I wonder how much soil is under that rock? I’m guessing, not much. And I’m not showing it in this photo, but there was snow clinging to the rocks just southeast of where I was standing. In July. This common willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), a close relative of the (ahem!) even more common fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium*, also known as rosebay willowherb), is a mountain plant with heaps of beauty AND brawn.
*In another case of Nomenclature Gone Wild, fireweed was previously known as Epilobium angustifolium. I can’t yet find an explanation as to why the genus name was changed for this plant and not for common willowherb…but I’ll keep digging.
Admission to Canada’s national parks has been free all year as the country celebrates its sesquicentennial, but it’s a gift I hadn’t yet enjoyed…until braving the insane long-weekend crowds in Banff’s Johnston Canyon last Saturday. Parking was at a premium (thank goodness my brother has a car with a supremely compact exterior and a dimension-bending interior) and the steel catwalks to the spectacular falls were crammed with visitors, but as we ventured past the Upper Falls and headed towards the mineral pools known as the Ink Pots, the throngs thinned out and the scenery kept getting better and better…if such a thing is even possible. It’s pretty easy to see why everyone is so keen on showing up.
Well, I still haven’t finished unpacking from our move and I’ve been filling in a ton of hours for all of my vacationing co-workers on top of my regular shifts (which is why the unpacking isn’t progressing)…but some much-longed-for hiking in the mountains is finally happening this summer! My brother and my hubby and I recently did a short trek to Ptarmigan Cirque, in Kananaskis Country. My hubby and I had been up there twice before, and I am always awed by the scenery. This go-around, the water pools were dried up from the heat and the waterfall was a bit on the skinny side; we also missed the peak wildflower bloom, but the place simply cannot ever disappoint. This is an immensely rewarding short hike for families and anyone who doesn’t want to tackle a difficult trek. The challenging part is completed first thing: you’re in the Highwood Pass*, so you start out at an elevation of 2,206 metres (7,239 feet) and then climb up – very quickly, pretty much all in the first kilometre – to 2,414 metres (7,923 feet). It’s a bit hard to breathe up there, plus there’s all that exercise you’re doing…
…and then you get to see views like this. Breathtaking, indeed!
One of my favourite places in the Rockies! The diversity of plant life up there is incredible….
*Which has the distinction of being “the highest paved pass in Canada.” Meaning, there is a really good road up there, a highway that is open to traffic only six months of the year, to protect critical wildlife habitat. The rest of the time, we can snowshoe and ski on sections of it (see here and here).
Yes, this plant is about as common here as wearing socks…well, except it’s summer and a blisteringly hot one at that and everyone is currently shod in sandals and…where was I? Yeah. Wild bergamot, sometimes called horsemint. Monarda fistulosa (syn. M. menthifolia, M. bradburrana). Socks in winter. Ahem.
It looks pretty marvelous, especially when photographed in the early morning. One of my favourite Alberta wildflowers. Me and the bees. 🙂
In around the packing for our move across the city, the brutally lengthy commute, and working at a new location (not to mention, utterly failing to reply to the thoughtful, wonderful blog comments people have left or find the time to read anyone else’s blog entries) , there have been few spare moments to do any hiking or wildflower hunting this spring…and I’m dearly missing getting out. My hubby and I did manage a whirlwind couple of orchid-hunting trips a couple of weeks ago, first to a spot we know southwest of the city, near the mountains, to look for calypso (or fairy slipper) orchids. We found a scarce few, and I hope it was just a timing thing, because their numbers were sorely depleted from our last visit in spring 2015 (when I took the above photo).
Later in the same week, we went out to a place in the foothills of the Rockies, and scoped out the brilliant yellow lady’s slippers I mention here. In this place, this year, the orchids had spread abundantly – a fantastic sign!
Speaking of lady’s slipper orchids, I recently came across a great article about the pollination and seed development of these gorgeous plants. Enjoy the interesting read here.
Hopefully things will settle down in the next month or so and I can catch up with all of you very soon! Have a wonderful weekend!
Yet another week of not-spring has gone by…but I’m feeling optimistic. Looking very forward to sunshine-filled summer hiking trips and a possible sighting of this fascinating Alberta wildflower, striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata). To find out why this plant isn’t green, check out a previous post I did about coralroots way back in 2013.
Enjoy your weekend! What projects are you working on (gardening or otherwise)?
Today’s flower is an interesting one (and a native, to boot!) – woolly gromwell (Lithospermum ruderale). According to Plants of Alberta (France Rover, Richard Dickinson), there are only thirty species of the Borage family growing wild in Alberta, of which this is one. In early summer, the west slopes of Nose Hill here in Calgary are dotted with these strange spiky-leaved plants, in full bloom.
What ruderal plants are common where you live? I always think of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium, syn. Chamerion angustifolium) – in mid-summer, it is simply spectacular in roadside ditches and in mountain meadows.