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.

3 comments:

  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.

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    Replies
    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.

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  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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