubts. And of course this is just one small case of our apparent lack of concern for the world we live in. This scenario is being duplicated all over the world, and on a much larger scale than what is happening in Nanaimo. No wonder I am depressed, and all I can think is that perhaps once we as a species are gone, and at this rate that may not be too far in the future, Mother Earth will be able to repair all the damage we have done.
So as not to end on a down note, we managed to photograph many species of wildflowers, and here are a couple of them, first Sea Blush and then the Yellow Monkey’s Flower.
Right near the end of the trip we took a trail into the forest, and there we found several Heart-leaved Twayblades. This is a rather small and not overly impressive orchid, but I must admit to a particular passion for orchids, and for some reason the small and often insignificant looking ones are particularly appealing to me. And if one takes the time to look carefully at the flowers, often they turn out to be more attractive than they first appeared to be. So here is a close-up of part of the twayblade flower stem, showing the delicate little flowers. A great way to end the day.