Quercus garryana Ecosystems

Bryant is responsible for today’s photographs and write-up. He scribes:

The other week, while I was contemplating topics for a series, Daniel handed me a book entitled Nature’s Palette by David Lee. The book is written in a combination of scientific and layman’s terms, and describes various aspects of colour in plants. It is a fascinating read and provides the inspiration and much of the source material for the following series on plant colour. In this series, I aim to investigate the functional, structural, historical, philosophical, economical and sociological connotations of colour in plants.

The first photograph is of a Camassia quamash meadow with the edge of a Quercus garryana grove in the background, taken at the Mt. Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve on Vancouver Island. The second image was taken at Harewood Plains near Nanaimo, British Columbia. The blues are again Camassia quamash while the pink in the background is Plectritis congesta.

When the Garry oak (or Oregon white oak) meadows and woodlands are in full bloom, they demonstrate some of the most vibrant and extraordinary mass blooms on the west coast of Canada. Unfortunately, Garry oak ecosystems are also among the most threatened ecosystems in all of Canada. When walking through a scene like this, it is hard not to be overcome by a feeling of euphoria, almost as if the vibrant colours have a physical effect on the body. Our appreciation for the beauty of this spectacular bloom is perhaps the reason why there is still Garry oak habitat left, and why there is such a dedicated group of people who protect these remaining sites.

Human attraction to plant colour has existed for millennia. In fact, a Neanderthal skeleton dating roughly 60,000 years old was found buried with concentrated flower remains scattered around the skull, suggesting that a wreath of flowers was placed beneath his head before he was buried. Although there are skeptics of this finding, David Lee is convinced that even the Neanderthals attributed aesthetic value to colourful plants.

More recently, studies have shown that lush landscapes can have beneficial psychological and physical affects on patients in the process of recovering from medical issues. A highly-cited 1984 study observed that post-operative patients recovered more quickly when they had a room with a view of a natural setting as opposed to a view of a brick wall. A more recent experiment, with results published in 2010, concluded that photographs and paintings of a natural landscapes consisting mainly of blues and green are more likely to have a calming effect on hospital patients compared to some types of abstract art.

Mount Tzuhalem Ecological Reserve
Harewood Plains

14 responses to “Quercus garryana Ecosystems”

  1. David Tarrant

    Daniel I check Botany Photo of the Day on a regular basis, thoroughly enjoy the informative content along with various comments from your followers around the globe.
    Today’s photographs a true spirit lifter for someone who absolutely loves blue flowers, and has happy memories of walking through Camassia quamash meadows on Vancouver Island when I lived in British Columbia.
    Thank you for such a great posting. Long may you keep up the good work.

  2. Ann Kent HTM

    I have had the pleasure of walking on the footpaths in both the Garry oak meadows featured in these photos,and studying many of the smaller Garry oak ecosystems located on central and southern Vancouver Island.
    For those interested in learning more about the healing capacity of natural landscapes, here is just one of many literature reviews that address the significant body of evidence about the effect of the visible landscape on human health and well-being.
    ‘Health effects of viewing landscapes – Landscape types in
    environmental psychology’:

  3. Ruth Garry

    I just took an entire masters subject devoted to how humans interact with their environments (Human Environment Relations) and our main focus was human reaction to nature and the built environments. The class was full of architects, there’s hope yet!

  4. Peony Fan

    Fantastic photographs, Bryant! Thanks.

  5. Dori Wright

    And whatare the yellow flowers among the camas?

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Lomatium utriculatum, aka spring gold, I believe.

  7. frances howey

    What a coincidence. Last week I got a small 3ft. Garry Oak that one of the grad students here at Western University had used in her research. I know it is not supposed to be hardy here (it spent the last 3 years in the greenhouse) but, as I am from Victoria BC, I was just tickled pink to get it – have repotted it and am fertilizing it once a week with 20-20-20. And here you have this beautiful picture of it in its native place with all those camassias (we used to call them snake flowers) underneath. Thanks for such a wonderful treat.

  8. wendy

    Bryant, thank you. I love this theme and look forward to your next entry. The Camas meadows are simply divine.

  9. Trisha Mason

    Beautiful, beautiful photos. I feel much the same rush of euphoria and thrall in the midst of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes during the Texas hill country spring. There is just something deeply moving and refreshing in the sight of a field of blue. Thank you for a lovely breath of fresh air on this rather hot and muggy morning.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    at the break of day i come to an old temple
    as the first rays of the sun glow on the tree tops
    a path in the bamboo grove leads to a quiet retreat
    a meditation hall hidden behind flowering boughs
    here,moutain scenery delights the birds
    and the reflections in the pond empty a man’s mind
    all murmurings are stilled in this presence,
    but for the echoes of chimes and bells
    ch’an 749
    i am looking forward to the new series on a favorite subject
    monet would have been delighted to be with his canvas and paints
    in the middle of your blue heaven thank you

  11. Ann Smreciu

    Thanks Daniel for highlighting the Garry Oak Community.
    I had all but forgotten the times I spent in these communities on southern Vancouver Island as a child! Now it is all coming back to me… the Dodecatheon, Cammassia, Lomatium, Fritillaria…. collecting the acorns and popping their ‘caps’ off! Walks up Mount Douglas… What fun…
    Thanks again!

  12. Carol

    Frances – Garry oak is hardy in Washington and Oregon. We plant them in forest and meadow restoration sites and I have one in my garden. They are slow growers but perfectly hardy.

  13. Pat

    Lovely flower meadows.
    Would the Neanderthal flower burial you refer to be the one where local rodents had dug many burrows through the grave? The rodent concerned is known to frequently harvest flowers and store them in its burrows. I thought that misinterpretation was clearly debunked.

  14. Robert Mussey

    I wonder what the origin of the name “Harewood Plains” is? In England up to about the 1820’s, the furniture makers traditionally used veneers from London “planetree” (like our sycamore), particularly pieces with curly figure, and stained it a neutral gray or light grayish green. This was then used as the background wood into which marquetry pictures of various veneers were inlaid. Why this was called “Harewood” is obscure. Perhaps the subtle curly figure resembled the mottling of a rabbit’s fur?
    For Vancourver’s gorgeous plains, I suppose it refers to lots of rabbits?

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