Sunday afternoon, we drove down to Mud Bay, birding. We were getting our jackets on when the rain started, and by the time we were on the highway, it was pouring. So the idea of a walk down the dike was abandoned, and we "explored" by car, following roads towards the water that we had not used before.
We passed a few drenched sheep in a pasture; one of them looked like an oversized tardigrade (water bear) or maybe a grey and white caterpillar, nose to the greenery, face invisible except for a constantly-moving snout. Laurie attempted a few photos through the car window; no telling if they will turn out.
Closer to the water, there was a pair of eagles at the top of one of the pines, and in the fields and along the power lines, hundreds of starlings. A few mallards and some other puddle ducks with white markings hung out with them on the ground.
Still pouring. We drove on to Crescent Beach to find a coffee shop.
Along the road, the salmonberry bushes were leafing out; buds like tiny green lights all through the understory. Crescent Beach is slightly warmer than our area of the Delta, being right down in the curve of the Sound, whereas we are up the hill, so their spring growth comes a few weeks before ours. Our salmonberry is still a tangle of bare sticks.
Next time we're down there, I'll be looking for a wild spring bouquet to bring home.
Salmonberries are a We(s)t Coast plant; they rarely grow east of the Cascades. They grow here profusely at the open fringes of forest, in mixed alder/cottonwood bush, along fields and roads and most river and creek banks, anywhere there is moisture and sunlight.
And they are virtually unkillable. I spent two years nurturing a fern growing in an old maple stump where a salmonberry had chosen to sprout. I ripped it out, time and time again. I dug 'way down in that stump, cleaned out every single rootling as far as I could reach. The salmonberry came back every time.
Tonight, I read in a local government publication,
"Manual cutting of salmonberry stimulates rapid re-sprouting from stem bases and rhizomes and can result in an increase in salmonberry coverage on the treated site. Salmonberry plants cut in spring have been reported to re-sprout to a height of over 1m by late summer."I had to laugh. I remember well from my childhood on Vancouver Island, how Mom fought the salmonberries that pushed against the windows of our house. Several times a year, she would go out and chop them all down to the ground. I swear they had sprouted 6 inches before she did the complete circuit. Poor Mom!
But they have their good points. They are the first greenery in the spring woods, and such a green! A bright, sparkly, cheerful lime green, in leaves that hang separately so as to catch and concentrate the sunlight; a flock of neon fireflies in the still-grey woods.
The flowers come along almost before the leaves are fully out, and are beautiful in their own right. Rubus spectabilis is a member of the rose family, and not too far off from the also-native Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana. Compare the two photos.
By early summer, though, the rose is still blooming, but the salmonberry has moved on. It produces thousands of red or orange berries, similar to raspberries (another relative), although not quite as sweet. The bears love them, as do the birds, many smaller mammals and some of the human residents, those whose palate (in my opinion) has not been deadened by the over-flavoured commercial foodstuffs in our stores.
The red berries are usually more tart, even when fully ripe; the orange ones are much milder. Still delicious, I think.
We picked them for jam, for pies, for freezing and sprinkling over ice cream, for adding just that spark of colour to boring fruit salads. The First Nations peoples ate them fresh, and I've heard of people making wine with them. I eat a few as I walk along the trails, watching my sugars, which makes every taste a luxury. Berry, berry good!
Photos from Wikipedia and USDA . Tweet