First Spring Flowers – Terry Thormin
Every spring I await the blooming of the first spring flowers. I am not talking about the snow drops, crocuses and daffodils that are so common in gardens by now, but rather the first of the native bloomers. Here in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island the first native spring flowers are skunk cabbage and gold star. I had been following the growth of the skunk cabbage in a wet wooded area alongside a road that I frequently drive, and on March the 11th I decided I should take another look to see if the flower spikes were fully developed. Sure enough the spikes were fully up, although the leaves were just starting to show. So I took some photos and continued on to Point Holmes where the coastal sand dunes support a great population of gold star. These were also well started, with a good sprinkling of flowers showing, so I photographed a single flower and the largest patch I could find.
Unfortunately I obviously was not concentrating on what I was doing as I was not very happy with the results of my gold star photos. I decided to wait and go back the following day, but as is so typical here on the island, the weather was not conducive to photography that day, or the next, or the next. Well, I finally did get my photos yesterday, so here is a somewhat late blog with photos.
I decided to show both the skunk cabbage from the 11th and from yesterday, the 15th just to show how much four days of growth can make in that time. On the 11th I could only find single flower spikes that were well developed, and the leaves were just starting to poke out of the mud.
Four days later there were many well developed clumps with good sized leaves. Eventually the leaves will be much larger than the flower spikes.
Gold star, Crocidium multicaule, is common on stable, coastal sand dunes and other sandy soil at low elevations. The best places I know of to look for it in the valley are at Point Holmes and Kin Beach. This beautiful little flower will eventually carpet the ground at Point Holmes, turning the dunes a bright, cheery yellow. Like the skunk cabbage I noticed a considerable difference in the gold star in just four days, but here it was primarily in the number of blooms which had more than doubled. These early plants are only about 3 or 4 cm high, but as the spring progresses they become taller, often getting 20 cm tall.
On my first trip I saw several very dark wolf spiders running amongst the logs at the high tide below the dunes. I had found this same species on previous years and had it identified by a local expert as Pardosa lowriei. This is a fairly large and quite common wolf spider in this habitat and yet there is very little information about it on the web. I had to do quite a bit of digging just to get an idea o its distribution, which seems to be from Alberta and British Columbia south to California.