The Ups and Downs of Falling Leaves 

By Pamela Walker and Carolyn Herriot 

Published in TAKE 5 Magazine, October 2021

Soil, on which all life outside the ocean depends, has been created in part by thousands of years of falling leaves. As they fall down, life rises up. It’s the perennial gift that keeps on giving, but a resource that is often overlooked. After a year of drought we should all be stockpiling leaves to use as a protective mulch for next year’s garden. Broken down leaf mould can hold 300 to 500% of its weight in water. Rich topsoil, by comparison, holds about 60%. Leaf mulch holds in moisture, adds organic matter to the soil and provides nutrients to plants. It’s as precious as bullion to plants and beneficial insects, so whatever you do, don’t burn leaves or throw them away in a large plastic bag! 

Continue readingThe Ups and Downs of Falling Leaves 

YES BioBlitz 2021 – It’s Over!

Our BioBlitz is over, at least for this year! To see all 533 different species that were identified, see below, or click here.

We would like to celebrate our book prize winners and all the participants who made the event so much fun and such a great success. Nikki would especially like to thank Carrie Robinson who organized the event and made it more fun by adding the book prizes. They are such great BC wildlife books and everyone did such great work.  They were awarded to the following:

  • Liam Steele, Plants of Coastal British Columbia
  • Greg Roberts, Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia
  • Coco van Zyl, Birds of South Western British Columbia
  • North Oyster School, The Mammals of British Columbia
  • Sense of Place, The Mammals of British Columbia

Liam Steele, age 11, is clearly an I-Naturalist super-user and worth following on I-Naturalist under Pacificwhitesideddolphin.We were so fortunate to have him join our event. Not only did he have the top number of observations; he also ID’d over a hundred species for other participants and had some amazing shots, like the Plainfin Midshipman (the fish that sings) and the American Mink (by Transfer Beach). He started his career as an i-Naturalist in June 2019 at the age of 9, when he used it as a guide for listing species on his summer vacation in Vernon and Osoyoos. He was 10 ¾ before he knew he could join i-Naturalist and he has now made over ten thousand observations. We are sure he will achieve his goal of becoming a wildlife biologist, and hope he finds the Pojar and MacKinnon Plant book useful in this quest. 

Greg Roberts, unlike Liam, started with the Pojar and MacKinnon Plant book and he has been using it for years. Through our YES BioBlitz he has just been introduced to i-Naturalist. He was one of our most enthusiastic participants. He was there at the meeting asking the tough questions and was the first one onto the field on Day 1 of the BioBlitz.  Greg has accumulated a lifetime of great wildlife pictures from his career as a trained geographer who spent most of his working life behind a desk in park and land planning but most of his free time canoeing, camping, and exploring. He has now started to upload his images into i-Naturalist and is really enjoying the help the app gives with IDs.

Coco van Zyl knows every inch of the land she has been stewarding for the past six years.  She has repeatedly removed invasive and non-native species, encouraging and protecting native plants until they are robust enough to thrive. We are so lucky to have her record some of these species and to ID species for others. She needs little help from I-Naturalist to ID plants, and could probably help improve their App in this area.

Desiree Ferdinandi signed up North Oyster School for the BioBlitz and worked with her colleagues, Camille Paradis and Heather Trawick, and students in Grades 2, 3 and 6/7 to participate. They organized classes so that students took pictures and the grade 6/7 class uploaded them to her i-Naturalist account. She spent the week trying to ID them. Desiree is quick to point out that Camille Paradis and Heather Trawick put a lot of time and effort into getting North Oyster involved in the BioBlitz and did the lion’s share of the organizing. The end results were very respectable, and it was great fun for all. We would love to invite Desiree, Camille and Heather to our BioBlitz meeting next year to share how schools and groups can collate their observations. 

Patti Gisborne signed up the Sense of Place Youth Project Outdoor Explorers. Amanda McDonough, their outdoor exploration manager, said they “were thrilled to photograph and record the diversity of life on the Gisborne property. The children learn about the plants and creatures here seasonally, and they found great joy in sharing that data in the BioBlitz. Children took turns discovering and photographing their favourite plants throughout the forest, field, orchard, and pond. They loved being able to identify unknown species through the i-Naturalist app. We will definitely be utilizing this app in the future for our programming!“

YES plans to host the BioBlitz as a regular annual event, and we are keen to hear suggestions on how we can make it even better next year. Please email us or post comments on our website and please continue to browse the YES BioBlitz project on I-Naturalist to see and ID the wonderful species in our area.

– Nikki Toxopeus


A Very Fishy Tale

By Pamela Walker

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish could sing. I didn’t believe him when he said, in fact, that they could sing so loudly I should be able to hear them on land. That maybe I had heard them, but had mistaken their song for a generator, or some kind of weird engine. 

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish had marks that were actually lights, and that these lights were so bright they could be seen at depths below 400 meters, which is where the fish live most of the time. Except when they mate in the intertidal zone. 

Continue reading “A Very Fishy Tale”

Twelve Ways to Write a Great Blog for the Yellow Point Ecological Society

The Yellow Point Ecological Society is starting a regular biweekly blog.

Would you like to try your hand at writing?

by Guy Dauncey

  1. Choose a topic that is specific and tangible, such as the nuthatch, twinflowers, Roberts Memorial Park, a specific idea to solve one of our ten thousand ecological problems, or a personal experience. Make it sound intriguing, such as “The Secret Life of the Merganser” or “My Magical Moments in Hemer Park.”
  2. Limit your blog to around 750 words.
  3. Do your research, to include material that will be new and interesting to most people. Did you know that Midshipman Fish could sing, and that they breed in Ladysmith Harbour? Google your way to instant professorship. 
  4. Find an unusual hook to get the reader started. “We were amazed to hear not one but four barred owls calling to each other when we took the children for a night walk at Blue Heron Park a week ago.” 
  5. Understand that it is normal to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite four times before you get it right. All the best writers do it. Leo Tolstoy rewrote War and Peace (587,000 words) seven times, requiring his long-suffering wife Sofia to do the actual rewriting – by hand. 
  6. Avoid socio-consequential prosaic formulations that use long words and complex ideo-formulaic constructions. You are not writing an academic PhD.
  7. Have fun. Be playful with your words and phrases. Let them dance and enjoy themselves – oh, you outrageous rollocking racoons!
  8. Tell a story. “I was in my bedroom when my father rushed in and shouted ‘Come down! You’ve got to see this!’. I was eight years old, always willing to be excited, but never had I expected to see our dog with our kitten sleeping on his head. It was the start of a life-long devotion to the study of animal behaviour.”
  9. Use links. You can embed one into the text by using control K to highlight a word or phrase and Control C then V to copy and paste the link in. Two, perhaps even five is fine, but not twenty. That’s a bit much.
  10. Print a copy and read it aloud. This will tell you whether it flows along like a pleasant piece of music or clunks along like a reluctant blog that needs a trip to the repair shop. You could also ask a friend to read it before you send it off. You never know – they may think it’s great!
  11. Don’t be shy to use spelchek. Don’t Use Capitals except for unique names. You wanted so desperately to visit a park you’d never been to before, so you settled on Eve’s Park.  
  12. Choose an image to accompany your story. To be clear about copyright, use Google Image search, click ‘Tools’, then  ‘Usage rights’, then ‘Labelled for reuse’. If you want to be creative, drag the image into a Powerpoint page and play around with it to make something creative. Then use Grab or a screen-capture app to turn your new image into a jpeg. 

We look forward to receiving your first submission. Please send it to

Yes, even you, who is currently thinking “I could never write a blog!”

Every blog will be posted to our YES Facebook page, and the best will find a hallowed place on our website.


The YES Nature Photo Contest

The Yellow Point Ecological Society is happy to announce the $250 Winner of our Nature Photo Contest: 

Lynda Stevens, for her gorgeous photo of a Salmonfly Cicada resting on an Oregon Grape flower.

Lynda lives in South Nanaimo, and she got seriously into amateur photography when she moved here from Nelson five years ago, starting with her love of birds then moving onto insects. 

She loves the parks and trails around Cedar and Yellow Point, and she took the photo in early spring close to the Coco Café in Cedar, at the start of the Morden Colliery Regional Trail, using an ordinary point-and-shoot camera – a Sony RX104 with a variable range lens. 

Congratulations, Lynda!


Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act

Forest Practices Act

The BC Ministry of Forests is asking for our thoughts on how they should reform the Forest and Range Practices Act, with a deadline of Monday July 15th for comments.

To help in your considerations these are our suggested changes, drawing on thoughts from the Sierra Club, the Ancient Forests Alliance, the Forest Practices Board, and others.

Because we live in a democracy:

Continue reading “Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act”


An Opportunity to Build Homes in the Forest – with UPDATE

21 Acres Lane


This parcel of land has been sold in a way that makes us very happy. A German couple who have roots on the Island have bought the 21 Acres for the sole purpose of preserving the forest, and creating a partnership with Wildwood to practice ecoforestry on the land..

There’s a 21-acre parcel of forested land on the market in Yellow Point, at the end of Roper Road. Yellow Point is a jewel of a rural area that’s like a Gulf Island without the ferries, 20 minutes north of Ladysmith, 25 minutes south of Nanaimo.

The land has not been logged for years, and fifty years ago it was managed by Merv Wilkinson, of Wildwood fame. As Yellow Point residents, we would love to welcome new people to the area who share our appreciation and respect for the forest.



CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Mary Marcotte,

on winning the election!


Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in CVRD Area H? We assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses. Continue reading “CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018”


RDN Area A Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Keith Wilson,

on winning the election!

RDN Area A

Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in Regional District of Nanaimo Area A? We have assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses.  Continue reading “RDN Area A Local Election, 2018”


Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions


It cools us in the summer, it warms our hearts all year,

It provides a home for owls and flowers, for herons, cedars, fir.

It shapes the landscape, painting peace, away from the urban rush,

It protects our water all year round, surrendering it clear and fresh.

In Japanese, the word shinrin means forest and yoku means bath, so shinrin-yoku means ‘forest bath’: being immersed in the forest with all our senses. Listening to its quietness, seeing the variety of trees, mosses, lichens and rocks, tasting the air as you breathe in deeply, touching the rough Douglas fir and the smooth red arbutus, going barefoot across the earth, dipping your feet in a forest stream, lying down to gaze up at its beauty. Such bathing brings healing to the body, heart, mind and soul.

Quite Distressing

Continue reading “Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions”


Poetry in the Forest

PoetryThese are the poems that we shared in the forest on a wonderful May morning full of wildflowers. Enjoy!

At Blackwater Pond

by Mary Oliver, a poet from Ohio, aged 82

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands.
I drink a long time.
It tastes like stone, leaves, fire.
It falls cold into my body, waking the bones.
I hear them deep inside me, whispering …
Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?


That Patch of Wilderness

by Lacey Clark, a young woman who lives in a tiny home the Cowichan Valley

We are like that patch of wilderness
Though the streets are paved with concrete
I see the vibrant bursts of life push their way through the cracks
with unfaltering determination
Bold in their blatant disregard
At mans attempt to cover their wildness
Though I may shade my softness with downturned lashes
I too
Yearn to push through the cracks of my lids
To share the light of my sameness
To be recognized from under the concrete
Of my expression
As the brambles of the blackberry
I too
Can yield a thorny exterior
Vines of prickles may climb my words
An attempt to protect the sweet fruit that is
May the birds of truth steal the seeds
of my longing and spread them far
That I may grow
Over the earth
I see you, the wilderness
Breathing deep under the city
Your time of hibernation almost up
I feel your listlessness.
Deep in my bones

Prayer of the Woods

By Veiga Simoes, a Portuguese writer, journalist, politician, diplomat and historian. While he was the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin, he signed visas that saved many Jews in World War II. This poem was written in May, 1914.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,
and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,
the board of your table, the bed on which you lie,
and the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.

My Heart Soars

by Chief Dan George, past chief of the Tsleil-Waututh (slay-wah-tooth) First Nation, an actor, poet and author.

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.

The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me.

And my heart soars.


By Alfred Joyce Kilmer, American poet. He wrote this poem in 1913; he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in July 1918, while serving in World War One, at the age of 31.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Something About A Forest

By Sophia White, 18 years old; she lives in the Appalachian Mountains in America

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the turbulent soul fall still
And listen to the mournful dirge
Of the solemn whipporwhill.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes closed eyes want to look
At the rippling, tippling kaleidescope
Of the steady-flowing brook.

There’s just something about a forest
Than makes the angry gazes see
The regal and majestic might
Ot the ancient maple tree.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the most stubborn will learn
To praise the bashful beauty
Of the pale green, newborn fern.

There’s just something about a forest
That awakens weary souls
With the fresh rejuvenation
That only a forest holds.

The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers

by Ray Lucero, an American poet

During a spring day walk through a primeval rain forest,
We encountered on a steep hillside two old growth trees,
One a Western Red Cedar the other a Douglas Fir.
Incredibly the two giants seemed joined together near ground level.
How could this be?
After all they were of two different species!

Our minds quickly filled with possibilities;
Were they just fused for mutual support?
Were they some kind of cross breed,
If so could they propagate?

We concluded that they were married.
“For better or worse, in sickness or in health”
Unheard wedding vows save for their tall fellows,
Standing silent witness.

We imagined their roots beneath ground,
Forever entwined in lifelong bliss.

We pondered what might happen when age and disease,
Toppled one of these magnificent lovers?
Would the other grieve?
Would the surviving lover stand witness…
As flora and fauna lay claim to the bountiful offering,
Of the fallen giant sacrificed to them?

Would the surviving lover wither and die or choose life?

We then realized that diversity, cooperation, and love are
Earthly traits celebrated by all living plants and animals.

We left the forest in awe and inspired by,
“The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers”

How Can It Be Time?

By Doug Makaroff, an urban planner and developer who lives in Victoria. Doug founded the Elkington Living Forest Community, a forest ecological hamlet south of Shawnigan Lake, which saved 800 acres of forest by the use of residential clustering on 15% of the land.

How can it be time
for the acorns to bud already?
The summer’s only just begun
and not weeks since the precious
pale leaves of May emerged.
But now the next generation appears
small firm green expressions of fertility
held sunward by dappled waxen leaves
hardening against a backdrop of grizzled bark.
The grass beneath the trees
withers but is not dead.
The camas flower too will see another season.
This landscape unfolds in so many
stages of birth, life, decay, death combined.
Oh, that my heart could grasp and hold the
mystery of the self-addressed envelope of LIFE.

One final paragraph of advice

By Edward Abbey, an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, his criticism of public land policies, and his anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by many environmental groups.

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out.
Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.
Save the other half for yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

While you can.

While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizzly, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breath deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.

I promise you this: you will out live the bastards.


We Heard No Owls

By Richard Arnold, an English prof at VIU, a great environmentalist and a fabulous man who died last year. He led many hikes up Mount Benson for the VIU community. Rachel Cooper, one of our Yellow Point Ecological Society members, says that this poem about the owls became real for her after Wyndlow’s logged 40 acres at the end of Doole Rd.

We did not hear a single owl this winter.
Our neighbor logged his hundred acres clean,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He claims that he’ll make pastureland to rent, or
Turn into trenches sprouting soybeans:
And we heard not a single owl this winter.

Trees gone, the man is not afraid to enter
Where once he heard weird cries and sweeping wings–
The place where midnight wild has lost its splendor.

Always the Great Horned whooped beyond our window,
Bass rhythmic mutters in our December dreams–
But we heard not a single owl this winter.

What fiend would scorch a gorgeous wood to cinders?
Quiet snows bereft of feathered hunters mean
That our deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He goes to church, yet God knows he’s a sinner;
The stars frown down on this diminished scene;
We did not hear a single owl this winter,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.


A Wolf in the Choir

by Richard Arnold

Although essentially I hated school,
I had one brilliant outlaw for a teacher.
“When it comes to truth, I’m lazy,” he used to say.
“I find it in close-by, ordinary things.”

The Literature he showed us was thunderclouds
Swollen like dark cheeks with a prodigious message
In the fearful moments of silence before they open
With tongues of fire to teach the listening earth.

In Economics he taught us the constant debit
Of forests and rivers, the credit of concrete and greenhouse.

Religion we learned by standing in April rain,
Hats off, in silence, seeing it soak the ground.

Politics, he claimed, would quickly go extinct
If we all simply heard the steady song
Our reason sang, then tuned our living to it.

In Music, he’d talk about the genius of Bach-
But weep for joy when he heard the evening grosbeak.

Our Sociology was dropping to hands and knees
On beaches to watch the yellow sand-verbena
Fling its fragrance of sex to pollinators.

The years passed on. At last we graduated.
We packed the hall, and our commencement speaker
Talked stagnantly about how noble Science
Was waiting for us to run its budgets of billions
And ride in rockets to learn the universe.

But afterward, shaking his head, our teacher took us
Aside and quietly gave us our last lesson.

“Science? The universe?
Ride a fifty-cent bus to the creek and study the eyes
Of a wolf-spider preparing to launch on a cricket.”

Then sidled away, hunch-shouldered, almost arachnoid,
Leaving us (our first moult finished) with fledgling fangs
To pierce and suck the truth in uncouth ways.

Nature’s Greetings Cards

The Salt Spring author, naturalist and artist Briony Penn has kindly allowed us to convert some of her beautiful illustrations into three sets of greetings cards, which we are selling as a fundraiser for YES. $20 for each set of five cards.

Set 1 is out of print. To buy a set, decide which you want (set 2 or 3) and include this in your messaging:

  • Call Carolyn 250-924-4478 and pick them up at 13561 Barney Road (off Yellow Point Road), or
  • Mail $25 ($20 + $5 postage) to the Yellow Point Ecological Society, 13561 Barney Road, Ladysmith V9G 1E9, or
  • E-transfer $25 to or
  • Send $25 to the YES PayPal account with the Buy Now button. (Ignore the word ‘membership’.)Buy Now Button
Set 2: Woodland Creatures
Set 3: Marine Wonders
Set 1: Garry Oaks and Wildflowers

Community Planning for the Future We Want

By Guy Dauncey

Published in Take 5 Magazine, April 2022

Let’s start with a test: what does OCP stand for? Old Cobbler Pudding? Off-duty Celibates Party? No, it stands for Official Community Plan, the draft of which concerns everyone who lives in the Cowichan Valley outside of North Cowichan, Duncan, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith.

A good OCP is an inspiring vision of a community’s future. A bad OCP is a book of waffle that make your brain weary and includes no commitments to act. We want the good one, not the other kind.

The CVRD planners have written the first draft of CVRD Bylaw 4373, which you can print and read. During April they are offering 14 opportunities to participate in on-line workshops, two for each of seven of the OCP’s eight Goals. You can sign in and register for a workshop here.

It opens with a Vision Statement: “Surrounded by thriving natural environments and farmlands, the Cowichan Valley is a collective of vibrant and distinct communities.” That’s pretty good. It continues: “Our connection to nature is at the heart of our identity … growth is incremental and managed … resilience to emerging trends will define our community’s future.”

So let’s dive in! Goal #1 is ‘Mitigate and Adapt to the Climate Crisis’, and the workshops are on Wednesdays April 13th and 27th, 6pm-7:30pm. Are the actions and policies proposed sufficient to reduce our climate pollution from transportation and natural gas by 40% by 2030, within 8 years? What more is needed? That’s for you to decide.

Goal #2 is ‘Manage Infrastructure Responsibly’, and the workshops are on Tuesdays April 5th and 19th, 6pm-7:30pm. This is about solid waste, recycling, sewage, energy, drinking water, and stormwater. It’s also about our aquifers and watersheds, and ecologically destructive logging practices that cause flooding, harm fish habitat, and wash forest topsoil into the ocean. Go to Cowichan Bay after a massive rainstorm and you’ll see what I mean, as the topsoil from forest clearcuts is washed down the Koksilah River, driving the sealions away and turning the ocean brown.

Goal #3 is ‘Make Distinct, Complete Communities’, which addresses – among other things – the affordable housing crisis. The text reads “Compared to the rest of BC, housing is generally more affordable for owners, but somewhat worse for renters,” which might be true if this was the 1980s. Are the policies sufficient to end the crisis? The workshops are on Wednesdays April 6th and 20th, 6pm-7:30pm

Goal #4 is Expand Mobility Options. This addresses the reality that 90% of our trips are by private vehicle, producing 79% of our dangerous greenhouse gases; that transit is minimal; that safe separated bike paths are few and far between; and that the CVRD has almost no jurisdiction in this area. The OCP also includes measures the CVRD can advocate for, however. How can we make it easier for people travel by bus and bike? The workshops are on Thursdays April 7th and 21st, 6pm-7:30pm.

Goal #5 is Protect and Restore Natural Assets – our forests and rivers, creeks and wetlands. What must we do to protect our watersheds, and the ecological integrity of the forest? How can we protect the frogs, the bees, and the native plants the birds depend on? The workshops are on Saturdays April 9th and 23rd, 10am–11:30am.

Goal #6 is Strengthen Local Food and Agricultural Systems. We all love our farmers, yet we import 95% of our food. What changes are needed so that they can grow much more local food? What would it take for farm workers to be able to live on the farms where they work? The workshops are on Saturdays April 9th and 23rd, 1pm-2:30pm.

Goal #7 is Enhance Regional Prosperity, which is about business, and the supposed need for more industrial land to build warehouses to store all the things we buy from Amazon. How can we make our economy green and circular, with zero waste? The workshops are on Tuesdays April 12th and 26th, 6pm-7:30pm.

Goal #8 is Improve Governance and Implementation, which is how the goals and policies will be implemented and progress will be measured. There are no workshops for this.

If you read the draft OCP you’ll be better equipped to participate. If you have ideas for change, bring them with you. The OCP lays the foundation for our region’s zoning bylaws, local area plans, and development permit areas, so it matters. Ideally, it stands for Obtainable Community Progress. Let’s make it so! See .

Re-Wilding with Native Plants – A new Perspective For Yards

By Sabine Alstrom

Published in Take 5 Magazine, August 2021

As a nature lover who has enjoyed native plants for many years, I have noticed that the vast majority of gardens feature hardly any native flora in their designs.

Even more intriguing is the fact that this includes the gardens of people who genuinely care for our natural world and who understand the urgent need to preserve wildness.

The most likely reason is our conditioning from childhood onwards by the gardens around us, which focus on the decorative value of plants, never their ecological function. Nurseries strengthen this cultural mantra by promoting showy flowering species that are native to Asia, the Mediterranean, the tropics and so on.

And why not? I hear you say. After all, they are beautiful to look at. Plus, one might add, they garner respect and admiration from neighbours and visitors, enhancing our status. Regarding native plants, the cultural imperative seems to be: not in my backyard.

But here’s the big catch: introduced plants are not good at providing food for the native animals that drive our ecosystems. A full third of our wild bees are specialists, meaning their larvae, the next bee generation, can only feed on the pollen of certain native plant lineages. Over hundreds of thousands of years, they have evolved with these local plants in a win-win relationship. Bees get pollen, food for their larvae, from specific plant genera or even from a single species, while the plants ensure that their pollen is spread mostly in their own genus, guaranteeing seed production and propagation.

Now, picture a little newly emerged specialist bee, single-mindedly searching for the particular native flower it needs to rear its brood. If this mother bee can’t find those plants, it can’t fulfill the purpose of its short life: nest-building, egg laying and provisioning the babies with a pile of pollen food. When this little bee dies, so will future generations with it.

This scenario is happening around us millions of times, around the neighbourhood, the country and sadly, the world.

For the wild specialist bees, the most stunning introduced plants might as well be made of plastic. Our love affair with foreign plants is killing our bees by leaving them without food. To make things worse, many common introduced garden plants, like periwinkle, mountain bluet, yellow archangel and others, have become invasive inside and outside of gardens, forming smothering carpets that might otherwise be populated by native plants supporting ecosystem function.

Generalist bees, like mason bees, bumblebees or the non-native honey bee fare a little better, as they can make use of the pollen and nectar of some introduced plants. But along with most other insects, all are doomed by the pesticides and insecticides we liberally apply to our gardens for the sake of sterile prettiness and a perfect lawn.

Is it any wonder that an insect apocalypse is happening everywhere?

And yet, we don’t have to despair. There are some powerful positives that can fuel a turnaround:

We are lucky because the insects, although decimated are still around.

We control what grows in our gardens, and we can choose biodiversity over ecological destruction.

We can replace parts of our lifeless lawns and ornamentals with native plants, including shrubs and trees, that are the host plants for caterpillars, which are the indispensable food for baby birds. Introduced plants are essential useless at supporting the caterpillars of our native moths and butterflies.

We can opt against chemical poisons and for a natural variety of insect life, without which by the way, we humans would quickly be “toast”.

Oh, and did I mention that we have the most stunning native plants right here on the Island? They grow in my garden, but we hardly see them in nature anymore. When did you last notice such beauties as Woolly Sunflower, Farewell-to-Spring, Camas, Yellow Monkeyflower or Mountain Sneezeweed in the wild?

Let’s bring them back, and the wild bees, along with countless other insects, will find them. Let’s endow them wit the high status they truly deserve!

Sabine Alstrom lives in Duncan. For free help with your garden or more information, please contact her at

Holiday Greetings, Christmas 2021!

We know that everyone’s holiday celebrations are being severely limited by the Omicron variant of the virus, so that’s all the more reason to pour some love into your family’s stocking. 

Credits: Raven: Stacey Sheets      Owl: Marcia Callewaert     Eagle: Cheryl Brandt     Orca: Colosimo 

The Twelve Days of a Yellow Point Christmas

Here’s a sing-along for your family over the holidays, compiled by members of the Yellow Point Ecological Society: 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, a raven in an ancient cedar tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, two clear streams, and a raven in an ancient cedar tree.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, three winter wrens
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, four hooting owls
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, five forests green
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, six frogs a-hopping
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, seven salmon spawning
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, eight hummers humming
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, nine seals a swimming
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, ten eagles swooping
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, eleven hikers hiking
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, whales a-breaching …

  • We are exploring the possibility that a VIU master’s student could do a practicum project to look into the feasibility of purchasing forested land before it’s logged, to establish the forest as a Yellow Point Green Burial and Memorial Park.
  • We are exploring ways to stop the frogs from being squashed as they cross Tiesu Road. 
  • At our suggestion, the Nanaimo Area Land Trust is looking into ways to make Conservation Covenants on forested lands cheaper and easier to implement. 
  • We are making good progress on The Yellow Point Trail – we have been awarded $400,000 from the Area H gas tax, and a feasibility study will be done by BOCA Engineering in 2022, with construction scheduled to start on the first portion of the trail in 2023.
  • YES has been asked to become a Project Champion for Active Transportation for BC. We’ll find out what that means in due course!
  • The Harmonized OCP for the CVRD has been approved by our Regional Directors, and the process of creating a new Modernized OCP will now begin, for which YES has been invited to form a Community Circle to gather your ideas.
  • We are holding our AGM on Thursday January 27th at 7pm, with guest speaker Suzanne Simard, Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia, author of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Suzanne is one of the world’s leading forest ecologists, who has forever changed how people view trees, their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest–a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery. Registration details to follow.
  • Our presentation by the wonderful Alexandra Morton on The Joy of Wild Salmon can be found here: She has been called “the Jane Goodall of Canada” because of her passionate thirty-year fight to save British Columbia’s wild salmon. Her account of that fight in Not on My Watch: How a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon is an inspiring roadmap of resistance.
  • Our presentation on Save the Cable Bay Trail Area – What’s Happening? can be found here: 
  • Our presentation on What’s Happening at Fairy Creek? with Elder Bill Jones, Kathy Code, and David Suzuki chiming in, can be found here: 
  • Our presentation on The Mushrooms of British Columbia, with Andy MacKinnon and Kem Luther, can be found here:, and their new book can be found here: 

Wildwood wants your help to  repatriate six acres to Wildwood

From The Ecoforestry Institute Society: Right next to Wildwood, there are 6 acres of old growth forest that are are critical to save – and we have limited time! Once brought back, the old growth trees will be safe for the rest of their natural lives. The Ecoforestry Institute will implement the same extensive covenants as they do in their other Wildwood Trust protections. The land is a biodiverse, ancient forest with trees older than 500 years, in a very precarious landscape which is becoming increasingly rare on Vancouver Island. Your donation, if you can help us,  will be matched up to $30,000 by other generous donors.

The Hidden Life of Trees – The Movie

Based on forester Peter Wohlleben’s bestselling book The Hidden Life of Trees, the film follows Wohlleben through forests in Europe and BC as he contends that trees are social beings who share food through their root systems, protect each other from insects and time their blossoming for bumper years that will outstrip animals’ ability to eat all the seeds. Wohlleben is not opposed to all logging, but points out that monoculture plantations are unhealthy; clear-cutting destroys the potential of young trees and heavy machinery does irreversible damage by compacting the soil. There are alternative approaches. A walk in the woods will never be the same after watching this film. The film is full of lovely images, macro close-ups and time-lapse photography. To watch on-line on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play or Vudu, click here:  Here’s the trailer:

Monday December 27 The Nanaimo Christmas Bird Count 

From Nature Nanaimo: Do you love watching birds? Then this is your chance! Here’s the map, stretching from Cedar to North Nanaimo:

Last year a few people were startled by people appearing to be looking at their houses with binoculars, but don’t worry – they are just interested in your bird feeder! Field observers cover a portion of the circle, counting all birds they find. Feeder watchers count birds at their feeders for a portion of the day. Bird species missed on the count day may be recorded during the count week, which is 3 days either side of count day. These may be rare birds or just something that was missed due to bad weather etc. Owl surveys are particularly valuable. They consist of early morning or evening surveys by listening for owls inside the count circle. Contact Heidi Vanvliet, cc to Bryan Vroom

Here’s some Peaceful Winter Music 

And to wrap things up, here’s a jolly Holiday Party Song!

We wish you a warm, peaceful and happy holiday, from all of us in the Yellow Point Ecological Society

No Mow May!

Nikki Toxopeus, Yellow Point Ecological Society 

First published in Take 5 – May 2021

No Mow May is fun and a lazy way to start the summer and is a fantastic way to help the birds and the bees.  It is also something we all have the skills to do and it will really help all the wildlife that depends on the creatures and plants in our gardens, meadows, and roadside ditches. If we delay mowing until after the end of May, we may be surprised how quickly Nature responds. So, is there a patch you can protect?

Spring is the season of breeding and feeding young. Birds need their nests undisturbed, and they need bugs and caterpillars to feed their young for a few weeks.  Bird feeders do not cut it for the baby birds.  There used to be a lot more food for the birds but insects are in decline.  Remember when there were many more bugs? All over our windshields? 

Fun facts

Chickadees need to feed their chicks about 500 caterpillars a day for at least two weeks. This can be more than 10,000 caterpillars. 

Land based insects are disappearing at a rate of 1% per year, due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat.

Globally, pollinator services are worth more than $200 billion a year. 

35% of our food depends on pollinators.


The Yellow Point Ecological Society supports the vision of the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Nature Conservancy of Canada to build a network of interconnected wild yards, hedgerows, fields, rights of way and roadsides that can be left undisturbed during the spring breeding season (and the fall too!). 

If we can make our backyards more pollinator friendly and chat to our neighbours to get them on board with our “new look”, we can have a big impact. Citizen science done by the British organization Plantlife shows that the simple act of No Mow May can increase the number of bees in your yard tenfold. Doug Tallamy’s book Nature’s Best Hope gives wonderful advice on the native species we should plant to turn our back yards into refuges for wildlife.  There is a growing body of knowledge and native plant supplies on Vancouver Island.  The Nanaimo Area Land Trust has started a Pollinators Paradise project, to promote the use of native pollinator-friendly plants and other ways to support pollinators.  They are launching their project web page this month – so watch this space

The Ministry of Transportation is also part of the solution. They are responsible for keeping the vegetation within 1.8 m of the road below 25 cm high, for traffic safety. In May, the Contractors are usually busy cleaning up the gravel and controlling the dust along the roadsides and do not start mowing until June. They delay mowing so they only mow once a season (and save the taxpayers’ money).  Often, they cannot mow for most of the summer due to fire hazards, so the vegetation is brushed or mowed in August or September. If rights of way were planted with low, resilient shrubs and herbaceous native plants which do not need mowing, this might also keep invasive species from dominating.  The Contractor I spoke to said he had worked in areas with healthy ecosystems, where the native vegetation grew in the rights of way and kept the invasive species away.  Invasive plant species do not suit native wildlife but that is a topic for another day.

For now, it would be great to grow the support for No Mow May. It is an easy way to help protect wildlife and their habitats during the sensitive breeding season.  If we must mow, we should mow as high as possible. It will be better for the lawn, and the ground dwelling bees. Perhaps we can create refuges in spaces away from the lawn.  In this way we can mitigate the biodiversity crisis and save our money, time, and energy.

Canadian Wildlife Federation Grow It, Don’t Mow it:

Why ‘No Mow May’ could be a boon for Toronto’s bumble bee populations

No Mow May – How to get ten times more bees on your lock down lawn

Nanaimo Area Land Trust:

For Love of The Forest

How Can We Protect the Forest on Private Land? On Vancouver Island, forests are threatened with being clearcut on private land, as well as on Crown Land and Private Managed Forest Land. We created this short video in 2019 to highlight the ways in which we can protect the forest.