|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 361 May 31, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
This year's Botany BC was centred on Quaaout Lodge on Little Shuswap Lake at Chase. Elizabeth Easton did all the organizing and Alex Inselberg planned and guided our explorations of the local ecology and flora. In preparation for the field trips, he presented a magnificent slide show of the local vegetation on our first evening.
We also enjoyed an interesting lecture from Dawn Morrison, horticulturalist and Indigenous Community Development Facilitator. She described how the hunters and gatherers of the aboriginal Secwepemc (Shuswap) of the region had to cover a large territory to meet their needs. Detailed knowledge of all the regional ecosystems was necessary to ensure that gatherers were at the appropriate places at the appropriate seasons to collect the roots, shoots and fruits they depended upon. In gathering food, they turned and aerated the soil, ensuring successive good harvests, from ground often badly compacted, nowadays, by range cattle.
Anthropologist and linguist Marianne Ignace presented an engaging talk on the role that language plays in cultural understanding. Using examples from Secwepemctsin she demonstrated that the language is linked to spatial understanding and to the ecology of the region. This endangered language connects the land and people, including the spiritual, historical and ecological values necessary in the maintenance of traditional knowledge.
Two field trips occupied the first whole day. In the morning we went to Niskonlith Meadows. Marianne and Ron Ignace with a group of neighbours met us in the meadows where she demonstrated the use of culturally significant food crops and harvesting. She explained how the harvesting of foods and botantical knowledge was linked to other species. We then walked up through the meadows enjoying the flowers on the open,sunny slopes.
After lunch we drove to the bridge near the Adams River mouth and walked a trail along the river's left bank through highly diverse vegetation: dry, rocky stretches with typical Dry Interior vegetation (Penstemon fruticosus, Phacelia hastata, and Oxytropis campestris, for example) alternated with moister, shadier stretches of Interior Douglas Fir Forest (Thuja plicata, Paxistima myrsinites, and Aralia nudicaulis, for example). We all came away with long species lists.
In the evening, Robert Fulton (Geological Survey of Canada, retired) gave an informative talk on local geology, noting the dates (Tertiary and Quaternary) and extents of successive volcanic strata, and the landscape changes created by the recent ice sheets that covered the land. Remnant glacial lakes remain a dominant feature in the landscape.
Day 2 brought rain, and an end to a heatwave (over 30 deg. C for several days). In the morning Bob Lincoln (British Columbia Ministry of Environment, retired) gave an inspiring account of the new National Park being proposed for BC in the South Okanagan-Similkameen (SOS) region, site of the most concentrated biodiversity in all Canada. He urged us to write in support of the planned Park to the Prime Minister and the Premier of BC, with copies to the corresponding Environment Ministers; and to our MPs and MLAs. Details and addresses are easily found on the web pages of CPAWS, WCWC, and BC Parks.
In the afternoon, we explored the area burned in 2004 by the McGillivray Lake Fire. Debbie and Rob Oakland, whose magnificent property just, barely, avoided the flames, generously invited us onto their land; they told us of their harrowing escape in boats and allowed us to see the contrast between unburned and just- burned ecosystems. It was apparent that this was a "hot" fire leaving few trees unscathed.
In the evening Ernie Philip provided an entertaining overview of aspects of traditional culture including his experiences in Pow wow fancy dance competitions. Ernie was quick to condemn the slaughter of eagles and to point out that the RCMP contributed eagle feathers for regalia from eagles killed accidentally.
That was Botany BC, 2006. Thank you Alex and thank you Elizabeth. Next year, we meet in Osoyoos. Before that - long before that, right now in fact - we should write the necessary letters supporting the SOS National Park so that we can all go there with good consciences.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced, in October 2002, plans to establish ten new national parks and three park extensions across the country. The goal is to have one or more national parks in each of the 39 natural regions of Canada within five years, plus a system of marine conservation areas along our three coasts.
We are within Natural Region 3, the Interior Dry Plateau, one of the regions without a national park. Should the South Okanagan- Similkameen be considered for a National Park Reserve? I think it should for two major reasons. First for its diversity and secondly because of the serious threat to that diversity.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen has a highly diverse landscape including grasslands, dry Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine forests, high-elevation pine and spruce forests, rugged landscapes, glacial relict lakes and their associated landforms, creeks and the only desert* in Canada. The South Okanagan- Similkameen is a biodiversity "hot spot" within both British Columbia and Canada, being the northern- most distribution limit for many species and habitats. Prospering in adversity at the edge, these resilient pioneers are key to ecological adaptation of their species.
Dyer (2002) lists the species, subspecies and habitats at risk in the South Okanagan-Similkameen of British Columbia, based on information from the BC Conservation Data Centre, as follows:
Red-listed includes any indigenous species or subspecies that have, or are candidates for extirpated, endangered, or threatened status in British Columbia.
Blue-listed includes any indigenous species or subspecies considered to be vulnerable in British Columbia; those taxa are at risk.
In total 256 species or subspecies and communities are red or blue listed.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) provides conservation status ranking for species at risk in Canada. COSEWIC lists 38 species in the South Okanagan- Similkameen that are at risk nationally.
Species such as Northern Leopard Frog, Pigmy Short-horned Lizard, Burrowing Owl, Sage Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse and White-tailed Jackrabbit may already by extinct in the Okanagan. More than 60 percent of the globally imperiled antelope-brush plant community has been destroyed along with its associated species.
I consider this area to be the MOST threatened terrestrial ecosystem in Canada because of the rapid development of agriculture, particularly intense pressure to convert natural lands to vineyards. In addition, habitats on the glacial soil deposits are attractive to urbanization.
The so-called pocket desert (see note below) and grasslands, which are tiny compared with other habitat categories in British Columbia, are easily damaged and slow to heal. Productivity levels in the desert ecosystems are low because of a lack of moisture. Invasion by exotic weeds increasingly degrades or displaces natural ecosystems. Because of the biodiversity - including species richness, species rarity, species resilience and species at risk - and the threats by development of the remaining natural areas in the region, I strongly believe the Okanagan-Similkameen should have the highest priority for conservation in Canada, preferably as a national park reserve.
A national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen would assist in maintaining an ecological corridor between the central interior grasslands of British Columbia with those in the south. Such linkages are critical for the gradual adaptation of species and ecosystems especially given the pending likelihood of climatic change.
There may be an opportunity to create an international park similar to Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park on the Alberta/Montana border. In addition, it might be possible to establish an ecological cross-section of habitats of the continental "Pacific Northwest" from the driest to the wettest, shared by two nations along the international boundary.
During my 30-year career as a research scientist and research director with the Canadian Wildlife Service, I had the opportunity to head teams preparing the planning documents for ten potential national park sites and to see much of Canada during my work and travel. Because of the biodiversity and the threats posed by development of the remaining natural areas in the region, I strongly believe the Okanagan-Similkameen should have the highest priority for conservation in Canada, preferably as a national park reserve.
Hopefully, Parks Canada has the vision to protect the area now. What a loss it would have been if national parks like Elk Island and Riding Mountain had not been created years ago. They are now natural areas surrounded by a sea of agriculture and other developments. Does anyone regret that Banff was established as Canada's first national park more than a hundred years ago? Should the South Okanagan- Similkameen be saved for this and future generations? It will not be unless we all act now!
Technically, the "pocket desert" is a little too cool and moist to be considered a true desert, but it has species such as rattlesnakes, cacti and scorpions that people associate with deserts. It is more properly called a shrub- steppe.
The International Grasslands [The southermost part of the South Okanagan-Similkameen proposed National Park Reserve] comprise a variety of picturesque, difficult-to-access, lower to middle elevation grassland and sagebrush steppe habitats along the southern slope of Black Mountain, nestled south of Richter Pass between the southern Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in the dry southern interior of British Columbia Below the limit of recently burned, Douglas-fir forests, the dry, grassy and brushy southern slopes of this mountain descend steeply, crossing the international border, before finally bottoming out at the Similkameen River during the river's brief traverse through northern Washington State. Midway through this descent, the grade of this grassland slope is interrupted briefly by a bench-like plateau (visible when looking east along the border from the Nighthawk border crossing) which can be accessed by a very rough dirt track originating off Kruger Mtn. Road near Kilpoola Lake. Despite the small size of the site (approximately 2km x 1km) and continued heavy grazing pressure, the International Grasslands contain a fascinating diversity of plants that are considered rare or unusual in BC.
I spent much of the summers of 2003 and 2004 in the International Grasslands, during which time I located a total of 13 plant species of concern, including 12 Red- listed and 1 Blue-listed species, as well as several species which have only recently been de-listed from Blue to Yellow (Juncus regelii [Regel's Rush], Penstemon richardsonii var. richardsonii [Richardson's Penstemon], and Sporobolus cryptandrus [Sand Dropseed] ). Given the lack of records of most of these species from the area in question, it appears that this area has received scant botanical interest in the past relative to more accessible areas nearby such as Osoyoos, Richter Pass, and the Nighthawk area. With the wealth of rare plants at this site, I suspect that this area could harbour additional species that I have missed during my time spent there. Any adventurous botanists in the province would be well advised to pay a visit to the site during their next visit to the area.
The following is a list of the species of concern that were discovered in this area during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, with current Ministry of Environment British Columbia Conservation Data Centre list status (Douglas et al. 2002; British Columbia Conservation Data Centre 2006) and Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designation. Most of the taxa have not yet been addressed by COSEWIC. All voucher specimens are deposited in my personal herbarium, and will eventually be deposited at the herbarium of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia (UBC).
Calochortus lyallii Baker (Lyall's Mariposa Lily)
This CDC red-listed and COSEWIC-Threatened (COSEWIC 2001) species is only known from the dry Douglas-fir forests of the Black Mountain and Kilpoola Lake areas south of Richter Pass and north of the international border (west of Osoyoos) in BC. According to Miller and Douglas (COSEWIC 2001), known collections of this species up to1999 were limited to the western, northern, and eastern slopes of Black Mountain and from areas southeast of Kilpoola Lake. However, this species was also observed by M. Miller in 2000 on a "ridge extending south from Black Mountain, ca. 3.5km WSW of Kilpoola Lake" which may pertain to the same population or a nearby population to the one that I observed in 2004.
Camissonia andina (Nutt.) Raven (Andean Evening-primrose)
This tiny, red-listed member of family Onagraceae is extremely rare in arid steppe habitats of the south-central interior of BC, being essentially restricted to the Osoyoos and Nighthawk areas immediately adjacent to the U.S. border. The previous known collection sites are located to the east and west, respectively, of the International Grasslands. A total of only 3 plants were located growing from exposed, barren soil adjacent to rock outcrops along a single arid, south-facing slope. This plant is very small and easy to overlook, and although I did search intently for the species without locating it at any additional sites, it is suspected that there are indeed additional stations for this plant within the boundaries of the International Grasslands.
Cryptantha ambigua (A.Gray) Greene (Obscure Cryptantha)
This red-listed species of the dry southern interior was common throughout the arid grasslands and sagebrush steppe of the area, often forming extensive populations over disturbed or exposed soils. Although red-listed in BC, C. ambigua was found to be regular, and often fairly common, in dry grasslands and sagebrush steppe habitats of the southern Okanagan and, particularly, Similkameen Valleys during my stay in the area. This species is known from several areas adjacent to the International Grasslands, but had not been observed or collected from the grasslands prior to 2003.
Gayophytum racemosum T. & G. (Racemed Groundsmoke)
This species is extremely rare in BC, known previously in the province only from Marysville (in southeastern BC) as well as from a recent collection on Anarchist Mountain near Osoyoos. This species had never been observed west of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia prior to my observation of it in 2003 in the International Grasslands. This species is rare in the International Grasslands, with only 3 subpopulations of 1, 10+, and about 150 individuals, respectively. This species of dry, open, grassy habitats is exceedingly difficult to locate due to its small, slender, inconspicuous stature as well as its strong vegetative resemblance to Polygonum douglasii ssp. majus, which was a common species throughout the area. It is virtually a certainty that additional subpopulations of this species exist at the site.
Gayophytum ramosissimum Nutt. ex T. & G. (Hairstem Groundsmoke)
Although somewhat more frequent in the province than G. racemosum, this red-listed species is nonetheless very scarce, being restricted to a few populations in dry forests and grasslands of the south-central and southeastern British Columbia Prior to 2003, this species had not been collected or reported from any areas in the vicinity of the International Grasslands. I found the species at a number of sites within the International Grasslands, both in the grasslands themselves as well as in the dry, open, burned-over Douglas- fir parkland immediately above the grasslands. The largest subpopulation (several hundred individuals) occurred in this latter habitat. Like G. racemosum, this species is inconspicuous and quite difficult to locate, although the larger and often profusely branched stature renders it more easily recognizable than its diminutive relative.
Gilia tenerrima A.Gray (Slender Gilia)
This red-listed species is extremely rare in British Columbia and was only just discovered in 1996 in British Columbia Prior to 2003, it was known only from the Kettle River Valley and, more recently, Anarchist Mountain near Osoyoos. I found this species at a single location in the International Grasslands, growing from exposed soil on a dry, open, somewhat disturbed south- facing slope near the grassland - Douglas-fir woodland ecotone. This population was estimated at several hundred individuals and appeared to be healthy.
Halimolobos whitedii (Piper) Rollins (Whited's Halimolobos)
This red-listed species is considered rare in the extreme south- central interior of the province, being restricted to the southern Similkameen, Okanagan, and Kettle River Valleys. This species was well known from the International Grasslands- Kilpoola Lake area prior to 2003. I found it to be fairly common throughout much of the International Grasslands, even occurring up into the burned-over Douglas- fir forests above the grasslands. Flowering primarily in May, this species flowered earlier than the majority of the rare plants at the site which were most evident in June and July.
Linanthus septentrionalis Mason (Northern Linanthus)
This inconspicuous, easily overlooked grassland/steppe species is blue-listed in British Columbia and was probably the most abundant "rare" plant throughout the International Grasslands. Linanthus septentrionalis often occurred in very large numbers in the area, and occurred virtually throughout the site. Like Cryptantha ambigua, this species was found to be much more common in the southern Okanagan and, especially, the southern Similkameen Valleys than would be expected, and was found to be frequent to abundant at most sites visited in the southern Similkameen Valley-Richter Pass regions. Despite its abundance, this species had not been detected in the International Grasslands prior to 2003.
Mimulus breviflorus Piper (Short-flowered Monkey-flower)
This red-listed species is considered rare in moist, open, grassy habitats in the south-central and southeastern interior of British Columbia. A single population of 100+ individuals was discovered in 2003 in a moist, ephemeral, grassy draw through open grassland. This site failed to produce any Mimulus breviflorus in 2004 however, and it is not clear what prevented the species from appearing that year. This species was not previously known from the International Grasslands, although it was known from the southern Okanagan Valley nearby.
Muhlenbergia filiformis (Thurb.) Rydb. (Slender Muhly)
This tiny, red-listed grass of moist habitats is yet another species that is extremely rare in BC, with previously known occurrences only at Dewar Hot Springs in southeastern British Columbia and historically near Chilliwack on the south coast. This species was not detected during my initial work at the site, but during a July 2004 visit accompanied by the late George W. Douglas, we discovered a single large population of several hundred (thousands?) of individuals in a dry, ephemeral alkaline wetland a few hundred metres north of the international border.
Orobanche corymbosa (Rydb.) Ferris ssp. mutabilis Heckard (Flat-topped Broomrape)
This red-listed species of dry sagebrush habitats is considered rare in the south-central and southeastern interior of British Columbia, and had been collected several times from the International Grasslands-Kilpoola Lake-Richter Mountain area prior to my initial observation of the species in 2003. I found it to be fairly common throughout the International Grasslands, usually occurring as widely scattered single individuals or small groups of 2-10 plants.
Orthocarpus barbatus Cotton (Grand Coulee Owl-clover)
This rare and localized red-listed, COSEWIC-Endangered species is endemic to the grasslands and sagebrush steppe of central Washington and extreme south-central BC, and was previously known in the province from only 3 populations in the Osoyoos area of the southern Okanagan Valley (the first of which was discovered as recently as 1994). My work in the International Grasslands yielded several large, healthy populations of this species, including a population of many thousands of individuals which is, to date, the largest population of this species in BC.
Pyrrocoma carthamoides Hook. var. carthamoides (Columbian Goldenweed)
This red-listed species of dry, rocky habitats is considered rare in the extreme south-central interior of BC, although it may be more common and widespread than records indicate. It had been documented from the International Grasslands- Kilpoola Lake area on several occasions prior to 2003. I found this species at several locations on arid, rocky outcrops and ridgetops throughout the International Grasslands.
Niskonlith Meadows, Chase May 19, 2006 50 deg. 46' N. 119 deg. 48' W. Deep, kettle-like depression, moist with Marchantia Polymorpha in large patches, also used by bears (lots of bear scats) - burned some time ago with dead trees still standing.
McGillivary Forest Fire Site, May 20, 2006 50 deg. 44' N. 119 deg. 52 W.
Naucoria cf. amarescens
Tephromela cf. atrata
Voucher specimens will be deposited in the Pacific Forestry Centre, Herbarium, Victoria (DAVFP).
Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
BEN is archived at http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/