Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii), also known as Douglas’ Spirea, is found across much of British Columbia but is especially common on the South Coast and Vancouver Island. It is a shrub which can reach up to 2m tall and form dense thickets. It likes moist areas and is found in marshes, bogs, streambanks, ditches and other wet sites. Its pink flower clusters bloom in late spring or early summer and persist for many months. The thickets provide habitat for nesting birds and the flowers provide nectar and pollen for hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. There are other species of Spirea found in British Columbia but they are mostly low shrubs, therefore hardback is distinguishable by its larger size, as well as its pink flowers.
Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca) is a common shrub (or small tree depending on who you ask) found along the coast, including the Lower Mainland, and on Vancouver Island. It prefers moist low to mid-elevation sites and is often found in or near marshes, bogs, lakes, estuaries, stream-sides and in open forests. It is deciduous and blooms beautiful white flowers in the spring. It produces small pomes in summer which can be eaten by people, as they were by First Nation peoples for centuries. Bears and many species of birds consume the apples and deer and other ungulates feed on the leaves.
Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar polysepala) is an aquatic perennial plant that is found in marshes, wetlands, ponds and slow moving water across southern and central BC and along the coast; becoming less common in northern and eastern parts of the province. It is a perennial plant that usually flowers from June to late-July depending on latitude, elevation and local conditions. The build up of decomposing lilies and other aquatic vegetation is part of the succession of marsh habitats to meadows and eventually forests. This process allows for shrubs to move in and eventually trees. The plant has many potential medicinal uses and was/is used by First Nations.
Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) is a shrub found across southern BC and north to the central coast. It is common at sea level to mid-elevation sites especially in open areas like clearings, trails and along coastal beaches. It generally blooms in May/June depending on latitude, elevation and local conditions. Its white flower clusters stay on the plant for a long time and turn brown in late summer. It can grow to over 10 feet tall.
Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) is found on the South Coast and Vancouver Island in wet forests and streambanks. Its flowers are normally white but can also be palish pink (subspecies hibbersonii). It is a perennial herb that flowers early in the season from March to May depending on elevation and local conditions/microclimate.
Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla) is a deciduous perennial herb found on the South Coast including Vancouver Island. It is normally found in moist shaded areas but can also grow stream-side and in mid-elevation meadows. In some areas it forms thick mats that can cover large areas of the forest floor. When dried the leaves are said to smell like vanilla, hence the name, and can be hung around the house as a bug repellent.
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is a strange looking plant in the heath/heather family. It contains no chlorophyll and so it cannot produce its own food like most green plants. It is a parasite of conifer trees and attaches to mycorrhizae fungi. Mycorrhizae fungi form a mutualisitic relationship with many, if not most, plants and help them absorb water and nutrients from the soil while receiving some of the plant’s sugars. All parts of the plant are white, which gives rise to its other name Ghost Flower.