ISSN 1188-603X

No. 184 February 19,
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Briony Penn (penn& originally published in Gulf Islands Driftwood Feb. 11, 1998, p. 7.

[Prologue: Briony Penn's article describes a fight between a rare endemic species, Macoun's meadow-foam (Limnanthes macounii) and an aggressive introduced species, lawn burweed (Soliva sessilis). Both species met in Ruckle Park on Saltspring Island in southwestern British Columbia. Ruckle Park is the only locality of Macoun's meadow-foam on Saltspring Island; another locality we knew of disappeared under a sun deck that an owner of the property built over the vernal pool where meadow-foam used to grow. - Thanks to Briony Penn and to the Gulf Island Driftwood for the permission to post the article on BEN. - AC]

Once upon a time there were two plants each exquisite in their own right: Macoun's meadow-foam and the lawn burweed. Both these plants had adapted to a very unusual sort of place: a place where the competition was weak, the aspect was sunny but the water present. Of course there are few places in the world where all three needs are met and, like many of us, the meadow-foam found itself a haven in the sunny, mossy rock outcrops of the Straits of Georgia where water gently seeped through its roots. There it grew happily co-existing with the odd deer and human browsing out the more vigorous competitors such as camas and fool's onion.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the world at approximately the same latitude the burweed found its niche in the sunny rocky outcrops of South America where wandering llamas grazed away the competition. Both plants had many similarities in features; a reflection of their modest natures. They both liked to stick close to the ground and laze around in the sun, catching the rays with their ephemeral leaves.

The one vital difference between the two exquisites was that the burweed had developed a rather robust manner of distributing its seed. Its seed case had a sharp pointed spine that did rather well at embedding itself in the tough old hide of the pampas deer and moving itself to the next sunny outcrop. The more improvident meadow-foam had acquired the particular affliction affecting all long term dwellers of the Gulf Islands, an inability to worry about tomorrow, and its seed was hopelessly provincial.

This wasn't a problem for thousands of years and may well have continued not to be a problem for many more except that increasing numbers of exquisite groups of humans arrived in the Straits who were also looking for places where the competition was weak, the aspect sunny and the water present. One by one the meadow-foam colonies were inadvertently wiped out and by the end of the twentieth century, meadow-foam was reduced to a handful of scattered colonies, each no larger than a picnic table. Several colonies were in Ruckle Park.

Meanwhile, burweed was doing rather better. It had inadvertently become a major player in the changing world that included such improvident activities as ecotourism and golf. Energetic backpackers with thick woolly socks and tough young hides, on the search for pampas deer and adventure, were obvious substitutes for the deer and the sharp pointed spines of the seeds ensured their safe passage to the homes of the backpackers in the northern latitudes.

Some burweeds found their way to golf courses in Arizona where enormous machines and golfers removed the plant competition, sprinklers provided the water and the sun shone daily. Others migrated in the backpacks all the way to Ruckle Park, the first such found in Canada, and took up residence within seeding distance of the meadow-foam.

Now everyone knows that Gulf Islanders, such as the exquisite meadow-foam, are no match for competition, even such weak competition as the exquisite burweed, and Ruckle Park in the last year has become the stage for an international drama. The meadow-foam is on the endangered list and the burweed has become the latest arrival in a long line of threats to its existence, alongside the exquisite broom, ivy and makers of golf courses. Now for the moral of the tale.

In regular fairy tales, there is a good and a bad and the good wins every time. In this fairy tale, there is no good or bad there is simply 'seemingly improvident' and 'inadvertently opportunistic' and a storyteller who has a certain empathy for underdogs and maintaining a diversity of approaches to life. Who is to know whether the hopeless quality of improvidence during one millennium might not be the enduring quality in another millennia. Could Macoun's meadow-foam become the lawn burweed in another time? The only way to know is to try and do what one can. It has been at our hands that the meadow-foam has all but disappeared and it can only be our hands that pluck the exquisite burweed from amongst the meadow-foam. It is task that it splendidly reflective. You crawl on your knees on a sunny rocky outcrop with water gently seeping under your knees trying to decide if what you are about to pluck is the rarest organism in Canada- rarer than the blue whale - or a hardy little traveler that only a moment ago was caught amongst the coarse hairs of a pampas deer. It is a time of learning as you must confront the slight and subtle differences between species and the contradictions within yourself about one's role in the biosphere. And once you have done it, I promise you, you will never look at the world in the same way again.

Ruckle is the only known site of lawn burweed that it has been found in British Columbia to date and it is possible at this stage to first-thank it for being so exquisite-then remove it with a respectful pluck.

[Epilogue: A similar fight is being staged between Macoun's meadow-foam and subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum) on Rocky Point near Victoria. Subterranean clover has similar ecology as Macoun's meadow-foam and lawn burweed and is native to Mediterranean Europe. - AC]


From Adolf & Oluna Ceska c/o (

When we were going through our old unidentified collections, we came across the following specimen of wall bedstraw, Galium parisiense L. (Rubiaceae): Lasqueti Island, Trematon Mtn. 49 deg. 28.2' N. 124 deg. 16.8' W. elev. 300 m; A. & O. Ceska (# 25,659), June 14, 1989 (V, UBC). Galium parisiense has not been previously reported from British Columbia and Canada.

This is an annual species of bedstraw, with short (5-8 cm) stems. Its minute leaves (in whorls of 4-5) are reflexed downwards and have scabrous margins. The tiny flowers are bisexual and tetramerous. This species is an introduction that originated in the Mediterranean Europe. In western North America it is known from California, Oregon and Washington.

On Lasqueti Island this species occurs in thick patches along the path in a periodically wet area at the bottom of a rocky ravine just below the top of Trematon Mountain.


McCune, B. & L. Geiser. 1997.
Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State University, Corvallis. xiv + 386 p. ISBN 0-87071-394-9 [soft cover]

Order from:
Oregon State University Press,
101 Waldo Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6407
Credit card orders by phone: 541-737-3166; fax 541-737-3170
Cost: US$25.95

In Canada the book is distributed by the UBC Press:
UBC Press, University of British Columbia
6344 Memorial Road, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z2
Phone: 604-822-5959 Fax: 800-668-0821
The Canadian price is CND$35.95

This guide includes keys to 92 genera about 460 species of macrolichens (foliose, fruticose and the larger squamulose forms) that are known (or can be expected) in Oregon and Washington. Individual species treatments with colour photographs & numerous line drawings are provided for 210 species, mostly those that are found in forested ecosystems (USDA Forest Service was a partner in this publication). Each treatment contains species description, air pollution sensitivity, range, substrate, habitat, and notes that give references to similar or closely related species. The introductory chapter explains essential morphological terms and the glossary at the end of the book explains and illustrates all additional terms used in the book. The nomenclature is dealt with in a table that lists all names and their synonyms. This table is a must: the generic concept in lichens has changes since my salad days, when I learned Hypogymnia physodes as Parmelia. This guide nicely complement the guide to the "Lichens of California" by Hale & Cole, published in 1989, and it extends user-friendly lichens manuals northward to the Canadian border.

The book is superbly illustrated with photographs by Sylvia & Stephen Sharnoff and with very good line drawings by Alexander Mikulin. BEN readers know Sylvia and Stephen Sharnoff as collaborators in Dr. Erwin Brodo's book on lichens of North America to be produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature and published by the Yale University Press. See their article on lichens in the February 1997 issue of the National Geographic and visit their web page at the following URL:

Critical comments? Keys may be too technical for the audience of this guide, but we will learn. I missed the scale in the photographs. A small 1 cm bar in a corner would greatly improve the interpretation of colour pictures. Without this scale Peltigera venosa looks to me more like Peltigera horizontalis. In the keys the authors used a bold type to mark the name of species that received full treatment. The authors missed this coding in the first group of keys to the genera - should I use a yellow highlighter?

All parties involved in this publication should be congratulated for an excellent work. Our thanks should also go to the USDA Forest Service whose contribution made this book relatively inexpensive.

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