I missed out on my opportunity to go on the Friends of Ecological Reserves annual field trip to Trial Island on Sunday. One of the rare plants that can be seen there is Castilleja levisecta, the golden paintbrush, which I’m keenly interested in photographing (have a look at the photo in the linked page to see why!).
After doing a little bit of research, I thought I might be able to find one of the populations of golden paintbrush that occur on Whidbey Island in Washington. This led to a Sunday jaunt to Ebey’s Bluff (The Robert Y. Pratt Preserve) on the west side of the island. Somewhere in its 224 hectares (554 acres) is apparently a 10-20m wide by 100-150m long strip of land where the golden paintbrush can be found. Did I find the paintbrush? Not this time. Was the trip worth it? Most definitely. Plenty of scenic vistas and interesting plants, including what appeared to be an escapee Iris with the broadest leaves I’ve ever seen for an Iris (about 20cm at its widest and 80cm tall), Fritillaria lanceolata and Camassia quamash (read through Ethnobotany and Cultural Resources (PDF) for more regarding these and other plants).
I’m filled with anticipation every time I see Camassia, because of a project that we’re fundraising for at the garden. The idea is a simple one; a camas meadow that begins from the Garry oaks and heads southeastwards, replacing some of the current perennial borders. About this time of year, there will be a swath of blue for garden visitors to enjoy (we don’t have very many swaths of colour at UBC – we’re not a display garden). The colour will be one thing, but, oh, the stories we’ll be able to tell!
The area is envisioned as a sustainable, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant landscape, so it will be of interest to property-owners seeking an alternative to water-consuming lawns. We’ll be able to talk about the little-known fact that there was once a camas meadow on Point Grey – contrary to the typically-believed notion that camas meadows were only maintained by First Nations on the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. In so doing, we’ll be able to establish a link to the local history of the area. With some of the main plant elements of the Garry oak ecosystem, we’ll be able to tell the story of this threatened ecosystem and promote the efforts of the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team. All of those, plus the ethnobotany of these plants makes for an exciting project!