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The Art of Seeing Aphids

by Pamela Walker

Ants harvesting aphids. Alexanderwild.com

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. Genesis,1:20 KJV

One bug that can really get under the skin of even the most zealous gardening environmentalist is the dreaded aphid. Before you can say Chrysantheumum cinerariifolium, these nature lovers are getting out their vacuum cleaners, their concoctions of garlic, soap, water and hot peppers, their jumbo-sized boxes of ladybugs, their high-pressure washers—anything, indeed—with which to annihilate the pesky blighters. 

            While it is true that the tiny creatures can suck the life out of a rose or a greenhouse-load of peppers in a matter of days, what is also true is they are incredibly interesting. A moment or two’s reflection should be taken before extirpating countless generations with a garden hose or blow torch. 

            Did you know, for example, that if one were to dissect a female of the species (another sure-fired way to ensure the last suck she’ll take is an inhalation of air), you may be able to see another female, like a Russian doll, inside her beautiful green body? Yes, aphids give birth, not to eggs, but to live offspring, just like whales, elephants and humans. If that alone isn’t enough to stop the aphicide, there is more—much more—to this lowly creature that may make you press pause on your pathological derision.

Parthenogenesis in biblical proportions

            Aphids are in such a hurry to make babies that sometimes, when it’s summertime and there’s plenty of sucking to do, they don’t even bother with the whole business of finding a mate, courting, procreating, obligatory après-cigarette, etc. They simply give birth without the use of a male or his sperm. Without Y-chromosomes, the offspring are always female, but who doesn’t love little girls, especially when they, too, can do this parthenogenesis trick to reproduce in numbers that are practically biblical in proportion?

            This is not the only bar trick that aphids have up their proverbial sleeves. Have you ever seen an aphid with wings? Probably not, because you’re too busy squishing the bejesus out of them. But if you do look, you may notice that some are winged and some are not. This is because they can decide—or rather their proteins decide—whether they need wings or not. If it’s getting too crowded in one greenhouse and they think it prudent to set up shop elsewhere, aphids can produce offspring with wings. Although they may not win any awards for aerial acrobatics, they can harness an afternoon breeze to land on another patch of succulent vegetables, and before you know it, they’ve got a franchise up and running.

            When I was a small child—before the time of Sputnik, Luna, and Apollo missions—little green men, I was told, lived on our cheese-made moon. In my imagination, the little green men – who were much smaller than the gullible Gulliver’s Lilliputians – kept aphids as pets and took them for walks using little tiny leashes. I would watch them for hours and imagine how small their food bowls and collars must be. 

Would you like some honeydew?

            Being quite scatological (a word I learned while taking my BA), Jonathan Swift would have been fascinated to know that aphids drink a kind of Milk of Paradise and they poo a kind of honeydew. Ants, having quite the sweet tooth, unabashedly lick up all the poo the aphids produce and encourage them to make more by herding them to more succulent spots. Ants have also been known to protect their herds of aphids by caring for them in their ant-homes during the winter and bringing them out to graze again in the spring, like any good farmer. 

            How I wish I could tell Swift that aphids have tailpipes—tubular structures on their hind ends that entomologists call siphunculi—out of which they can spew a sticky substance, either to gum up the mouth of a pursuing predator or to protect their bodies from being made into a host home by  a parasitoid for its own offspring. 

            Right about now you are probably thinking that this is the stuff of science-fiction, but I assure you it is all true. I asked my sister to verify it, and though she’s a geneticist and not an entomologist, she knew most of what I said and was unsurprised at the rest. “Not enough work has been done on the aphid,” she said. “I should have gotten some of my students to research them.”

What did the aphid do in the bar-room brawl?

            Research them they should! How else are we supposed to learn how aphids defend themselves against those that consider them lunch? So far scientists have learned that they are quite good at bar-room brawls. Being expert kickboxers, they can pummel their pursuers with their long legs or do the stop-drop-and-roll trick and make a fast get-away. They’ve been seen stabbing their enemies in the egg cartons, killing the next generation of insects in vitro. Some aphids develop spines so that their enemies find them difficult to chew on. Some are born soldiers and never grow past the nymph stage. Like female eunuchs, these particular aphids have a sole purpose in life: to protect the oikos, which they do to their death. 

            With a list of enemies that include ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, hoverflies and damsel bugs, not to mention the aforementioned (so-called) gardening environmentalists, I do believe we should study these unbelievable bugs before we bash or blast them into oblivion. Aphids may not be welcomed as pests in our garden, but they do, like all creatures great and small, deserve our admiration.

The End

How to detect an infestation

If you see a sticky substance—the honeydew—on the leaves of your plant, look closely forgreen, pink, or even black dots. Chances are these are aphids. The leaves of the plant may have become misshapen, crinkly, or yellow from the sap being sucked out of them. Another possibility is that the honeydew may have attracted dust from molds. Still another possibility is that the plant has developed a canker sore as a result of all the aphid destruction.

What to Do

After you’ve appreciated your aphids, you can usually wash them off with the spray attachment on a garden hose. Failing that, squish them or sprinkle flour on top of them. The flour will give them indigestion, and they’ll move along. Other methods include wiping them off with a mixture of dish soap and water, or using a spray of insecticidal soap. As a last resort, diatomaceous earth (DE) can be sprinkled on the plant, but don’t do this if the plant is flowering as it will be harmful to beneficial pollinators as well.

            Plant something nearby that aphids don’t like. Aphids hate catnip, garlic and chives. Nasturtiums and mustards can be planted alongside to save broccoli, roses, lettuces, or peas. Check your trap plants often, and get rid of any aphids promptly before they attack the plants you want to save.

            You can attract ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, or other beneficial bugs to your gardens by planting marigolds, alyssum, dill, mint, fennel, Echinacea, calendula and buckwheat.

A Yellow Point Trail

Update, October 1st 2021

Citizen Survey

A few keen local citizens donned their hiking boots and clip boards and walked the proposed trail from the Chuckwagon Store to the Crow & Gate. They were looking for two things: the answer to the questions, “If we had a trail on just one side, which would it be?” and “What natural and man-made impediments are in the way of creating a trail. Everything from culverts to boulders to hydro poles and fences was carefully marked on maps. The information was put onto a map using GIS technology by Carrie-Lynn Robinson, a VIU GIS (Geographic Information Systems) along with actual photos of the troubled spots. It is hoped that all this work will save money in the long run when we put the “shovels in the ground.”

Our conclusion is that a widened shoulder is feasible, but we need a feasibility study for the separated multi-use trail, which may need some detours.  We presented the survey results at the second meeting of the Joint Management Committee in April with MOTI, RDN and CVRD,  and we are working with the RDN and CVRD Directors for support to apply for Active Transportation Funds or Gas Tax to fund this. We also presented a proposed Terms of Reference for the Committee and need further board approvals to move forward on this. 

Widening More Shoulder

MOTi has now complete the shoulder from Haslam to Yellow Point Road on one side, and plans to install a shoulder on the other side back to Code Rd and then to the Highway. There is a path on both sides of the road from Quennel to Yellow Point Road. 

Trans Canada Trail Link

We have had discussions with CVRD and RDN staff in regards to the Trans Canada Trail. The trail could come from Ladysmith to the Diamond and along to Cedar, across the highway to the Park and Ride, along the secondary road to the east of the highway to the airport, around the airport on a dedicated trail to the golf course, and then down Haslam Road and along Cedar Rd. This change in the route would mean that the Trail would not have to stop at the Nanaimo River where it waits for money for a bridge to be put in. Funds already allocated for the bridge could be used to create a dedicated off-road path instead. A path through the airport lands has already been proposed and is awaiting approval from the Nanaimo Airport Board. More on this soon!

Yellow Brooms

Yellow Brooms have been put up around Cedar Road where the pavement has been widened to accommodate bicycles and buggies and buddies walking side-by-side. To keep the path free of gravel, we have installed a few yellow brooms. Help everyone out by brooming away the rocks as you roll by.  Together, we can make it better.

Yellow Point Trail Video

We are making a short video about the need for the Yellow Point Trail . If you’re interested in seeing your name in lights, give Pam a call. 250 245-9155.

Support for the Trail

New Yellow Point Trail business cards have been designed and printed. We are handing them out to people in the area who are interested in and would like to know about the trail. If you’d like some, let us know; we have a limited supply.

We are planning a future public meeting on the trail. If you would like to be on our mailing list please sign up and indicate your interests on the form HERE.

Update, December 18th 2020

The RDN, CVRD and Ministry of Transportation have approved YES leadership of the new Joint Management Committee, and our goal now is to find $28,000 to pay for a Feasibility Study for the proposed trail.

Thanks to all the Yellow Bikes publicity and community support, the Ministry of Transportation decided to prioritize adding a paved bike lane to Cedar Road between Code Road and Haslam Road, which is now complete, and just awaits painting. We have asked if they can extend it up into Cedar, but that will depend on their next year’s budget. We asked if they could paint a double white line to separate the bike path from the road to create more safety for cyclists, but they resisted, saying it would cost an extra $50,000, which was not in their budget. We still aspire to have a properly separated multi-purpose trail along that stretch.

Previous Updates

The community response to the Yellow Bikes, the article in Take 5 Magazine, and on the Cedar and Yellow Point Facebook groups has been very positive. 90% of the comments on Facebook are either enthusiastically supportive, or supportive as long is taxes are not raised to pay for a trail.

We have a strong committee guiding our way forward. Thanks to everyone who is helping!

On September 15th we presented to the RDN Board, where we received a very positive response. A Notice of Motion was proposed that the RDN name one person to join the Joint Management Committee, and offer its support for the project. This will be voted on at the next RDN Board Meeting on October 27th

On September 15th we presented to the CVRD Electoral Area Services Committee, where we received a similarly positive response, referring our request to the CVRD Board on October 14th. This is the slide deck that we presented:

Our Vision

We have a vision of safe, healthy, sustainable travel and recreation in the Yellow Point area – and everywhere.

We believe there is a strong need in Yellow Point for a safe separated trail that could be used by walkers, cyclists, mobility devices and, in some areas, horse riders.

Practically, there may need to be a combination of trail designs to suit local conditions and the cost of building, with a separated trail in some areas and a widened shoulder in others. The trail’s development could also be phased to address areas of higher need first. 

The Proposed Route

We propose a 22 kilometres multi-use trail connecting local parks, schools, businesses, markets and community centres, in a circular route around Yellow Point and Cedar roads, with 10 km of connectors: 

(a) from the Chuckwagon to the Highway 1 / Cedar Rd S. Park and Ride and to Nanaimo airport/bus stop

(b) From Cedar Road N. to Macmillan Road, on the way to the Duke Point Ferry.

The Tofino-Ucluelet Trail

Local Connections

The trail would connect users to nine parks, including Hemer, Roberts Memorial, Yellow Point Park, Wildwood Ecoforest, and the Ladysmith Bog Ecological Reserve, and to:

  • Farms, farm stands, agricultural recreation, McNab’s corn maze
  • Schools – Cedar Elementary and Secondary, North Oyster and Woobank
  • The softball fields in Cedar
  • Churches –  Cedar United and St Phillip’s Anglican
  • Cedar and North Oyster community centres
  • Businesses, stores and markets, including 49th Parallel Grocers and Friesen’s
  • Resorts and campsites, including Yellow Point Lodge, Zuiderzee, Inn on the Sea
  • Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants, including the Crow and Gate, Coco Café, Slice Resto, the Mahle House, the Wheatsheaf and the Cranberry Arms.
Lake Minnetonka Regional Park Trail, Minnesota

Where Should the Trail Go?

The path would be built within the existing Right of Way (ROW), on land that is owned by the province. The roads along the proposed route are typically 6 metres wide on a 20 metres ROW, allowing 7 metres of space on either side for a trail. In some areas, the property lines are wonky, so the layout may need to vary.

In many places the roads are unsafe for non-car users, with blind hills, blind bends, narrow shoulders, and some drivers who are just going TOO FAST!

Cedar Rd has a fog line and narrow paved shoulder, but Yellow Point Road is mostly without a paved shoulder and is probably more dangerous.

Potential Path Users

  • Our kids walking to school
  • Cyclists commuting, exercising and volunteering and touring
  • Neighbours visiting
  • Dogwalkers going to the parks
  • Horseriders
  • Businesses and community services – bike repair, coffee shops, farm stalls, softball players
  • And so much more
A trail on Salt Spring

Future Potential Connections

In the long run, the train could connect to other present and future trails:

East Bay Bike Path, Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Gathering Support

We have received letters of support from

  • Paul Manly MP
  • Doug Routley ML
  • School District 68
  • Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce
  • Nanaimo Airport
  • Mahle House
  • North Oyster School PAC
  • Yonder Wood
  • 49th Parallel Grocery
  • Cedar United Church
  • Diane Andrews, Mid-Island Horse Country

What’s Next?

We need to:

  • Demonstrate sufficient local support for the project 
  • Engage key stakeholders including MOTi, CVRD and RDN to plan the project
  • Form a broader committee and a RDN Area A/CVRD Area H partnership, to advance the project,
  • Obtain funding for an initial Feasibility Study
  • Complete the various project stages, including
    • Planning and conceptual design 
    • Preliminary design
    • Detailed design
    • Tender and construction
  • Timeline could be from 2 to 10 years

Finding the Funding

We are looking for funds that are available for green infrastructure projects:  

  • BC Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant 
  • Gas tax 
  • COVID Community Infrastructure Grant
  • Other grants and donors

The Annual Bike vs. Bear Race

If you are interested to help, please contact Pamela Walker, 250-245-9155. If you’d like to share your thoughts, or make a comment, scroll down below to “Leave a Reply”. Thanks!

Wildflowers of Yellow Point

A wildflower may be defined as a flower that grows in the wild, not intentionally planted by humans. Included on this page are native, introduced, and invasive species of wildflowers that are found throughout the Yellow Point area. Please note that this is an ongoing project. Many (!) more ‘Wildflowers of Yellow Point’ will be added as time allows.

Also please note that although information regarding food and medicinal uses of plants is included for interest’s sake, the Yellow Point Ecological Society advises you to not ingest or otherwise use plants or their components without expert identification.

Fawn Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Erythronium oregonum

Status: Native plant

Description: The appearance of pairs of oblong, mottled leaves of the fawn lily is one of the first signs of spring in Yellow Point. The elegant white flowers, almost luminescent at night, arrive a short time later, usually in mid-late March. The white to pale yellow tepals (a term used when petals and sepals cannot be differentiated) curve upwards like the roof of a pagoda, exposing yellow anthers. Blossoms form in clusters of 1-3 per stem, with each flower measuring 2.5-5 cm across, on leafless stems up to 30 cm in height.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring fairly low elevations, the fawn lily naturally occurs in moist to dry grasslands and woodlands. It can be found in deep shade, but is generally found in sunny or partly shaded areas. Although it thrives in well-drained acidic soil rich in organic matter, it has been found in less favourable environments, including rocky areas. Its pollinators include bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. Erythronium species can be grown in containers from seeds, which can be sown immediately if conditions are dry, or in late summer. They take up to five years to flower, so planting for a native flower garden is considered a long term project. Bulb division is possible but not recommended.

Did you know? Pink fawn lilies are a separate species (Erythronium revolutum), and are occasionally seen in Yellow Point.

Threat: A local resident has seen rabbits feasting on the flowers, which she fears may lead to their gradual disappearance.

Erythronium revolutum

Shooting Star – Primrose Family (Primulaceae)

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, these intensely purple-pink (and occasionally white) flowers resemble a thrown dart. Clusters of petals arching out from a bright yellow base and a brown flower tube give the shooting star its appropriate moniker. February-March brings the soft green, thick, spoon-shaped leaves first on the forest floor, followed by the intriguing flowers on long thin, leafless stalks in April-May. Height at maturity is up to approximately 30cm, but usually less in Yellow Point.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid-elevations, these delicate plants can be found in grasslands and woodlands, and at forest edges. They prefer dry soil, and can be found in full sun and partial shade. Shooting stars evolved to attract certain species of solitary bees as well as bumblebees, who collect their pollen for their young. As shooting stars are a native species, they can be cultivated in native plant gardens, but it can take years to form a colony. Collect seeds in late spring, and plant in fall or early spring. Alternatively, bulblets can be divided very carefully and transplanted after flowering.

Did You Know? Successful pollination of shooting stars requires insects who are able to hang from below the flower and vibrate their wing muscles without moving their wings.  This mode of pollination, called sonication or buzz pollination, vibrates the flower, thereby shaking the pollen loose .  Here’s more on buzz pollination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZrTndD1H10

Common Camas – Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae)

Camassia quamash

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as small camas or blue camas, this gorgeous native perennial with edible bulbs is characterized by dark blue or violet star-shaped flowers, adorned with six slender tepals, a green centre, and bright yellow stamens. Arising from grass-like leaves and found on stout stems, multiple flowers open sequentially from bottom to top, and can reach heights of 60cm. Blooms begin in late spring and can last into early summer.

Habitat/Uses: Camas plants are relatively common in fragile Garry oak meadows. The meadow in Yellow Point Park that faces Yellow Point Road is a typical Garry oak meadow; camas flowers are found there in abundance in the spring. Camas are also found growing on rocky outcrops, in coastal mountain forests, and in marshy meadows inland. They grow in full sun to part shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soils, tolerating drier conditions as the plants become dormant in the summer. Plants are easy to grow from seed, and are deer- and rodent-resistant.

Historically, camas bulbs were an important carbohydrate food source for First Nations. According to “The camas harvest and pit cook” on http://www.camosun.ca, First Nations family groups traditionally ‘owned’ their own camas harvesting areas. Larger bulbs, which are similar in taste to potatoes, “were encouraged by using a pointed digging stick to loosen the soil and the use of selective harvesting.” According to the above website, only five percent of First Nations’ traditional camas harvesting lands are in the same state now as they were before European contact.

Death Camas – Bunchflower Family (Melanthiaceae)

Zigadenus venenosus

Status: Native plant

Description: Similar in morphological appearance to the common camas but yellow or white in colour, death camas bloom at the same time as common camas but are generally easy to distinguish from them when in bloom due to stark colour differences. Numerous 6-tepalled flowers arise from a single, unbranched stem, which can reach up to 70cm, but is generally much shorter in the Yellow Point area. Leaves are grass-like and V-shaped, 10-30cm long and 2-10mm wide. Bulbs, 1-4 cm in diameter, are similar to both edible common camas bulbs and wild onion bulbs, but contain several toxic alkaloids, including zygacine, a compound toxic to the nervous system. Because the entire plant contains toxins, it should not be handled. According to the US Forest Service, bulbs can remain toxic for at least 20 years.

Habitat/Cautions: Death camas can be found in a variety of habitats, including dry meadows, hillsides, forest edges, and open forests. It is found in terrains where common camas grow, including Garry oak meadows, and it is commonly found amongst patches of common camas. Interestingly, soil moisture appears to affect zygacine levels: in one study, at 2 of 5 study sites, a 45% decrease in soil moisture was associated with a 40% increase in zygacine levels. Because of its toxicity, the only known bee that can tolerate its toxins is the specialist mining bee, Andrena astragali. It is extremely toxic to animals, especially sheep, with consumption of 2-6% of the body weight of the animal likely to be fatal. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting bulbs, and children have been poisoned after ingesting flowers and flower buds.

Monkey Flower – Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae)

Mimulus guttatus

Status: Native plant

Description: The dainty, intensely yellow monkey flower is an herbaceous perennial that blooms in Yellow Point in early to late spring, and continues into early summer. Blossoms, 1-4 cm in length, form clusters at the tops of stems, which can reach 10cm. Each flower is a bright yellow funnel of five fused petals – two at the top, three at the bottom. The throat of the flower has bright maroon spots and can be quite hairy. Oppositely arranged oval leaves, 1-10cm in length, are generally yellowish-green. Margins are marked with large irregular teeth.

Habitat/Uses: Found from sea level to mid-elevations and preferring average to moist conditions, the monkey flower is found in wet open sites, including seepage areas, meadows, streambanks, springs, and ditches. Its preference is sun to part shade; it is not particular as to soil or pH. A good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, it can be used in native gardens as border edging, ground cover, mass planting, and in wet rocky/alpine terrain. It is self-seeding, and can also be propagated by division.

Did you know? The maroon markings in the throat of the flower are a dominant trait, controlled by a single gene. The expression of the gene is temperature dependent.

Seablush – Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Plectritis congesta

Status: Native plant

Description: A self-seeding annual herb appearing in early spring and lasting into early July, seablush flowers appear as swaths of small pink pom-poms that brighten often overcast and rainy spring days. Slender stems bear widely oval leaves, with rounded or pointed tips. Plants can reach a height of 60cm in some locales, but in Yellow Point the tallest plant would likely be in the range of 15-20cm. The flower head bears many tubular flowers, each with an upper and lower lobed lip. Three stamens tipped with purple anthers carry yellow pollen.

Habitat/Uses: A hardy plant, sea blush is found in various habitats, from damp grassy meadows near the ocean to dry rocky soils inland. Preferring sun (but tolerating shade), and often found in Garry oak meadows, it can be found from sea level to mid-elevation. Although seablush releases an odour that might be considered by us to be unpleasant (and certainly not consistent with its pretty appearance), sea blush is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bee species and butterflies.

Calypso Orchid/Fairy Slipper – Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)

Calypso bulbosa

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the early flowers to grace Yellow Point in the spring, the fragrant perennial Calypso orchid consists of three pointed, usually pink sepals, and two usually pink petals, found above a large hanging slipper-like lip, usually white or light pink with rusty or maroon streaks and spots. A yellow area is found near the opening of the ‘slipper’, and is decorated with three ridges bearing yellow hairs. The single stem, 5-21 cm in height, emerges from a single dark green, oval basal leaf, 2.5-6 cm in width, which develops in the fall and lasts through the winter . Both the leaf and stem grow from a thick, short underground stem, called a corm. If the corm becomes detached, as can happen from picking or trampling the flower, the whole plant usually dies.

Habitat/Uses: Calypso orchids are commonly found in dry to moist mossy forest habitats, at low to mid elevations. They grow well on decaying vegetation, such as on rotting logs and stumps, and tend to favour sheltered areas. They prefer light to heavy shade, but can also grow in direct sun. They do not transplant well, as they likely rely on specific soil fungi to survive. Individual plants generally live a short time in nature, approximately five years, with vigor generally waning after the first few years. Corms were used as a food source by First Nations.

Did you know? The genus name is derived from the sea nymph Calypso (meaning ‘to conceal’), daughter of Atlas, of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Fairy slippers do not produce nectar. Instead, the similarity of the flower shape and smell to other nectar-producing flowers lures pollinators, resulting in collection and distribution of their pollen.

California Poppy – Poppy Family (Papaveraceae)

Eschscholzia californica

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Not native to BC (its native range only officially as far north as Oregon) but impossible to miss, this intensely orange fast-growing annual or delicate perennial poppy grows 15-45cm tall, often in bunches. Flowers, solitary on long stems, consist of four silky petals, 2-6cm long and wide. Petals close at night and in cold weather, and open in the morning, although they can remain closed in overcast conditions. Generally, blooms can be found from late May into autumn. The lacy blue-green leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments.

Habitat/Uses: Drought-tolerant and easy to grow in sandy, poor-to-average, well-drained soil, seeds germinate with rain and warmth in the spring. They can be found at low to mid-elevations. In our climate, poppies can survive several years via a fleshy taproot. Alternatively, when happy in their habitat, self-seeding is a common phenomenon. In landscaping, they can be used in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens, and xeriscapes. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage new blooms, but collecting seeds from seed pods affords spread of more beautiful colour in the garden. After the risk of frost is past, press the seeds lightly into the soil and water gently. Blue-green foliage appears after approximately two weeks, followed by the spectacular orange flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant (possibly because all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals), these poppies attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Did you know? The California poppy became California’s official state flower in 1903.

Yarrow – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Achillea millefolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Appearing in June in Yellow Point, fragrant clusters of this flat-topped, perennial flower continue into late summer or early fall. Many white (and occasionally pinkish flowers) crowd into small flower heads; each small flower head in the cluster consists of three to eight tiny ray flowers with a strap-shaped petal. Feathery fern-like foliage is soft grey-green in colour, and aromatic. Plants can grow up to three feet wide, and three feet tall, but are generally much shorter and narrower in this area. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes.

Habitat/Uses: Yarrow’s highly adaptable nature allows it to grow in wet to dry soil; in meadows, forests, rocky hillsides, and disturbed areas; and at all elevations. Found across the northern hemisphere, yarrow has been used in various medical remedies: its genus name Achillea comes from the mythical Greek hero Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. According to the Royal BC Museum, First Nations peoples value yarrow as a medicine to treat sores, aching muscles, and toothaches, and as a mosquito repellent. Yarrow’s bountiful floral display offers excellent forage for pollinators, and the foliage is a source of food and habitat to many species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. Yarrow is an excellent choice for xeriscapes, and can be grown from seed or transplanted from rhizome divisions.

Chocolate Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Fritillaria affinis

Status: Native plant

Description: A relatively rare flower to encounter in Yellow Point, the perennial chocolate lily can be difficult to find as its purple-brown flowers, speckled with green or yellow, can easily blend into the landscape. Blooms can be seen in March-April, and are broadly bell-shaped, with six similar, distinct oblong tepals, 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. A long, yellowish-green nectar gland is found on the inner surface, near the base, along with six stamens and one pistil. Flowers can be single or multiple (up to eight) at the end of a sturdy stalk which can grow to 60 cm, but usually much shorter in Yellow Point. Lance-like or egg-shaped leaves are found in one or two whorls of 3-5, measuring 5-10 cm long, 0.5-3 cm wide. Also called rice-root, the plant grows from white bulbs that produce bulblets that resemble grains of rice. These break off when the plant is disturbed, allowing propagation.

Habitat/Uses: Often found in Garry oak ecosystems, chocolate lilies prefer open woodlands, meadows, and coastal grasslands, but can be found in forests at low to subalpine elevations. They prefer sun but tolerate partial shade. Flowers are pollinated by flies, which are attracted by their somewhat offensive odour. These lilies are fairly easy to cultivate from bulb or seed for use in ornamental gardens, doing well in well-drained, humus-rich soil. They are deer and rabbit resistant. An important food source for centuries for Coast Salish communities (www.camosun.ca/sustainability/garden/plant-id.html), TSALIQW, as it is called, was boiled or steamed for immediate consumption, or dried and stored for use through the winter months. Bulbs were also traded with other communities.

Broadleaf Stonecrop – Stonecrop Family (Crassulaceae)

Sedum spathulifolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Found on cliffs and sunny rock faces throughout Yellow Point, this perennial plant is rumoured to have been the source of Yellow Point’s name. Flowering from May to July, the plant appears typically succulent, with grey-green to dark-red plump rosettes (2-4 cm in diameter) consisting of approximately 15 spoon-shaped leaves. Rosettes give rise to a short (8-10 cm), erect inflorescence composed of many small, bright yellow, starry flowers containing 10 stamens and 5 pistils.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid elevations, stonecrop prefers light, sandy, and loamy well-drained soils, and full sun; it will tolerate light shade. It is frequently found growing on rocks amid clumps of various species of mosses and liverworts. Since the plant needs very little care, it is an ideal plant for beginner gardeners. It is easily transplanted: simply remove a piece from an established plant and place on soil in the desired area, watering lightly to help establish roots. The plant is drought-tolerant, and deer- and rabbit-resistant. Medicinal uses of the leaves include treatment of constipation, gingivitis, and hemorrhoids. Juice from the leaves reportedly can staunch bleeding. First Nations people had several uses for the plant, from treating hemorrhoids and constipation to soothing infants.

Common Woolly Sunflower – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Eriophyllum lanatum

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as Oregon Sunshine, the woolly sunflower is not a ‘real’ sunflower, but a fibrous-rooted perennial herb. The intensely yellow, daisy-like flowers, up to 5 cm in diameter, bloom from May to August. The flower is actually a flower head of numerous florets. Looking closely, one sees that the outside flowers have 1-2 cm oval petals, framing numerous inner florets. The silver-grey stems, bearing multiple silvery leaves, shoot upward from the ‘woolly’ base foliage. A mature, robust plant can reach 60 cm in height, but wild plants most often only reach a maximum height of far less.

Habitat/Uses: The woolly sunflower thrives in sunny and dry areas, and grows well in poor, rocky soils. It can be found in dry open areas, such as on bluffs and rocky slopes. Its preference is sun, but it is also found blooming in partial shade. The plant spreads gradually, and is very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. It is used as an ornamental in native gardens, but can also be grown in pots. An added bonus is its resistance to deer.

Tapertip Onion/Hooker’s Onion – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Allium acuminatum

Status: Native plant

Description: This striking, bulbous perennial is uncommon, but occasionally found in Yellow Point. Almost-white to deep pink flowers bloom, in groups of five to 40, on a firm, rounded stalk, 10-30 cm in height. This head of flowers, called an umbel, can reach up to 7.5cm in diameter. Each flower sits on a stalklet (‘pedicel’), with three sepals and three petals; anthers are yellow. Flowers can be found in June and July in Yellow Point. Leaves are long, with narrow, tapered tips which wither before the flowers appear.

Habitat/Uses: Preferential to sunny locations and sandy or loamy well-drained soil, this onion can be found on hills, and in grassy and rocky meadows, at low to mid elevations. It is extremely drought tolerant, making it a good choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens. First Nations valued this plant as a food source, along with other native onions found in the Pacific northwest, harvesting the light brown 1.5 cm bulb either in early spring or late fall and eating raw or cooking in pits. Flowers, leaves, and bulbous root are all edible, with a strong onion taste.

Pacific Bleeding Heart- Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae)

Dicentra formosa

Status: Native plant

Description: A beautiful and delicate perennial plant with small, puffy, pink, heart-shaped flowers, the Pacific bleeding heart can be found blooming in Yellow Point in May and June. The genus name Dicentra refers to the two nectar-bearing flowers with four petals each, which create a sac with spurs on the end. Bluish-green leaves are deeply cut, lacy, and fern-like. The plant grows up to 45cm in height, with foliage almost as tall as the flower stalk. It spreads mainly by rhizomes, but is also spread by ants, who feed their young an oil-rich appendage of the seed and dispose of the rest, thus assisting in seed dispersal.

Habitat/Uses: The bleeding heart grows best in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, at low to mid elevations. It thrives in part to full shade in woodlands, damp forests, ravines, and near streams, preferring cooler temperatures. The flowers are rich with nectar, attracting syrphid flies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds, and the foliage is a food source of the butterfly larvae Clodius parnassian. Bleeding hearts can be used in native woodland gardens, growing well with various fern species beneath other plants and trees. Deer tend to ignore the plant. First Nations peoples reportedly used the roots to treat toothaches and worm infestations. However, the entire plant contains toxic compounds (isoquinolones), which, in large quantities, can cause trembling, weakness, convulsions, and difficulty breathing. Any part of the plant may cause skin irritation due to these poisonous compounds.

Self-Heal – Mint/Deadnettle/Sage Family (Lamiaceae)

Prunella vulgaris

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Flowering in Yellow Point from June onward, this perennial plant is native to Europe. Although generally low-growing, it can reach heights of 30 cm. It is characterized by small, two-lipped dark pink or violet flowers, clustered into dense spikes, 2-5 cm long and ~ 1.5-2 cm wide. Medium lance-shaped green leaves reminiscent of mint leaves arise in pairs along the square stem. Leaf edges are toothed or slightly wavy.

Habitat/Uses: Self-heal is adaptable, and grows easily in various landscapes, from garden beds and borders to woodland edges and meadows. It prefers sun or partial shade, moist soil, and cool to mild temperatures. It is found at low to mid elevations. Edible leaves and flowers have been long used in a variety of ways in folk medicine: plants are usually cut during summer flowering and used in various infusions, tinctures, and ointments. The flowers are rich in pollen, so are an important food source for butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, sweat bees, and long-horned bees.

Harvest Brodiaea- Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae) (Formerly in Lily Family)

Brodiaea coronaria

Status: Native plant

Descripton: Blooming in late June/early July, these native perennial six-petalled lavender-blue, violet, or rose upright bell-shaped flowers grow in a loose umbel. They arise on an erect stem from 1-3 grass-like basal linear leaves, ~ 2 mm wide. At the centre of the flower are white to purple hornlike staminodes (sterile stamens) that lean toward the fertile stamens. It can reach a height of 30 cm in some habitats, but is usually shorter in the Yellow Point area.

Habitat/Uses: Found in grasslands and open woodlands at low to mid elevations, this drought-tolerant plant prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Well-drained soil and dry summers favour its proliferation; rock gardens and xeriscapes are ideal places for it to grow. The plant is slow-growing, long-lived, and very easy to care for. It comes into flower as native grasses become dormant, hence the term ‘harvest’ in its common name. The corm of the plant is edible, apparently sweet and flavourful with a taste and texture similar to sweet potatoes. It is a food source for rodents; rabbits and slugs enjoy the young shoots in the spring.

Oxeye Daisy – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Leucanthemum vulgare

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy, perennial oxeyes are daisy-like flowers with 20-30 white ray flowers, 1-2 cm long, surrounding yellow central discs, 10-20 mm wide, on long slender stems. Lower leaves are lance-shaped with toothed margins. Upper leaves have wavy margins and are alternately arranged, narrow, and stalkless. Flowers appear in early June in Yellow Point, and continue well into July. Plants can grow up to one metre tall. Widespread and considered a weed or invasive plant in many countries, the oxeye is native to Europe and temperate Asia. It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in BC.

Habitat/Hazards: The oxeye daisy can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including meadows, open forests, and disturbed areas. It is a common weed in fields and along roadsides in Yellow Point. Found at low to mid elevations, it prefers sun but tolerates partial shade. It is able to grow in a variety of soils, from degraded pastures to rich loamy soils. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes, with a mature plant producing up to 26,000 seeds. A new plant can regenerate from rhizome fragments, making it a difficult plant to eradicate. Additionally, plants can cause soil erosion, as their manner of growth results in exposed soil. These plants decrease forage for wildlife, and crowd out our native plants, decreasing local plant biodiversity. Although the unopened buds can reportedly be marinated and eaten, the plant has an unpleasant taste, which causes grazing animals to avoid it, leading to further spread in pastures. The plants have a shallow root system, so are easy to pull up, but seeds can germinate years after dispersal, often making eradication a long-term project.

Lupines – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lupinus sp.

Status: Native plants

Description: Lupine species found in Yellow Point are a group of striking white, pink, blue and purple flowered perennial herbs, growing up to 90 cm in height. Flowers, up to 2 cm in length depending on species, grow in tiered whorls around a raceme, which can measure up to 20 cm. Flowers bloom starting in late June in the area, and can continue into August. Leaves with hairy undersides can feature up to 15 light to medium green elliptical leaflets, alternating along a central stalk in palm-like fronds. Stems are hollow.

Habitat/Uses: Lupines can be found from sea level to elevation up to 2500 m. Generally, they prefer slopes, full to partial shade, and moist to fairly well drained soils. Lupinus latifolius prefers moist open to shady woods and meadows; Lupinus rivularis is found in sand and gravel, near marshes, streams, and other wet places at low elevations; and Lupinus littoralis is found at sea level in coastal sands. Lupines attract butterflies and birds.

Did you know? Although they are not found in Yellow Point, Vancouver Island marmots favour feasting on lupines. Interestingly, several (but not all) species of lupines are known to contain alkaloids, which are poisonous.

Pearly Everlasting – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Anaphalis margaritacea

Status: Native plant

Description: Emerging in late June or early July in Yellow Point, the individual cottony stems of the herbaceous perennial pearly everlasting grow 30-90 cm in height, often in clumps. Flowers are globular, long-enduring, white, dry bracts with yellow centres, resembling fried eggs, although younger flowers are reminiscent of small pearls. Flowers are often slightly musky smelling. Leaves are long and slender, arranged alternately, with green surfaces and white, woolly undersides that match the stems. The hairy stems and leaves are an adaptation to reduce water loss and overheating.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring sun to part shade, pearly everlasting grows well in sandy, gravelly, dry soils, and is often found on roadsides in Yellow Point in the heat of summer. It can also be found growing in meadows and woodlands, and does well as a drought-tolerant specimen in native plant gardens. It can be used in flower arrangements, and has been used medicinally as a salve to treat burns, bruises, and sprains. Plants can be grown from seed or propagated. Bees and butterflies are the main pollinators; the American Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) uses the plant as a host for its young. Reportedly, it was used as a tobacco substitute by First Nations peoples.

Great Mullein/Common Mullein- Butterfly Bush Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Verbascum thapsus

Status: Invasive plant (as per BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources)

Description: This statuesque hairy biennial herb/weed, a native of Europe/northern Africa/Asia, starts out as a small rosette of furry silver-grey leaves, eventually growing to heights of two metres or more when well-established. In its second year, a flower spike bearing numerous, short-lived yellow flowers emerges. The inflorescence is 10-50 cm, densely packed, with wheel shaped flowers 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The stem carries numerous leaves alternately, which reduce in size as they ascend the stem. Leaves are uniquely arranged to form clasping channels to carry the water down the stem toward the roots. The abundant ‘hair’ on the leaves ‘shades’ the leaves, preventing excess evaporation, making this plant extremely drought-tolerant.

Habitat/Uses: Mullein thrives in challenging conditions, preferring places like gravel pits, dry roadsides, and fields with well-drained soil. It flourishes in full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations. This is a great plant for wildlife, attracting bees, hoverflies, and other pollinators. It also supplies (non-native) carder bees (Anthidium) with ‘fur’ to build their nests. Various species of caterpillar may also feed on the foliage. It is a prolific self-seeder, and in a hospitable environment often needs to be weeded out. Mullein has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. Tea can be made from flowers and leaves to soothe respiratory ailments. The plant also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Did you know? The Romans believed placing leaves at the openings of homes would repel demons. Some legends say that witches used the flower spikes as torches and other stories say that burning the spikes repels witches and evil spirits (from http://www.davesgarden.com).

St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort Family (Hypericaceae)

Hypericum perforatum

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Considered an invasive plant, St. John’s wort is a perennial invader of disturbed land and grazing fields that flowers in June-July. The flowers are characterized by five bright yellow petals, often ringed with black dots, clustered at branch tips. Ten or more stamens and a single pistil emerge from the centre of the flower. Flowers in clusters can number up to 100, and each plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds each year, which can survive in soil up to ten years. Stems up to 60 cm in height carry simple, veined, opposite leaves. Held up to the light, translucent oil glands on the elliptical or triangular leaves give a perforated appearance, hence the epithet ‘perforatum.’

Habitat/Uses: St John’s wort prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations in grasslands and forests. It is often seen on the roadside in Yellow Point. Well known as a treatment for depression, the plant is reportedly also used as a diuretic, expectorant, and sedative. (Please consult your health care provider for medical advice before ingesting St. John’s wort.) It is considered poisonous to livestock, due to the compound hypericin, which causes photosensitivity.

Sweet Pea/Everlasting Pea – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lathyrus latifolius

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Arising from a single root, dramatic displays of these robust, brightly coloured perennial flowers burst forth in Yellow Point in late June/early July. Racemes of 4 to 11 white to dark pink odourless flowers are produced on hairless stems carrying short, wide-winged leaves, which hold pairs of lance-shaped to oval, pointed leaflets up to 7.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. Flowers, up 2.5 cm wide, are composed of an upper and lower keel with lateral petals. If available, these plants will climb adjacent vegetation using their tendrils, and can reach three metres in height. They spread by rhizomes and self-seeding.

Habitat/Uses: Introduced from Europe, sweet peas are found in abundance in Yellow Point, sprawling along roadsides and in ditches. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, full sun to light shade, and are found at low to mid elevations. Bumblebees pollinate, butterflies visit for nectar, and deer (usually) ignore them. They can be grown in gardens, but often need to be cut back. They make striking cut flower displays throughout the summer. Note that the peas are NOT edible.

Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot – Carrot Family (Apiaceae)

Daucus carota

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by http://www.bcinvasives.ca)

Description: Native to Europe and Asia, Queen Anne’s lace is considered invasive to BC. It is a biennial herb characterized by an umbrella-shaped white, yellowish, or pinkish umbel up to 15 cm wide, composed of numerous 5-petaled flowers. There is often a solitary purple flower centrally. The umbel sits atop a 90-120 cm hairy, fine-lined central stem (which may branch), while oblong, pinnate, feathery leaves that resemble poison hemlock, fool’s parsley, and water hemlock, are found at the base and alternately along the stem. Lower leaves appear more ‘feathery’ than upper leaves, with upper leaves becoming smaller, shorter-stalked, and more widely spaced than those near the base. Flower heads appear in Yellow Point in June and continue through the summer. Foliage and the slender, woody taproot smell distinctively like edible carrots.

Habitat/Hazards: Queen Anne’s lace establishes easily on road sides, abandoned fields, and disturbed agricultural land. It is a hardy plant and thrives in dry environments, preferring full sun to partial shade, and well-drained to dry soil. Removing the plant (since it is considered invasive) can be done by pulling or digging it up, ensuring removal of the entire tap root. Note that handling the plant can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Additionally, the plant can be confused with its cousin, giant hogweed, which, if handled, can result in severe skin irritation, blistering rashes, scarring, and even blindness. If uncertain of the species, do not touch it. (If you believe you have found hogweed in the area, the Coastal Invasive Species Committee can be contacted at 1-844-298-2532 to properly dispose of the plant.)

Did you know? Romans ate Queen Anne’s lace as a vegetable, and early Europeans cultivated it. (Note: Do not eat wild plants without positive identification from an expert. Many people have confused Queen Anne’s lace with poison hemlock, resulting in illness or death when ingested). Its common name derives from a legend that states Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) pricked her finger while tatting lace, resulting in a single drop of blood landing in the centre of the lace.

Botanical Definitions

Source: https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/biodiversity-counts/plant-identification/plant-morphology/parts-of-a-flower

Anther: The part of the stamen where pollen is produced. 

Corm: Vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food-storage structure in certain seed plants.

Inflorescence: A group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.

Ovary: The enlarged basal portion of the pistil where ovules are produced.

Peduncle: The stalk of a flower. 

Petal: The parts of a flower that are often conspicuously colored. 

Pistil: The ovule producing part of a flower. The ovary often supports a long style, topped by a stigma. The mature ovary is a fruit, and the mature ovule is a seed. 

Raceme: A flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first.

Receptacle: The part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached. 

Sepal: The outer parts of the flower (often green and leaf-like) that enclose a developing bud. 

Stamen: The pollen producing part of a flower, usually with a slender filament supporting the anther. 

Stigma: The part of the pistil where pollen germinates. 

Tepal: Segment of the outer whorl in a flower that has no differentiation between petals and sepals.

Umbel: An inflorescence that consists of a number of short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs. The word was coined in botanical usage in the 1590s, from the word Latin umbella, meaning “parasol, sunshade”.

Native/Introduced/Invasive Designations

Varying definitions exist for the terms ‘native’, ‘introduced’, and ‘invasive’. Additionally, there seems to be no ‘master’ list for introduced and invasive species for this region, or for Vancouver Island. (If anyone knows of such lists, please let us know!)

A native plant is defined by the Native Plant Society of BC as “one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat – and occurred prior to European contact….Native plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi, and microbes to form a complex network of relationships. These plants are the foundation of native ecosystems, or natural communities.” (https://npsbc.wordpress.com/native-plants/)

The Invasive Species Council of BC (www.bcinvasives.ca), a registered charity and non-profit society, lists invasive species found in BC on its website. It defines invasive species as: plants, animals or other organisms that are not native to BC whose introduction and spread causes harm to the province’s native species or our economy.

A definition for introduced species (also known as an exotic, alien, non-native, or non-indigenous species) is an organism that is not native to the place or area where it is considered introduced and instead has been accidentally or deliberately transported to the new location by human activity (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/introduced_species.htm). Such species can ultimately become invasive, or can co-exist with native species. For this page, ‘introduced’ species are those that are non-native but also non-invasive.

Resources/References

Electronic atlas of the flora of BC: https://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/identification.html

Invasive plant species in BC (reference is from 2004; updates to list is uncertain, but at least some invasive plants (e.g., Himalayan blackberry) are not listed): https://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/invasive_sp_list.html

Website of the Invasive Species Council of BC: https://bcinvasives.ca/

Camosun College’s website of native plants and traditional uses by First Nations: http://camosun.ca/sustainability/garden/plant-id.html

Author and photographer Mark Turner’s exhaustive website of wildflowers of the Pacific northwest: https://www.pnwflowers.com/

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s website for their native plant nursery: https://www.nalt.bc.ca/1_10_native-plant-nursery.html

The Province of BC’s website for invasive species, including a link for reporting invasive species: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/invasive-species

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s website for gardening with native plants: https://www.hat.bc.ca/gardening-with-native-plants

The Native Plant Society of BC’s website: https://npsbc.wordpress.com/

This page from the Master Gardeners Association of BC has a downloadable pdf of the native plants of the Pacific northwest: https://www.mgabc.org/content/native-plants-pacific-northwest

Pojar and MacKinnon’s ‘Plants of Coastal British Columbia’ is a best-selling field guide of plants found along the coast from Oregon to Alaska: https://49thshelf.com/Books/P/Plants-of-Coastal-British-Columbia2

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 yellowpoint2020@gmail.com.

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 Trees of Yellow Point

Welcome to the Yellow Point Trees.

Yellow Point/Cedar area on Vancouver Island is a beautiful and diverse area within the Coastal Douglas‐Fir (CDF) ecosystem.
It lies between Nanaimo and Ladysmith, with Highway 1 forming a logical boundary to the west and the coast to the east.. 
There are coastal, riparian, forested and urban/agricultural habitats, interspersed with rocky outcrops and bluffs, so typical and unique to this part of the world.

We hope this webpage will provide the reader with useful pointers for seeing and recognizing the trees found here, without going into too much (botanical) detail. For those who are interested, there are links for more information. 

In a forest with big trees, sometimes all you can see is the trunks! It is helpful to recognize the bark, but not all bark is easily distinguished. In that case, look down on the ground. You will find tell-tale signs of the tree above: cones/fruit, a broken branch with needles/leaves, or last year’s leaves.

Knowing the seasons of the trees will help too, each tree has its time to shine.

This webpage is a work in progress – starting with the 10 more common big trees, more will be added over time…

Arbutus

Arbutus menziesii

SIZE: up to 30m
AGE: 250-400 yrs

Ericaceae (Heath family)

This is an eye-catching tree, with its colourful and whimsical trunk and limbs, especially against the backdrop of the serious and upright conifers! It is Canada’s only native evergreen broadleaved tree. It is  very much part of the CDF ecosystem.

The arbutus has a tortuous growth as it looks for light, for it cannot tolerate shade. 

HABITAT:  Dry and sunny, on rocky, well drained sites, open forests, clearings, rocky bluffs and along the coast. Yellow Point Park entrance has some lovely specimens.

FEATURES:  Its most remarkable feature is the bark, revealing a seasonal change of yellow/golden/green to fiery cinnamon which peels in autumn. As the tree gets older, the bark remains on the trunk, especially where shaded and it becomes brown and scaly. 

The leathery leaves are shiny green above and pale whitish below.

The seed germinates readily, but browsing by deer can prevent a seedling from growing into a tree. By caging them, the seedlings/young trees on your property will have a chance to grow !

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Arbutus%20menziesii

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/arbutus.htm

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Bigleaf maple

Acer macrophyllum

SIZE: up to 35m
AGE: 200 yrs
Aceraceae (Maple family)

The bigleaf maple gives the forest a mystical appearance with its tall, often multi-stemmed trunks all covered in moss, lichen and liquorice ferns!

HABITAT: They grow best in rich moist soils, but they do tolerate drier conditions as well. As they need light to grow, you’ll find them along stream banks, in clearings or edges, logged areas. They have solved their conundrum of wanting to live in the forest, but needing the sun to grow, by being able to grow very quickly when young (up to 3m/year) and by having big leaves, that they keep horizontal to catch more light.

FEATURES: The bigleaf maple is a large deciduous spreading tree. As its common name suggests, it has large maple leaves with 5-lobes. In fall they turn a rich yellow.
In spring, the yellow-green flowers hang in big clusters and appear before or with the leaves.  Their 2-winged seeds are joined at the base (called a samara) that whirl in the air  when they drop – the following spring you can find the forest floor covered in little seedlings!

The most distinctive feature of the bigleaf maple is the trunk, actually what grows on the trunk! The rough bark with longitudinal ridges is calcium-rich and encourages the growth of mosses, lichen and liquorice fern. It can support more epiphytes than any other tree in the Pacific NorthWest (the biomass can be up to 4x the foliar weight of the host tree). When the epiphyte load is thick enough, the bigleaf (and the vine maple and a few other tree species) are then able to produce canopy roots into this biomass to extract water and nutrients.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/bigleafmaple.htm

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black cottonwood

Populus balsamifera ssp trichocarpa

SIZE: 25-50m
AGE: 200-300 yrs
Salicaceae (Willow family)

The iconic tree of the wetlands. The black cottonwood is a tall deciduous tree, that can grow up to 2m/year. Morden Colliery Trail has a few old giants.

HABITAT: They tolerate standing water and can grow abundantly on floodplains. They are often found along rivers and streams and in freshwater marshes.
They need rich soils and lots of sunshine.

 FEATURES: Older trees have a long branch-free trunk, with a thick and deeply furrowed bark.
Black knots on the trunk are not unusual and are caused by a fungus. The bark on young trees is smooth and greenish.

Leaves are shiny green above and a pale silvery below, heart-shaped/triangular leaves 6-12 cm long with a pointed tip. The leaves are slightly toothed, and the veins curve upwards. The leafstalk (petiole) is long and not flattened, like its little sister, the trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), so you can roll it between your fingers. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow in the fall.

In spring it disperses its seed in white fluffs that float through the air like wisps of cotton.

Black cottonwood is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate trees

The buds contain a waxy resin with anti-infectant properties still used in many modern natural health ointments. Bees collect it and use it to seal off intruders.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/blackcottonwood.htm

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Populus%20balsamifera%20ssp.%20trichocarpa

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Coastal Douglas-fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii spp menziesii

SIZE: up to 70m
AGE: 1000+ yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

The coastal Douglas-fir is the most common tree in our area and is the   backbone of the CDF  ecosystem. It is a large stately evergreen tree.

Douglas-fir is hyphenated, because it is not a true fir. True firs belong to the genus Abies, whereas Douglas-firs belong to the genus Pseudotsuga (which means ‘resembling hemlock’).

HABITAT: It has very adaptable growing requirements, from dry poor rocky soils to moist rich soils (it does not however do well in poorly drained wet soils). They are somewhat shade tolerant, but do much better with light.

FEATURES: Their most distinguishing feature are the cones. They have three-pronged bracts and are 5-10cm long and hang down from the branches in the upper crown or the tree. They fall on the ground intact, you can always find them on the ground for identification. (Unlike those of the true firs, that disintegrate on the tree).
Younger trees might not have cones yet, then look at the way the flat green needles are arranged all around the twigs. The needles are 2 cm long and not sharp to touch.

Older trees have a long branch-free trunk. The very thick bark has deep vertical fissures.

New studies on the underground life of trees has revealed an incredible network of cooperation between the roots and mycorrhizae – this can be seen above ground in the ‘living stumps’, where a stump has healed over and is thus able to offer its established network of roots to surrounding trees!

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/douglasfir.htm

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Pseudotsuga%20menziesii%20var.%20menziesii

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garry oak

Quercus garryana

SIZE: up to 25m
AGE: 250-500 yrs
Fagaceae (Beech family)

The Garry oak is our one and only native oak in BC – a lovely gnarly tree, often found with coastal Douglas-fir and arbutus. With good soils, it can grow into a medium sized tree; on dry shallow sites it remains small.

The Garry Oak Meadows are a beautiful, but threatened habitat, with their showy display of spring flowers like camas, white fawn lily, western buttercup and shootingstar. The entrance of the Yellow Point Park is a remnant of a Garry oak meadow, it has all the flowers, and a Garry oak.

Garry oak hiding in plain sight

HABITAT: Dry rocky slopes, bluffs or open meadows, shallow to deep rich, well-drained soil, the key being that they get enough sunlight, as they don’t like shade (or competition for that matter).

 FEATURES: We can recognize them by their gnarly growth habit and their deeply round-lobed oak leaves (up to 12cm long), glossy bright green above, and hairy below. The leaves turn brown in fall and can remain on the tree.

The grey bark has thick scaly ridges.

The Garry oak only starts producing acorns after 20-25 yrs. The acorns are 2-3 cm long and drop to the ground when ripe. They only remain viable for one season. The Garry oaks can also sprout or grow from underground rhizomes

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/garryoak.htm

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grand fir

Abies grandis

SIZE: up to 80m
AGE: 300 yrs
Pinaceae  (Pine family)

The grand fir is a fast growing tree and can grow very tall. In our CDF-ecosystem, it is more commonly an understory tree, forming about 10% of the tree community.

HABITAT: It prefers deep, rich moist soils along streams and mountain slopes, but it also tolerates our drier rain-shadow coastal forests.
It is shade tolerant. 

FEATURES: It is easiest recognized by the flat, glossy dark green needles, that are arranged in two flat comb-like rows. The entire branch appears flattened. The needles are a pale green below, due to the two longitudinal white lines (stomata). They are not sharp to touch and release a citrus scent when crushed.

Cones are hard to find, as they are borne in the top of the tree and disintegrate on tree when mature (as all in the genus Abies do). They sit upright on the branches.

The bark is smooth and greyish-brown with white spots and blisters filled with gummy resin when young.
The bark becomes furrowed and scaly with age.

Like all true firs, the needles are soft,
flat (can’t be rolled between fingers)
and do not ‘pull-a-tag’ when removed.
Spruce trees have needles that are
prickly, square (can be rolled) and pull
a tag when removed.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/grandfir.htm

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Abies%20grandis

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pacific dogwood

Cornus nuttallii

SIZE: 10-20m
AGE: 150 yrs
Cornaceae (Dogwood family)

Our Queen of Forest! This beautiful, medium sized, deciduous tree grows in the Douglas-fir forests, together with the western redcedar, grand fir and western hemlock.

In spring she is adorned with fabulous white blossoms, making this the best time of year to find her.

HABITAT: The Pacific dogwood prefers deep, rich soils on moist well-drained sites, but it can tolerate slightly drier conditions too. It is found as an understory tree in fairly open, mixed forests or at the forest’s edges and openings. The Pacific dogwood likes to keep its trunk shaded.

FEATURES: Showy white ‘flowers’ facing up towards the sun, that appear from mid April: be on the look-out while you are driving and you’ll see her poking her pretty head out of the woods!

The green leaves grow opposite to each other, are oval with a pointed tip and have the typical dogwood-pattern with curving parallel veins. When the summer hasn’t been too dry, the leaves turn a beautiful orange-red in fall.

In September/October the happy cackling of the northern flicker or the pileated woodpecker will remind you, that the Pacific dogwood is in fruit with bright red drupes arranged in clumps.

Here you can see all branches are directed to the sun. The trunk will be shaded by its own foliage. The bark can look like the bark of the  red alder, grey and blotchy (in winter, the absence of small woody cones make it more likely to be a Pacific dogwood)

The leaves and twigs are favoured by the deer and young seedlings stand no chance with high deer pressure! One can recognize a young pacific dogwood by the way the twigs are arranged along the main stem: opposite in 4’s, very symmetrical in appearance and the bright green leaves growing at their ends. Caging them until they grow out of reach is a very rewarding effort!

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/pacificdogwood.htm

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red alder

Alnus rubra

SIZE: 15-25m
AGE: <100 yrs
Betulaceae (Birch family)

The Pioneer! A fast-growing, medium sized deciduous tree. When it sees an opportunity, it will colonize and form an attractive stand – there is beauty in singularity.

HABITAT: It prefers sunny, moist to wet sites and is found along marshes, floodplains and stream banks, but also clearings or disturbed sites (seeds need light and mineral soil to germinate).

FEATURES: They are generally found in stands, rarely are they by themselves. 
Catkins appear before the leaves early spring. Male flowers are in long, drooping, reddish catkins and female flowers are shorter.

After the leaves have fallen, the red alder is easily identified by the woody cone-like fruit, that remain on the tree all winter.
The bright green leaves have toothed edge and straight lateral veins, with a ‘pleated’ appearance.
The bark is pale and thin with patches of moss or lichen growing on them.

 

The red alder is an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands on disturbed and difficult sites, disused farmland etc. It is a fast growing and wind resistant tree, that will quickly provide sheltered conditions to allow more permanent woodland trees to become established. It enriches the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Their extensive root system make it suitable for controlling erosion along the banks of rivers. Alder trees also have a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the autumn they help to build up the humus content of the soil. Alder seedlings do not compete well in shady woodland conditions and so this species gradually dies out as the other trees become established.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/redalder.htm

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Alnus%20rubra

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Western hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

A most graceful large coniferous tree, the third most common tree in the Pacific Northwest.

HABITAT: A true forest dweller, it can grow in deep shade. You will often see it growing on an old stump, or decaying wood and nursery logs.
It prefers moist to very moist sites, but is does well here in our slightly drier CDF forests too, probably with help of the mycorrhizae.

 FEATURES: It has an obvious drooping leader (especially when young) and drooping tips of lateral branchlets with flat sprays of dull mid-dark green needles. 
The small, woody cones are usually less than an inch (2.5cm) long.

The green needles are soft, short and flat and of unequal length (as the species name heterophylla implies), forming flat sprays. 
Looking underneath, the needles appear almost white, because of two broad bands of white stomata with only a narrow green midrib between the bands. No needles grow downward.

The needles of the grand fir (Abies grandis) are arranged in a similar way, but the needles are a glossy yellowy-green, longer and underneath appear less white, because the green midrib between the stomata is broader.

bark of western hemlock

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/westernhemlock.htm

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Western redcedar

Thuja plicata

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Cupressceae (Cypress family)

The co-dominant conifer in the CDF ecosystem, it is a large and magnificent tree, in all aspects.
It is the provincial tree of British Columbia.
It is also referred to as arborvitae, the Tree of Life .

It is not a true cedar; that name belongs to the old world genus Cedrus.

HABITAT: It is a very adaptable tree tolerating most soil types. It prefers shady, cool, moist habitats. It is most abundant along streams, seeps, bogs, and wet bottomlands and usually grows in mixed conifer stands. With our mild wet winters and coastal summers and with the help of mycorrhizae, it has done well in our rain-shadow CDF forests.

FEATURES: It is easily distinguished from the other evergreens in Yellow Point/Cedar by its leaves and its bark.
It has no needles. The leaves are scale-like and compressed tightly to the stem, looking like fine braids and forming graceful yellowy-green sprays that droop down along the swooping branches that turn up at tip.

Small seedcases appear in loose clusters and become woody and remain on the tree through winter.

The bark is grey to reddish brown, fibrous, appearing like long vertical lines. The trunk becomes buttressed with age.

 

Older trees produce a chemical called
thujaplicin. It is a natural fungicide,
making the wood rot-resistant.
Its aromatic oils deter moths and carpet beetles.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/westernredcedar.htm

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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!

A Green OCP

These notes are adapted from these three documents:

An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a legal policy document intended to manage growth and guide future development. It represents the communi­ty’s vision for the future. The Local Government Act defines an OCP as “a statement of objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management.” 

An OCP typically contains broad goals, objectives for particular land uses, specific policies for each land use, general advocacy policies, maps and development permit areas. 

  • Goals are general statements of purpose
  • Objectives are strategies to achieve the goals
  • Policies are specific statements, programs or restrictions that provide direction

An OCP is not a regulatory bylaw. With the exception of Development Permit Areas, OCPs have no direct effect or authority on private landowners or other governments or agencies. Land Use Bylaws regulate the use of land.

To protect the Coastal Douglas-fir, OCPs should set goals, objectives, and policies that support CDF retention and protection, include strong language directing at protection of the CDF zone:

  • Policies supporting park dedication that protect CDF forests 
  • Development Permit Areas for the protection of the envi­ronment, specifically the Coastal Douglas-fir zone and associated ecosystems.
  • Urban containment boundaries that preserve large lot areas outside of urban areas and direct density to areas zoned for mixed use commercial/residential and smaller lots that can be serviced by adequate water supplies. 
  • Identified protection of the CDF zone as an amenity that can be provided at the time of a rezoning. Establish the connection between development impacts and ecological services.
  • Enabling policies for conservation subdivisions, amenity zoning, density transfers and density bonusing. 
  • Language and policies that reference and honour the cultural heritage of Coast Salish stewardship, including the protection of culturally important places and archaeological sites.

Galiano’s OCP includes the following Forest Objectives: 

All land use decisions for lands in the Forest designation must be guided by the following objectives: 

  1. to preserve a forest land base,
  2. to preserve and protect the forest, its biodiversity, integrity and ecological services, 
  3.  to encourage ecosystem-based sustainable forest management for all forested lots and to encourage economic opportunities through this forest management practice, 
  4. to encourage ecological restoration of degraded forest stands, and
  5. to maintain or enhance carbon storage and sequestration. 

Suggested prose based on Galiano’s OCP: “This Plan supports the preservation and protection of the CVRD’s many and varied ecosystems, including the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, the smallest and rarest such zone in British Columbia with the highest density of species that are of both provincial and global conservation concern. These ecosystems provide key services that sustain human health and wellbeing, including clean air and water, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and timber and nontimber resources. The forested landscape is integral to the CVRD’s character. Maintaining and restoring the forest ecosystem is critical for ecosystem-based sustainable forest management.”

South Pender Island’s OCP notes that the island is located in a threatened CDF ecosystem: “Protection is to be afforded to the island’s environmentally sensitive areas, according to particular circumstance, by means that may include: landowner stewardship; inter-agency planning  and management agreements; protective covenants, voluntary and required; protective provisions in regulatory bylaws; development permit areas; and land acquisition.” 

Land-Use By-Laws

The Land Use Bylaw is the main tool for implementing OCP policies through land use regulations, particularly zoning. Land use bylaws designate the zoning and regulate land use within the area of covered by the bylaw. They contain regulations on the size and siting of buildings and structures and define setbacks from lot lines and water courses. The land use bylaw prescribes the number of new lots, and the shape, dimensions and area of new lots created by subdivision. A land use bylaw often incorporates parking regulations, subdivision servicing requirements, sign regulations, screening and landscaping requirements, flood plain regulations, and run-off control regulations. 

  • Reduce site coverage density in land use bylaws. It is often a default 25%, inherited from older zoning, allowing 25% of the land to be covered with impervious surfaces. Site coverage is often overlooked when updating land use bylaws. High site coverage is inconsis­tent with the preservation of the CDF zone. 
  • Incorporate conservation subdivision principles into land use bylaw requirements for subdivision. 
  • Increase the minimum average area of lots that can be created by subdivision to a minimum of 10 acres. Remove subdivision potential from some large lots in areas targeted as important for CDF protec­tion and hydrological connectivity. 
  • Negotiate land conservation at the time of rezoning. Make consideration of zoning approvals conditional on the voluntary provision of a covenant or land donation to protect the CDF forest as a public amenity. 
  • Pre-zone land to allow an increase in density in exchange for natural area protection. Unlike amenity zoning, density bonus bylaws offer developers and the community certainty; a rezoning process is not required, and the maximum potential density is known ahead of time. 
  • Residential lots or dwelling units can be clustered during rezoning or at time of subdivi­sion. Land use bylaw density requirements should have minimum average lot area provisions that allow smaller lot areas while limiting the number of lots that can be created. When homes or lots are clustered, the rest can be left as natural area. Clustering reduces development costs as there are fewer trees to clear, less land to grade, and less need for road, water, hydro, and sewer infrastructure. Smaller lots with significant amounts (more than 50%) of protected open space target people who want homes in natural settings with less property to maintain.
  • Conservation subdivisions combine different tools including amenity zoning or density bonuses at time of rezoning to achieve multiple environmental and social benefits. Lot clustering is combined or traded off with protection of large natural areas (often by means of a covenant). Land use bylaw provisions allow lot averaging to achieve the cluster­ing, ecological design lot layout requirements, landscape buffers, and remove the potential for further subdivision. 

Forest Management

The Province does not have legislation that directly regulates forestry on private land. Forestry is exempt from local government regulation and there are few tools to use to protect the integrity of the forest from timber extraction. 

Forestry cannot be regulated by local governments. A longstanding common law principle known as profit à prendre entrenches the rights of people to extract profit from the natural resources of the land. Common law land ownership is typically characterized as a bundle of rights. These rights include the rights to use and occupy the land free from interference of non-owners, as well as the right to take or sever minerals, soil, trees and other resources from the land. 

This principle was referenced in the reasons for decisions concluding that the Denman Island Local Trust Committee reached beyond its authority in its attempt to regulate forest practices on private land using a Development Permit Area. The BC Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the DPA was not broad enough to allow the Trust Committee to regulate forestry, in part because the enabling legislation did not indicate a clear intention to curtail or interfere with the common law right to extract timber. As common law, profit à prendre is not found in statute. It rep­resents deeply held social constructs that favour the rights of individuals to exploit natural resources on private property. Even if societal attitudes towards the best use of land were to shift, it would likely take an act of the legislature rather than a court decision to overturn this principle.

On the other hand, the ability of local governments to prevent logging within riparian zones on private land has already been accepted. So maybe profit à prendre is not such a strong argument, after all.

Twelve Recommendations for Official Community Plans

1. Acknowledge Growth Management as an Important Environmental Protection Tool 

Many OCPs and topic-specific plans such as greenway or park plans address connectivity and site-specific environmental protection but fail to put them in the larger and more important context of growth management. A tightly delineated urban area with strong growth management policies that direct a large percentage, such as 90%, of new development into urbanized areas as well as large lot rural policies are better environmental protection measures than site specific regulations such as tree preservation. While both are important, the big picture should be the first order of priority. This includes linking specific policies to the relevant regional growth strategy. 

2. Connect Biodiversity and Ecologically Sensitive Areas 

It is well accepted that substantial corridors of biodiversity or ecosystem connectivity preserve ecological function better than islands of habitat. The ecological value of open space and parkland is significantly increased when it is connected to other areas of ecological significance. Biodiversity corridors, greenways with ecological values, and other connectivity must be planned before other land uses are layered onto the landscape. 

3. Establish Criteria for Evaluating if New Greenfield Development is Needed 

Decisions about allowing new development at the periphery of a community on greenfield sites rarely occurs in the context of whether that unserviced land is needed to fulfill growth management goals. It is often seen as an opportunity for new residential or commercial development without considering the direct link between density and environmental stewardship. Prioritizing ecological conservation means establishing a standard of buildout that should occur before a community-wide discussion considers designating further greenfield sites for servicing. Such a standard could be based on one of the following: 

  • Density – the average density in existing built areas must be 1:1 or 1.5:1; 
  • Infrastructure – existing wastewater treatment capacity is allocated to new developments in the following proportions: attached housing 50 percent, commercial and industrial 30 percent, detached housing 20 percent; 
  • Building permits – the percentage of total residential building permits must be 50 percent attached (townhouse to apartments); or 
  • Demographic – the types of development over the past five years meet certain criteria that respond to the existing demographic of the community, e.g. 15 percent supported housing, 50 percent attached housing, 20 percent detached housing and 15 percent commercial/industrial. 

4. Do Away with “Residential Reserves” or “Urban Reserves” 

Community plans sometimes identify residential or urban “reserves.” The intent is to identify areas or parcels where there is potential for future development that is not anticipated within the life of the current plan. These designations send the signal that the policies supporting infill and building in existing serviced areas are not firm growth management policies. Likewise, plans do not establish a benchmark for evaluating when existing residential areas are built out to the extent that it would be appropriate to consider urbanizing additional parcels. The identification of these residential reserve parcels lessens the incentive to fully build out existing urban areas and make the best use of infrastructure, thus there is no clear phasing for growth or encouragement to build in existing areas. If population growth projections do not indicate a need for these parcels in the next five years then leave them out of the community plan. 

5. Do Not Use Small Lot Rural or Small Holdings Land Designations 

Residential policies for small holdings are inconsistent with growth management goals, smart growth and sustainability. Generally, they are essentially rural sprawl. Parcels of 0.8 to 2 hectares are predominantly rural residential. They are not large enough to sustain agricultural or other land-based economic activities and significantly fragment the green infrastructure because of the large amount of each parcel that is dedicated to buildings, driveways and residential landscaping (primarily lawn). Concentrations of these parcels near to sensitive ecosystems increase the likelihood of pollution due to septic system failures and runoff from impervious surfaces. In short, they are an outdated land designation that is yielding to hard urban and rural designations. Large holdings of 5 hectares or more in size are more consistent with rural densities where the landscape is largely intact and parcels maintained for resource or agricultural uses rather than hobby farms or rural residential. 

6. Cluster Development Away from Functioning Ecosystems 

Any new development has the opportunity to cluster new development to protect biodiversity corridors and ecological features, even if on private land. Clustering is used in both urban and rural areas to strictly limit the footprint of development across the landscape with the intention of maintaining designated ecosystem services. These services (riparian corridors, greenways, and sensitive ecosystems) should be included in OCPs as clear designations where development will not occur. Development can be clustered away from these sites. 

7. Clarify the Boundaries of Any Amenity (Density) Bonus Program 

Whether for rural or urban areas, amenity bonus can assist local governments to achieve goals for community amenity provision, in particular the donation of parkland. However, the majority of local government plans say very little about the parameters of amenity bonus. At minimum, community plans should address three factors to promote understanding of amenity bonus. The first is to define the maximum uplift that a local government will allow in defined neighbourhoods or under a specific zoning. For example, thirty percent uplift over base zoning may be appropriate if other criteria are met. This allows the amount of the bonus to be discussed beforehand with the community and will likely be different for downtown versus rural areas. The second is a list of priority amenities on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood or municipal-wide basis so that each neighbourhood is receiving the appropriate amenity contributions. Thirdly, a clear formula is required for calculating the value of the uplift in density and the value of the amenities provided in return. Developers who opt into the amenity bonus program should be providing 50-60 percent of the increase in land value to the community in the form of amenities. Local governments may consider including in the list of community amenities “extraordinary environmental protection measures.” See the Denman Island Official Community Plan treatment of amenity bonus. 

8. Plan for Water 

Water is clearly an important issue for all communities and will become more critical in the next decades as climate change alters how ecosystems function. There will be more water in undesired places and less water in desired locations. Community plans traditionally have focused on establishing policies for land use but are changing to include planning for water management and establishing policies to develop long-term water demand management programs. Water will become more important than land use, and community plans are beginning to reflect this reality. 

9. Define Development Permit Areas for Protection of the Natural Environment by Using the Provincial Government’s Sensitive and Other Ecosystems Map Codes and Descriptions 

The trend for local governments in BC is to define ESAs based on the provincial government’s approved sensitive and other ecosystem map codes and descriptions. This provides a province-wide definition for different ESAs, and allows local governments to tailor environmental DPA (EDPA) guidelines to the specific needs of each particular ecosystem-type such as subsections on riparian or watercourse protection, wetlands, grasslands, woodland, mature forest, and other ecosystem types unique to the region. Some general guidelines can apply to all ecosystem types to deal with water and water quality, air and air quality, species at risk, and agriculture and ESAs. 

10. Create and Track Environmental Indicators 

Indicators can target a specific policy, or be a community-wide indicator of climate impact and ecological health. The following are strong indicators: 

  • Decrease or increase in per capita greenhouse gas emissions
  • Decrease or increase in land-based carbon storage
  • Decrease or increase of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve 
  • Decrease or increase of healthy riparian ecosystems 
  • Decrease or increase in the area of undisturbed contiguous forest
  • Species at risk that are protected or lost 
  • Water quality at specific sites in designated creeks or watersheds – fecal coliform, phosphorus, turbidity
  • Water flow-rates at specific wells in designated high risk areas
  • Number of trips taken by foot, bicycle, or other non-motorized means 
  • Percentage of residents living within 500 metres of a shopping centre 
  • Kilometres of trails, bicycle paths, sidewalks and roads per capita
  • Decrease or increase in per capita solid waste disposal.

11. Create Ways to Enable Farmers to Live on Farm Land 

  • Designate areas for clustered housing on land zoned agricultural on condition that:
  • The chosen land is low-fertility
  • The homes are limited in size
  • The homes are self-sufficient in water through rainwater harvesting
  • There are bylaws and other conditions requiring the  residents to obtain half of their income from farming or farm-related products.

12. Create Ways to Protect the Forest

Map areas where the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem needs to be protected, and develop tools to protect it:

  • Establish CDF Development Permit Areas that require buffer zones and permitting before development can proceed.
  • Designate standards for the clustering of buildings.
  • Define the permitted area of a forest that can be cleared for fire safety purposes and firewood gathering.
  • Define the permitted size of a canopy opening that is allowed for the pursuit of ecological forestry.

Produced by the Yellow Point Ecological Society

January 2020

Twelve Ways to Protect the Forest

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  1. Deepen Your Love

Go wandering. Find a place where you can sit and listen quietly to the poetry of the forest. Take time to look at the different trees, to observe the way they grow. Learn the names of the ferns, wildflowers, and forest birds. Find a space to lie down and gaze up, and wonder. The forest has been here for a long, long time.

  1. Learn about the Forest Ecosystem

The forest ecosystem on Vancouver Island is 12,000 years old. Until loggers started clearcutting in the 1940s every forest was an oldgrowth forest, with trees up to a thousand years old. This is the astonishingly rich ecosystem we have lost – but it is slowly returning with each successive year that a forest is not clearcut.

The integrity of the forest is essential for the health and resilience of our watersheds and our drinking water, since the forests filter and clean the water. It is essential for all the wildlife for whom it is home. It is essential for carbon storage, making protecting the forest a key solution to the climate emergency.  If you visit Wildwood you can join a workshop or a forest tour where you can learn more about the forest ecosystem.

We also suggest these books:

  1. Find Other Forest-Lovers

 Working to protect the forest will be more effective if you can find friends who share your concern, and work with them to make a difference. It will also be more fun. These are some of the groups that are working to protect the forest here on Vancouver Island:

  1. Understand Just How Little Protection The Forest Has

When it comes to the law and regulations intended to protect the forest there are four different forest jurisdictions on Vancouver Island:

  • Crown Land. 80% of the forest on the Island, including most of the oldgrowth. This is governed by the Forest and Range Practices Act, which is ecologically very weak, and currently undergoing a review.
  • Private Managed Forest Land. Most of the forest on the east side of the Island up to Campbell River that was in the E&N Rail Grant. This is managed through the Private Managed Forests Program, which is also ecologically very weak, and currently undergoing review.
  • Community Forests. Forested land owned by a municipality, such as North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve, the management of which is governed by the elected councillors.
  • Private Forest Land. Most of the forest in developed areas along the coast is privately owned. Its management is governed by provincial laws regarding fish and water, and by Regional District bylaws. Forested land adjacent to a creek, lake or wetland gets some protection, though with weak enforcement and minimal penalties for damage done, but other private forested land has no protection at all: it has been ecologically abandoned.
  1. Ask Your Regional District to Do More to Protect the Forest

This is an area that has not been explored much, since many people believe that governments should not interfere with a private landowner’s rights. These rights are already governed by zoning laws and bylaws, however, and by Development Permit Area rules, so there’s good reason to engage with the rules. Often, where forested land is in a Development Permit Area (DPA), there are many exclusions that make the rules irrelevant. We need to discuss ways in which DPA exclusions can be reduced, and the DPAs themselves can be widened to allow logging using ecoforestry principles, while ending clearcutting.

  1. Ask the BC Provincial Government to Do More to Protect the Forest

Members of organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Ancient Forest Alliance have been working for years to try to influence government forest policy, but so far, it has been a slow, uphill struggle. In the 1990s we had success in protecting various areas completely, such as the Carmanah, parts of the Walbran, and the development of the 1990s Forest Practices Code. That was abandoned under successive BC Liberal governments, but we hope for more success under the current NDP/Green Party Alliance. Oldgrowth forests the size of 34 soccer fields are still being clearcut every day, and only 10% of the biggest old trees are left. You can send a letter to Minister Doug Donaldson here.

  1. Restore Damaged Forest Habitat

All over the world, forests are in need of restoration. This is a big topic that people study in universities. If you know of land locally that is in need of restoration, you can plant trees, making sure to install a deer-protector for each sapling. You can also ask your friends to help you clear invasive species such as broom, using advice on how and when to cut from Broombusters.

If it’s a creek or stream that needs restoration, this is a more complex matter that needs care and skills. Dave Polster has some good advice.

  1. Use Ecological Care when Altering Forested Land

If you want to build a home or a workshop, or clear a a spot for a tiny home, the most useful advice is Don’t Rush In. Live on your land for a year to see where the sun falls, where it floods in winter, which way the wind blows, and which species live where. If you cluster buildings together, there will be much less damage to the forest. You may have friends who say “It’s okay to clearcut the forest because it will grow back,” but in areas where the forest has been cleared such as Timberlands south of Cassidy, and along the Nanaimo River Road the temperature on the ground can be ten or twenty degrees warmer on hot days, compared to within the forest. Deer may eat any new trees that try to get established, and the ‘new normal’ of the climate crisis with its extended summer droughts may mean that the forest never grows back.

If you are thinking of working in a riparian area close to water it’s important to know that fish, frogs and salamanders breed in the water and spend much of their lives in riparian areas, as do many birds, invertebrates, including dragonflies, snails, slugs, and native pollinators like bumblebees and butterflies. For these reasons, it’s important to protect riparian areas:

  • Don’t clear the vegetation. What may seem messy to us is an undisturbed paradise for fish, birds and dragonflies.
  • Don’t use herbicides or pesticides near a riparian area.
  • Don’t allow livestock there, since they will cause damage by trampling and grazing, releasing sediments that could degrade spawning habitat for kilometres downstream, while their wastes can be a source of harmful bacteria like E. coli, harming downstream fish and other creatures.
  • Don’t dump grass clippings or pruned branches, since they can smother the native vegetation and introduce invasive species such as ivy, Japanese knotweed or flag iris.
  • Don’t dredge, channel or alter the water itself.
  • Don’t dig or extract soil from a riparian area.
  • Don’t build a driveway in a riparian area.
  • Don’t let a septic field drain into a riparian area.

In the CVRD, development is not allowed:

  • within 30 metres on either side of a stream, measured from high-water mark;
  • within 30 metres of the top of a ravine that’s less than 60 metres wide with a steep 3:1 slope;
  • within 10 metres of the top of a ravine more than 60 metres wide with a steep 3:1 slope.

In the RDN, riparian setbacks range from 9 meters to 30 metres depending on the slope of the land and the nature of the watercourse.

  1. Practice Ecoforestry

If you own a parcel of forest and you manage it ecologically using ecoforestry methods you will speed its restoration to its original oldgrowth character. A good way to learn about ecoforestry is to attend a workshop at Wildwood: it’s all about retaining the canopy, preserving the strong seed trees, preserving wildlife trees and protecting the soil. Here’s a short video that can get you started.

  1. Place a Conservation Covenant on Your Forested Land

If you own a parcel of forest and you want to protect it forever, you can work with a Land Trust to place a Conservation Covenant on it. This will bind future owners to protect it, with a heavy penalty for a breach of the covenant and a requirement for restoration. The downside is that it will cost you around $25,000:  $12,000 for surveying and legal work and $12,000 for the Land Trust whose staff and volunteers will need to visit the land to monitor the covenant every year or so, for eternity. One option is to write the wish that you want your land covenanted into your will, leaving money to cover the cost. On Vancouver Island, you can discuss placing a covenant on your land with these organizations:

  1. Take Action If You Learn that a Forest May Be Harmed

You have heard a rumour that a forest you love is threatened with being clearcut. What to do?

  • First, call a friend or two, so that you can discuss the problem together. Then gather as much information as you can.
  • Next, ascertain if the land is private, private managed forest land or Crown land. If it is not private, you will need to contact the Ministry of Forests and try to learn more about the rumour.
  • If it is privately owned and within a municipality, contact the municipal planning department and ask what they know about the planned activity. If it is privately owned and in a rural area, contact your Regional District and ask the same. The landowner may or may not have been required to apply for a development permit. If he or she has, you can ask to see the permit and any requirements it may contain.
  • If the chainsaws or feller-buncher machines are already at work, try to take a close look at their work, to ensure that they are doing what is required to protect the riparian area, and to stick to the rules (see #8 above). If they are not, call the 24-hour RAPP line (Report all Poachers and Polluters) to report a violation: 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.
  1. Work Towards an Ecological Democracy in which Nature’s Rights are Protected

We need to develop a vision of the future in which Nature is respected and protected. We need to hold a clear intention that forests will be valued for all that they offer, with proper protection under the law. The trees and wetlands cannot speak for themselves: we have to speak for them: that is what ecological democracy means. And they need rights.

Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California, has written that just as we have given legal status to non-human entities such as ships and corporations, society should also give legal rights to forests, oceans, rivers and other so-called ‘natural’ objects in the environment. Corporations cannot speak either: lawyers speak for them. In 2017, New Zealand’s lawmakers granted the Whanganui River the legal rights of a human, ensuring that it will be represented by guardians in all legal matters that concern the waterway.

Yellow Point Ecological Society, November 2019