Pink Fawn Lily Tour of Lake Cowichan and Duncan

Pink Fawn Lily Tour of Lake Cowichan and Duncan

Trip report by Teresa Gagné & Denis Laplante

On 24 April 2019, Twenty four members of Nature Vancouver boarded a bus at the Duke Point ferry terminal for a day trip to view wild flowers, led by Teresa Gagné & Denis Laplante, and guided by local naturalists and wardens Genevieve Singleton and David Polster.  We visited Honeymoon Bay Pink Fawn Lily Ecological Reserve, then Somenos Gary Oak Protected Area, and St Peter Quamichan church yard.

After a quick lunch stop at beautiful Gordon Bay on Lake Cowichan we headed to our first stop, the nearby Honeymoon Bay Pink Fawn Lily Ecological Reserve.  As volunteer warden for the reserve, Genevieve reminded us that Ecological Reserves are established primarily for the protection of important species, also for research, and last for public enjoyment.  As a site with easy road access this reserve has faced special issues and required sensitivity to balance the ecological concerns with the interests of local residents who viewed it as ‘their’ park.  Large groups like ours require a special permit to visit  reserves but groups of up to 9 can visit without a permit.  During a 75 min stroll along the 1km trail system we saw many wonderful flowers and other plants.  Although the Pink Fawn Lily (Erythronium revolutum) has declined from past abundance there were still many blooms, often scattered among bright yellow Streamside Violet (Viola glabella).  Their glossy mottled leaves are a beautiful complement to the pink flowers and the many small leaves of young plants are an encouraging sign that the decline may be temporary.  We also enjoyed flowering Trillium (T. ovatum); Big Leaf Maple; Miners Lettuce and Siberian Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliate & siberica); Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Formosa); and the yellow Evergreen Violet (Viola sempervirens).  Emerging leaves of Vanilla-leaf, Carolina Bugbane, False Lily-of-the valley and Hellebore were also admired along with the carpet of Step Moss and other mosses.  Genevieve, explained that logging of mountain slopes in the Lake Cowichan area are causing erosion, filling creeks with mud and gravel which collapses banks and threatens sensitive riparian areas such as the HB reserve. 

The bus next took us to the Somenos Gary Oak Protected Area, where Genevieve’s husband, restoration consultant David Polster, told us of the work required to maintain a balance of species in this threatened ecosystem.  Historically, local indigenous bands used fire to maintain open meadows for harvesting starchy camas bulbs, but with recent wildfire scares, mowing is being tried as an alternative.  We saw a few large clumps of the coastal Deltoid Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea), a relative of the more common interior Arrowleaf Balsamroot, which has been reintroduced here.  Other treats here were the red-listed Montane Violet (Viola praemorsa), the tiny Red-maids (Calandrinia cilata), and one plant of blooming Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolata).  In open areas the oaks were mostly still bare, with just a few new leaves emerging.  In the conifer forest section of the reserve we saw Douglas Firs and the Pathfinder plant with its gray-backed leaves.

Finally we visited the grounds of the old Anglican church St. Peter Quamichan in Duncan, which offered a fantastic show of native of wildflowers among Gary Oak trees.  White Fawn Lily (E. oregonum); Shooting Star (Dodecathion/Primula pulchellum & hendersonii); Spring-Gold (Lomatium utriculatum); Blue Camas (Camassia quamash); and native Buttercups carpet the cemetery and church yard. 

Impressed by the volunteer hours spent restoring and protecting Ecological Reserves and other sensitive areas, the tour-group members donated over $100 to support their ongoing efforts.

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