Typically I curse steep switchbacks. They are exhausting!
Now, I have reason to appreciate them. One trail in Strathcona Park is so steep that the inside slope is only an arm’s reach away. I have close-up views of the tiny plants that don’t usually catch my attention. I stop, puffing for a few moments, taking in the forest’s carpet of mysteries.
At first, the evergreen plant, Prince’s pine, escapes my notice.
But then, my eyes spy the wildflower buds – such a delicate pink!
Further along the path, I find specimens in full bloom. And some already setting seed — in early June. 🙂
The tiny, waxy-looking blossoms are such a contrast to the deep woodland duff of the understory. Enchanting. (There must be faeries nearby.)
I delight in the flowers while mourning that Chimaphila umbellata is probably not suited to our own garden. (Yes, our garden is well-drained, but it’s shaded by Garry oak– not conifers.)
Back at the campsite, the mini-shrub is confirmed by Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (my wild plant Bible). Woo Hoo — one more native plant in my repertoire.
It’s not until a wintery February morning, while attending Seedy Saturday that I meet Andy McKinnon, co-author of my treasured plant ID book. He teaches me this science word for today.
Prince’s pine is mixotrophic. It has a friendly relationship with the fungus in the ground.
Like many plants, through photosynthesis, Prince’s pine produces sugars (its food). It shares those sugars with fungi. The fungi, in return, offer up access to nutrients from the soil.
But wait – there’s more…
Prince’s pine & this fungi take their relationship a step further.
The fungi in the soil also connect to another plant (other than the Prince’s pine). Through this threesome, the Prince’s pine can get sugars from this other plant. Neighbours helping neighbours in times of need…. all through a fungi trade route.
Isn’t Nature amazing?