Monday, April 23, 2007

Bioblitz: the sites

After a childhood in a remote area of Vancouver Island, in a settlement with around 25 inhabitants, "greenery" was important to me, the crabs and gulls and seals as much my companions as the humans. Since then, I have lived most of my life in urban spaces, including 10 years in that most urban of environments, Mexico City. So I guess it is understandable that I have always paid special attention to those pockets of unpaved wildness the planners and developers and landscapers have somehow missed. I have learned to appreciate the tenacity with which dandelions claim cracks in the sidewalk and the versatility of sparrows which raise an extra brood through the winter, by building their nests in the housing of the lights of a covered parking lot. And the immense variety of life, under these most demanding of circumstances.

So of course, planning for the Bioblitz, I chose two of these forgotten areas.

First, my backyard. A few years back, we sold our property, and I moved into Seniors' apartments (55+; I was barely 55). I am fortunate to have found a place in a small building, and with its own garden space, a lawn and a double row of cedars cutting it off from the next development. Only one other person on my side of the building bothers with her space; the rest is mine and the birds'. A logical place to start.

Next, just across the street is a block-wide stretch of vacant space, half of it semi-fenced for a possible future development project, the rest undisturbed since the years when this was farm area, and that was a bog. What has "Mother Nature" done with this? I aim to find out, starting this afternoon.

Saturday and Sunday, though, I patrolled "my" yard. This is an area about 275 feet by 40 feet. It has been in lawn for some 25 years, and has been mowed regularly, but, apart from the two personal spaces where my neighbour and I have been building shade gardens, nothing else. Clay soil, shady and boggy. As much moss as grass, lawn weeds, occasional mushrooms. Beside it, a row of evergreens, a fence and path, another row. Ivy has taken over and had climbed most of the trees. Last summer, Laurie and I spent a day cutting and pulling it down, so now it is just at the base. There is still a lot of dead ivy up in the trees.

I am ignoring the personal garden areas in this survey; they feature non-native plants which are not expected to invade the "wild" area. The hedges, where they still survive, are box.

The first task was to catalogue the weeds in the lawn and the edging. Quite a list:
Shrubs -
  • oregon grape, mahonia aquifolium
  • salmonberry, rubus spectabilis,
  • thimbleberry, rubus parviflorus
  • wild rose, rosa nutkana
  • hardhack, spirea douglasii
  • kudzu (what th-?)
  • rhododendron, rhododendron californicum
The rhodos are native, but purposely planted. The other shrubs are volunteer.

Around the edges -
  • bindweed, convovulus sepium
  • dandelion, taraxacum officinale
  • English ivy, hedera helix
  • sword fern, polystchum munitum
  • lady fern, athyrium filix-femina
  • foxglove, digitalis purpurea
  • periwinkle
  • fringecup
  • horsetail, equisetum arvense
In the lawn itself -
  • wall lettuce, lactuca muralis
  • buttercup, ranunculus repens
  • red sorrel, rumex acetosella
  • goosefoot of some sort (probably)
  • plantain, plantago major
  • self-heal, prunella vulgaris, all over the place
  • some coarse rosettes that I can't identify; nasty ones that kill everything around them
  • hairy cat's ears? (see photo above: if you recognize this as something else, please tell me.)
  • and three separate varieties of moss.
More variety than I expected; I never really looked all that closely before. This is a good exercise in observation.

Laurie walked me up and down the row of trees, pointing out the different varieties; my head was spinning by the time we'd finished. Hemlock and cedar and some variety of pines, maybe a Douglas fir. A couple of plane trees, a young cherry in bloom, three vine maples, a couple of alder, and a recent addition, just sprouting leaves. I don't know what it is, yet.

Next post: the two, four, six, eight and many-footed residents of this plot. And the preliminary survey of the vacant lot.

Flickr Blogger Bioblitz photo pool


  1. Excellent beginning. I'm looking forward to reading about the denizens - especially the invertebrates!


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