Naturespeak 

The Royal Forest

By Veronica Sommerville,

Whistler Naturalist Society

A simple walk in the woods is rarely thought of as an escape into a kingdom, however a small lesson on the subjects present reveals an entire monarchy.

First is the Queen’s Cup, Clintonia uniflora . The whole "rose by any other name" theory definitely holds try for this regally named bloom. It is bold and white, with five or six perfect petals that sit atop a delicate thread of a stem that sprouts covertly from one or two lance-shaped leaves. The sense that most appreciates this beauty is sight, as the fragrance of the flower has been tactfully described as rotting flesh. This late spring lily can generally be found growing in small patches at the edge of trails and clearings due to its underground stems, known as rhizomes. The flower disappears far too quickly, but sooner or later a brilliant, plump, royal blue berry defies gravity from atop the slight stem. Although it looks tantalizingly tasty, this berry is best left for the grouse.

Further into the forest, Prince’s Pine sits under the well-developed forest canopy, positioned atop the almost indistinguishable shape of a long ago fallen log. This tiny evergreen plant, Chimaphilia umbellata , is common throughout many of our forests and can be seen in quantities in the demonstration forest east of Function Junction. As the stately name suggests, look for a miniature evergreen tree no taller than 35cm with bright, shiny, narrow toothed leaves. A single stem extends upward from the centre of the "tree", and umbrellas into numerous tiny branches from which small, pink, waxy flowers dangle. Prince’s Pine has been proven to have hypoglycemic and anti-diuretic properties.

Keeping watch over all, high in the canopy, tiny but no less noble, flits the Kinglet. Aptly named for such royalty, two species watch over our forest, the golden-crowned kinglet, Regulus satrapa and the ruby-crowned kinglet, Regulus calendula . They share similar habitats in coniferous woods, but do not object to an occasional roam through bushes or gardens. These tiny birds will build nests hung from a branch up to 60 feet high, using moss, lichens, dead leaves, plant down and even spider webs. Kinglets prefer a feast of insects with the occasional spiders, chased through the air or swallowed off a branch. These birds are seemingly always active, and they generally spend their winters hanging around in the company of other locals like chickadees, nuthatches and brown creepers.

No kingdom would be complete without treasure, and the Golden Jewel Beetle fits the bill. Buprestis aurulenta is a spectacular beetle, adorned in iridescent green armour trimmed with gold. This beetle is so beautiful it is tempting to bring it home and pin it in your hair as a barrette or display it as a broach. It is a native B.C. species and can be found mainly around Douglas Fir that is dead or has suffered some unfortunate event like lightening. The larva of this species is a fat, white, segmented worm that hatches from eggs laid in the bored wood. The larva excavate chambers just below the surface, where they will remain, sometimes up to 50 years, before transforming into adults. Once they are adults, they chew through to the surface and emerge into the forest or sometimes into the living room of an unsuspecting owner of a log home.

Upcoming Events:

3rd Annual One Mile Lake Bird Walk in Pemberton, Saturday, June 14th

Meet at the parking lot at One Mile Lake (enter by the Welcome to Pemberton sign) at 8 a.m. Guided by five experts with the Breeding Bird Survey: Barry Janyk, Kevin Bell, Dave Aldcroft, Derrick Marven, and George Clulow. These guys are exceptional birders who make it fun for experts and novices alike. Everyone welcome (bring binoculars and a field guide if you have them).

Nature Walks

Wednesday, June 18, 6:30-7:30- Shadow Lake Demonstration Forest. Meet at the parking lot on the east side of Hwy 99.

Wednesday, June 25, 6:30-7:30 Whistler Demonstration Forest. Meet at the junction of West Side Main past the bridge, before the dump.

For information on the Whistler Naturalists, contact Veronica Sommerville at veronicarobin@yahoo.ca.

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