Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nose to the ground

At the clearing near Nimpkish Lake, the soil is shallow, mostly made up of dust from the cliffs above and gravel from road-building activity. This far north, the growing season is short and dry, the winters long, dark, and sopping wet. It's good country for evergreen trees; not so nurturing for smaller, short-lived plants. The tallest plants in the clearing were the grasses near the edge, mostly less than a foot tall.

Towards the centre, away from the shelter of cliffs and trees, most of the vegetation hugs the ground, staying out of the wind, close to any dampness available. I got down on my knees and elbows to look at the lichen and found much more.

Cladonia lichen*, moss sporophytes, Alpine azalea**, and a miniature flower with interesting leaves***.

If you look closely, you can (barely) see the moss; dark, yellowish-brown clusters. I think the green shrub is the Alpine azalea, Loisleleuria procumbens, which has leaves from 3 to 8 mm long (about 1/8 to just over 1/4 inch).  I can't identify the tiny plant on the far left; I didn't even see it while I was there, so didn't aim the camera at it.

Update #2: In the comments, Matt Goff, of Sitka Nature, identified the lichen (*) as a Stereocaulon. I found one of these growing in this area, on E-Flora; the Stereocaulon alpinum, Alpine foam. (I like the name.)

** Matt says he doesn't think the green shrub is Alpine azalea, but has no suggestions.

*** And the tiniest flower, up in the top left corner is an Euphrasia, aka eyebright. E-Flora has two on Vancouver Island; E. nemorosa, common eyebright; one of those records is of a find beside the road near Port Hardy, a bit north of where I found this one. And the Arctic eyebright, E. subarctica, was found also beside the road; at Keta Lake, a bit to the south.

Moss sporophytes, standing tall (ish) on brown stalks, encased in pointed wrappings. A few have shed the covering.

On the right, the lichen has dark brown spots, reproductive structures. And on the left, an intriguing spotted, hairy plant. If the azalea leaves are 1/4 inch long, the leaves of the spotted plant would be about 1/2 inch.

I couldn't identify this plant. I think it may be the same as the one I found near Heckman Pass (on the Bella Coola road) a couple of years ago.

Not quite so spotty, but otherwise similar. Somewhat larger.

I couldn't identify it then, either. Any ideas?

Update: It's one of the hawkweeds, either Mouse-ear hawkweed, Hieracium pilosella, or White-flowered hawkweed, Hieracium albiflorum. Here are the white-flowered ones just across the water in Powell River, on Powell River Books Blog.

Update # 3: It's been definitely identified as the White-flowered hawkweed.

Nimkish Lake area and Heckman Pass, more or less.


  1. I couldn't help with the hairy leaves (though I see from your update you figured them out), but the lichen looks like a Stereocaulon and the small flowering plant you accidentally captured a Euphrasia. I don't think the shrub is Loiseleuria procumbens, as that would have smaller, more leathery leaves. I don't recognize what it is, though.

    1. We have two Euphrasia recorded on E-Flora, here on the island, Euphrasia nemorosa, and E. subartica, which has only two records this far south. E. nemorosa looks fairly common.

  2. Thanks! I'll update the post again. The Euphrasia looks like an interesting little plant; Wikipedia says it's semi-parasitic on grasses, etc. I'll have to investigate it further.

    You're probably right about the L. procumbens; it was a wild guess on my part.


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