Spring is here!

Thanks to a recent bought of spring weather, my trailmaking project is coming along nicely. I’ve added several more trails to the one that was already present when we moved here last year (and now that one will stay accessible even when the stinging nettles are full grown). It’s exciting to be able to access areas of the woods that I haven’t been able to observe easily before. I’m noticing which areas are particularly sunny and open, and which are cooler and more damp. I can’t help but feel that we have the foundations of a bountiful food forest in here, with lots of diversity in both microclimate and soil type.

As a reward for my hard work, I take the dog for daily walks through the trail network. Once or twice I’ve brought along a small colinear hoe to sweep away any stinging nettles growing on the paths (these innocuous-looking small shoots will, I’ve now learned from experience, grow to about 5 feet tall by summer). As we go along, I’m looking out for species of plants that I haven’t yet identified.

One small tree had me puzzled for a while. It caught my attention a couple of weeks ago when I noticed it was already budding leaves when all the other plants had buds shut up tight. Soon small sprays of flowers could be seen. It looks so pretty – a sign of all the delights of spring to come. I took a sample branch and spent quite some time thumbing through my Trees in Canada book trying to identify it, to no avail.

Finally I decided to check my other reference, Plants of Coastal BC. I then learned why I was having so much trouble – my little tree was not, in fact, a Tree but a Shrub. And it’s an Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a classic herald of spring in our coastal climate (see photo above).

I’m really enjoying the process of getting to know the flora and fauna of our place. It brings a sense of familiarity. This spring I’ve been watching the Vanilla Leaf come up, and remembering how astonished I was to see them for the first time shortly after moving here last year. They seemed so strange at first, these tall, thin green stalks rising up out of the ground, with nothing but a fan-shaped green tip. They came up in great swaths, looking almost alien in appearance. Now when I see the new crop coming up I remember how it felt to “meet” them last year.

Over the last few days I’ve been noticing Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) appearing, and today I saw one in flower. The Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) is coming up, though no flowers just yet. And today I discovered Menzies’ Red-Mouthed Mnium (Mnium spinulosum), a type of moss that is relatively easy to identify because of the red rings around the tip of the sporophyte. My daily walks through our woodland trails will allow me to watch the changes unfolding on a much smaller scale than I was able to last year. It’s a new show every week!



5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tricia Edgar on April 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    You know that you can eat those nettles?
    And vanilla leaf makes great potpourri once it is dried. I love it, but it doesn’t seem to like my new garden.


  2. Hi Tricia! Yes, I do. I harvested a bunch last spring and will soon do so again. Fortunately there are so many of them that the ones I’m stamping out on the paths will not affect our yield. Also, I did dry some vanilla leaf last year – supposedly it wards off flies though I didn’t notice that effect.


  3. Found you by way of your comment at backyardfeast. We’re in the Cowichan Valley, too – I’m so used to reading (and enjoying) the blogs of folks in the US or the other side of Canada, and it’s lovely to find people closer to home!

    I am so intrigued by your investigation about the Indian Plum. We have it on our property, too, and although we’ve only been here a couple of years I had already pegged it as the harbinger of spring. In fact I would have posted a picture pretty much like yours on my blog yesterday if only it had been in focus! Too much wind for that…

    Last year I had to call in the experts (a friend of a friend, a retired research biologist) to identify one of my mysteries: arrow-leaved or sweet coltsfoot (not the medicinal coltsfoot most people think of). It’s quite a lot of fun to have a mystery in the garden, and given my abysmal lack of knowledge about plants, that’s not hard to come by!


  4. Posted by timetales on June 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I have always enjoyed trails,Thich Nhat han has a wonderful letter to his children on his web site it talks about walking and trails , in my own life i have found that trails are found at differant levals like mental planes and of coarce seeking out plants, microbes,and animal tracks is the iceing on the cake.


  5. We have these growing on our property. The Cedar Waxwings have just arrived to eat the ripe Indian Plums. It’s the only time of year that we see these birds.


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