2022 in review: Wildflowers

Ah, the wildflower report…. Brought to you by – wait for it, all will be revealed later!

With the exception of my jaunt up to the peak of Mount Thurston at the beginning of July, I decided against chasing glacier lilies this year. Last year’s display on the Pushki Lake trail was so amazing that it would be hard to beat, or even match, so I opted for the contentment of seeing them whenever we saw them. To my surprise and delight we found some nice patches on our Egypt Lake backpacking trip which I could obsess over for a few minutes at a time. Or at least as long as the mosquitoes would let me…

We saw an impressive variety of flowers on our hikes this year with somewhere in the vicinity of 150 species. Some common species gave us a real treat. For example, western coralroot is not a rare flower and we know of several trails near Vancouver where it grows in abundance. But I have to say that the bloom we saw on the trail between Alice and Edith Lakes was the most spectacular we’ve ever seen. The hikes to Sumas Mountain and Norvan Falls offered some wonderful trillium while our visit to Vancouver Island in July gave us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with a few flowers that are rare on the mainland, such as harvest brodiaea and Hooker’s and fool’s onions. Our week-long trips to the Rockies and the South Chilcotins treated us to exceptional and expansive displays of flowers.

It wasn’t just our hikes where we encountered flowers. We have a few local spots that we like to check out every year, including Lighthouse Park for white fawn lilies and death camas, Whytecliff Park for chocolate lilies, and Camosun Bog for sundew, northern starflower, and waist-high kalmia. And they all delivered.

In terms of nice surprises, we found a small number of glaucous gentian as we descended into the Tosh Creek valley on our Grant Creek (South Chilcotins) trip. As ever, how we manage to spot such tiny flowers in open terrain remains a mystery! But spot them we did, and of course I snapped a few photos. We only seem to encounter them every few years – I can’t tell if that means we’re lucky to find them or unlucky not to find more of them at other times! We also found a couple more patches of purple mountain saxifrage, a flower we found for the first time last year in Cathedral provincial park. Our Egypt Lake trip also treated us to many mountain bells, a flower we’ve seen only once or twice before (such as last year in Cathedral provincial park). While not a stand-out flower, we definitely had a stand-out moment in a meadow full of western meadowrue where there were so many bees that the sound of their humming completely filled our ears.

New this year was mountain larkspur, a much taller relative of the more familiar Menzies’ larkspur, arctic raspberry (almost known as dwarf nagoonberry), white water-crowfoot, small-flowered anemone (which we’d been calling cut-leaf anemone.- we saw that too!), and a quartet of flowers in the Rockies that we’ve (still) yet to identify. Some of these are shown above. (Update, Jan 16: we just identified one of our unknown flowers as Scouler’s harebell (pale bellflower) from our trip to Vancouver Island in July.)

However, the prize for most eye-popping floral display must go to paintbrush – in both the Rockies and the South Chilcotins, their numbers were immense and they carpeted the meadows in all shades of red, pink, and white. A veritable sea of castilleja. Wow! Much as I love glacier lilies, it was impossible not to be impressed and moved by such incredible displays of paintbrush. Well played!

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