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Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest

Arrow Leaved Balsam Root, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
Arrow Leaved Balsam Root, Photo By Robert Logan

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest and seeing the meadows, slopes, and trail sides filled with a vast variety of blooming wildflowers is one of my favorite things to do, but while i appreciate the beauty wildflowers give me, sometimes i forget to consider the magic at work to create such a show year after year. Annual wildflowers must grow anew each year from seed while perennial wildflower plants can last for several seasons, but ultimately must also produce enough new plants from seed to maintain the population.

Seeds formed after pollination occurs must be carried from the mother plant to places they can germinate. they usually rely on birds and furry animals for this, although some use other means, such as hanging over water. Some wildflower seeds have varying amounts of chemicals that inhibit germination in their seed coats. Some seeds germinate with just a small amount of rainfall. Others won’t sprout until the spring rains come and soak the seed. Some seeds remain viable in the soil for decades before conditions are just right and they can grow. This is an insurance against all the seeds sprouting at once in unfavorable conditions and not reproducing.

Tiger Lily, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
Tiger Lily, Photo By Bud Logan

For many of us in the Pacific Northwest, a colorful display of wildflowers on one of our mountain meadows is one of the most beautiful experiences we can encounter. The BC coastal region has many such wonders to bestow upon the worthy traveler who takes to walking the high trails. For these folks, there is a  magic in seeing these fields awash in color.

Although you get wondrous explosions of color up in the high meadows, its not the only place to view wildflowers, they are everywhere, from the very edge of the ocean, along the river banks and lake shores, right up to the tree line on our highest peaks. I love walking the river trails, seeing the various lily’s, the tiger lily is one of my favorites.

Many flowers now considered gardens favorites have been domesticated from wildflowers. The snapdragon, miniature daisies, foxgloves and phlox’s were all wildflowers tamed for use in domestic gardens. Many of these flowers and their cultivars are unchanged from their natural form, while others have been cultivated and cross bred in greenhouses to create totally new plants within their species.

Chocolate Lily, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
Chocolate Lily, Photo By Bud Logan

Even though these plants have the ability to survive in poor soil, many wildflowers do not live very  long after being picked. Some plants that are dug up for transfer do not fend very well as they do not transplant well and the whole process of removing them is harmful to the environment, l always like to stress the need to gather some seed and grow the plants from scratch. This leaves the mother plant healthy with enough seed left to look after its own reproduction.

You can see wildflowers from the very end of winter, poking out from the remaining snow right up to the winter storms arrive, some even grow year round.

Wildflowers grow all over the coast. Wildflowers are simply any flowering plants that grow in the wild. When we think of wildflowers, we think of plants with colorful, beautiful blooms, but not all wildflowers have big showy flowers. Some have small flowers with little show but they are all wondrous to see in their own way. Wildflowers are found growing in all sorts of habitats all over the coast. From fields to forests, from meadows to lawns, wildflowers are found everywhere.

King Gentian, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
King Gentian, Photo By Bud Logan

Finding what wildflowers grow in your area is not has hard as you may think.There are many great field guides and l suggest you pick up one or more for your area and head out to see just what you can see. In any given area, you can find different types of flowers at various times of the year. So go back to the same areas through out the year.

This is a great past time to take your children on, they can learn about plants and by so doing, will learn about the forests, meadows, insects and animals that share the same areas. But please teach them to look, when you pick most wildflowers, they will tend to wilt and die quickly and sometimes there are insects and animals that are relying on these plants to survive.

There are over 20,000 species of flowering plants in North America that  belong to over 300 different families. Those that grow in the wild or on their own, without cultivation, are called wildflowers.  Other wildflowers, introduced but now wild, are not indigenous, they are referred to as naturalized.  Both types share one common distinction: They both grow on their own in nature.

Western Lady Slipper, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
Western Lady Slipper, Photo By Robert Logan

Flowering plants are called Angiosperms. Their origins are still unknown and is one of the great mysteries of evolution. Fossil records show they appeared suddenly on the planet about 90 million years ago. They took off rapidly and evolved quickly into the many various families we have today.

Plants are, for the most part, stationary, so nature had to provide a means for the male and female parts of newly-formed flowers to reach each other successfully. This need resulted in the rise of the system of pollination or fertilization by birds and insects. Flowers evolved into the showy, colorful forms to attract these pollinators. Sweet nectar simply added to the allure.

Bees, Butterflies, other flying insects and birds all play a major role in pollination, the greater the show, the more pollinators there will be. Its fascinating to watch this process, next time you are around flowering plants, take a moment and have a good look, you will be surprised by the activity around these flowers.

Gnome Plant, BC Coastal Region, wildflowers
Gnome Plant, Photo By Robert Logan

So grab your camera put on your hiking boots, head out to a trail and learn about what wonders are hiding in our forests and meadows, you will be amazed and you will enjoy the fresh air.

There is so many fascinating plants on our Island that one could never learn about them all but one can try, so get out and see for yourself just what wildflowers live in your area. Take your camera to bring home memories of where you went. You might do yourself some good hiking around the island. It is a nice, healthy way to get some exercise. Perhaps we will run into one another one day, on a mountain trail, happy hiking.

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