Tag Archives: funky plant

Prince’s Pine

Typically I curse steep switchbacks. They are exhausting!

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.   🙂

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.

Mixotrophic.

Prince’s pine is mixotrophic.  It has a friendly relationship with the fungus in the ground.

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.
Friendly, eh?
But wait – there’s more…

Prince’s pine & this fungi take their relationship a step further.

blooming evergreen prince's pine, sub-shrub, Chimaphila umbellata, occidentalis , pipsissewa, umbellate wintergreen,, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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.
(That’s Mixotrophic)

Isn’t Nature amazing?

-30-

Vancouver Groundcone – Boschniakia hookeri

It was high on my list to search for when we went camping with friends near Tofino in mid-May.  On the very first day, a young friend spotted one & brought it to my attention.  Score!

Vancouver groundcone, poque, corn cob, Boschniakia hookeri or Boschniakia strobilacea, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It’s included in a list of ‘oddballs’ in my favorite field guide (Pojar & MacKinnon’s,  Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast.)   Who needs space aliens when we have mysteries like this on earth?  Is it a flower? Mushroom? Fungi?

Vancouver groundcone, poque, corn cob, Boschniakia hookeri or Boschniakia strobilacea, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It’s called a Vancouver groundcone, & I can see why. The shape is so similar to a spruce cone standing upright.  Another name is Poque – an anglicized version of an indigenous word.

The unusual coloring indicates the groundcone lacks chlorophyll, & that means it can’t produce its own sugars. For food, it depends on others. It’s a parasitic plant, that taps nutrients from a salal and sometimes kinnikinnick.

Vancouver groundcone, poque, corn cob, Boschniakia hookeri or Boschniakia strobilacea, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Both salal & kinnikinnick are common on our coastlines, so you’d think there’d be plenty of groundcones.  Perhaps there are more around, but I just haven’t been looking for them before?

Boschniakia hookeri grows in the moist (summer dry) coastal lowlands from Haida Gwaii in Central Coastal BC to  Northern California.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen any.  Go figure. Perhaps because they don’t need sunshine, they’re more common in shade, and more difficult to see?

Vancouver groundcone, poque, corn cob, Boschniakia hookeri or Boschniakia strobilacea, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Aside from the yellow specimens I saw, Poque is found in a variety of colors from light yellow to brown to red or purple.  I suspect the yellow contrasts more with its environment, so is slightly easier to spot.  Once young WC showed me a few he’d spotted, I was able to find a few myself.

Now that I’ve checked this plant off my list, next up are more oddballs: Indian Pipe & Pinesaps.  Wish me luck!

-30-

Geum macrophyllum – Large-Leaved Avens

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I first really noticed Large-Leaved Avens as a specific wildflower when I found it blooming beside the waterfall at Goldstream Park one May.  Before that, it was just one of the many yellow blooms we see in spring.

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Recently I was pleased to see it blooming in a parking lot, not far from the ocean, near Tofino.  That was at Thanksgiving!

October is really very late for a spring wildflower to be blooming – but I’m not complaining.   🙂

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The flower is a simple yellow daisy style; a smiling happy bloom that I find charming.
Unassuming.
Easy.

But Geum macrophyllum is not as plain as it first appears.

large-leaved avens, Geum macrophyllum, largeleaf avens, big leaf avens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The seedhead is funky – certainly something that I’d let stand in my garden rather than tidy up.

The achenes (fruits) kinda remind me of googly eyes floating above the alien body.    Apparently, the pom-poms are happy to catch rides on passing pant legs or animals: free spirits looking for adventures far afield.  Groovy.

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

But really, the magic is in the foliage.  What other plant has 2 kinds of leaves?  Right at the base, near the ground, the leaves are round.  Further up the stem, near the flowers, they’ve morphed into 3 lobes with deep serrations.  Crazy.

The guidebooks say Avens are common to wetlands across most of North America.  I’m hoping they’ll become common in my garden, too.  Last month I won 3 in the plant raffle at the Native Plant Study Group.  They’re now growing in one of our courtyard beds (where they’re more likely to get the extra summer moisture they need).  Cross your fingers for me.

-30-