Sometimes I have to wonder why I spend so much time weeding my garden, cutting back the ground covers, giving each plant its own space. In the wild, sometimes, they seem to enjoy the tangle.
The trees of the White Rock cliffs climb up out of a thick mat of vegetation, mostly low berry producing plants, Nootka roses, bindweed, and honeysuckle (which also has berries, but we don't dare eat them.), and mounds of Himalayan blackberry. Later on, little brown birds will twitter constantly in the thickets, raising their families on a diet of berries blue, red, and black. They'll leave bucket-loads of the big blackberries to the crows and us, but not much else.
|The little trailing blackberry and salal|
Our only native blackberry is a weak, trailing vine, usually mingling inconspicuously among other plants. Here it uses the salal as a support, to spread its leaves out in the sunshine. The berries are small and sweet, the smaller, the sweeter.
The salal is just showing the first flower buds. They will eventually hang down in a row of sticky, white lanterns from a curving stalk. As they mature, they turn green, then a deep purple. Ripe, they are sweet and have an intense grape-like flavour. (Not the grapes we get at the supermarket; these days; those taste like sugar water.) They are not "true" berries, but the swollen sepals of the flower.
|Saskatoon, or service berry, Amelanchier alnifolia|
These were hiding low in the undergrowth. I hadn't seen them there before, but now I'll look for them in the summer. Service berries are round, single berries like a blueberry, a deep blue colour and highly nutritious. I have found them extremely variable as to taste; I had one in my yard up north that was almost inedible, and I have picked buckets full from a tree at a campsite near Barkerville, digging out every container I could find in the car, because they were so delicious. I think the deciding factors are water and sunlight, which mine were rather short of. This one looks like it's in an ideal situation.
|White bluebells, Hyancinthoides hybrids, probably.|
Deep below a mass of last year's Himalayan blackberry canes, we saw a bright spot. Laurie cleared away as many of the canes as he could without tearing himself up; those thorns are vicious! And there they were: several small clumps of white bells.
|Glowing in the unaccustomed sunlight.|
These huge blackberry bushes are still a tangle of sturdy brown canes, A few were starting to leaf out. Within a month, they will have built a large, dark cave where nothing grows, but where birds and rabbits can stay happily invisible. And where we will probably rip our hands reaching for the juiciest berries.
Himalayan blackberries vs. the evergreen blackberry, two delicious invaders. Both well-provided with thorns. Both worth the scratches and punctures they give us. But don't go near them wearing flimsy clothes! Tweet