Of the two species of Oregon Grape on the property, this one (Mahonia nervosa) is the more shade tolerant and a nice patch of it grows under the densest patch of older Garry Oaks. The name refers to the matte finish of the leaves when compared to Tall Oregon Grape. Like that species, winter leaf colour varies and some individuals can have winter leaves of purples, reds and even brilliant scarlets. David Douglas; the botanist the Douglas-fir is named after, brought both species back to England for the gardens. Of the two, he preferred this one. I tend to agree, this species is very attractive, seldom requires cutting back, and, by merits of its shade tolerance, often is the answer to a difficult gardening problem - what to plant in dry shade? Berries of both species are edible and make great jelly, either alone or combined with salal berries.
Look waaayy down, and under and behind and you will find a number of teensy tiny snails, including Vespericola columbianus. I think that I will need to learn how to put scale bars on these photos so you could see that the diameter of the shell is approximately 6 mm. Even at this small size, the fine covering of hairs is apparent and surprising to most. Snails are not thought of as furry and cuddly! The best place to find these is under leaf litter, logs and sword ferns. This one was on a piece of slimy mushroom (not identified!). If you are turned on by these wee, and sometimes not so wee critters, the best field guide is Robert Forsyth's Royal BC Museum handbook; "Land Snails of British Columbia".
**Thanks very much to the local expert who caught my original misidentification of this critter. There is a somewhat similar small snail called Pygmy oregonian; Cryptomastix germana that I had mistaken this for. (Aug 11, 2014)
Dendroalsia abietina is an attractive and easily identified moss that grows on the trunks of Garry Oak and Big Leaf Maple here at Leaning Oaks. It is some times called Balsam Fir Moss since the fronds look like someone shingled the trunk of a tree with felt cut outs of tiny Christmas Trees. In the summer, this moss shrivels up and forms a dense mat on the trunk of the trees. Here it grows only when the trunk gets some shade, trees out in the open tend not to have large mats of this moss. Another common name, Plume Moss, is a bit ambiguous since a number of other mosses go by that common name as well.
We have two native species of Oregon Grape growing on the property, this one, Mahonia aquifolium and the Dull Oregon Grape (M. nervosa). We grow a third species in the garden. Tall Oregon Grape has shiny leaves that look as if they are wet- hence the latin name, with smaller numbers of leaflets on each leaf. The leaves vary quite a bit from plant to plant in leaflet shape and in winter colour. Some plants have leaves that turn a nice burnished burgandy colour, while most stay green. Yellow flowers in early spring and blue berries in late summer make this a particularly attractive species. This is one of our natives that is used extensively in horticulture. I remember seeing large boulevard plantings of this when we visited Holland a few years ago.
There are days when I feel a bit like I am living inside a cutesy Christmas card with the dozens of Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) that flit around the trees and swarm the suet year round. Soon it will be time to re-fill the old fat feeder with dog hair and fur that the chickadees will haul off in gobs to line the most luxurious, cozy nests ever! Many of these nests are in one of the several snags that we have created.
At Leaning Oaks, Grand Fir (Abies grandis) is represented by seedlings and sapling trees only, so far we have not found a mature tree on the property. Most of the property is too dry to support a mature Grand Fir and the saplings succumb to summer droughts. Grand Fir foliage is easily identified by its odour, when crushed the foliage smells like grapefruit. Our friend Jan Garnett put that to good use one dinner by making a palate-cleansing sorbet from Grand Fir needles - delicious!
Luckily we have very little Daphne on the property...but every once in a while a few plants pop up. These are quickly pulled! Not only can this plant by invasive and can out compete the native vegetation in undisturbed areas, but it is also toxic. According to the Invasive Species Council of BC (see link below), "the toxins are in the bark, sap and the berries, and if contacted, the sap is known to cause skin rashes, nausea, swelling of the tongue and coma". Nice. Perhaps I will wear gloves the next time that I pull any up!
Sometimes a common name really does capture what a species looks like. Rhytidiadelphus triquestris is known by a number of common names (Shaggy Moss, Rough-neck Moss, Rough Goose-neck Moss), but this one captures the look of the moss perfectly. It is the dominant moss in the understory of our Douglas-fir stand here at Leaning Oaks and grows on rocks, mineral soil and over rotten logs and branches.
I was sure that the "Old Man's Beard" that covers many of the Garry Oak branches would be easy to identify. Apparently not! I asked experts, cut at the cortex, studied the books.....and was happiest when I found that the "Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest" by McCune and Geiser lumps a swack of similar ones as part of the Usnea filipendula group with a comment that it would be "futile to apply" a more specific species name until the taxonomy of the group is worked out. I will continue to try and identify it and post what I find.
The Golden-crowned Kinglets and other small birds love to forage amongst the branches, pulling out whatever wee arthropods they find there. To me, the festooned branches give the appearance of a long established forest and woodland.
There are 3 species of these green (when wet) Peltigera in our area with black "freckles". This one, Peltigera brittanica is the commonest on the west coast and the Silver-edged Pelt, Peltigera aphthosa is the more common one in the interior of the province. The black "freckles" are cephalodia, which are cyanobacteria containing warts. In this species these growths are raised and free at the edges and easily brushed off (hence the "Deciduous" name, I assume). In Silver-edged and Ruffled Pelts (P. leucophlebia) they are recessed and rather more difficult to dislodge. In addition the Ruffled Pelt is shaded on the undersurface so that it is white on the edges and gradually changes to black in the center, while in the other two species the colour change is sharply demarked. At Leaning Oaks, Deciduous Pelt grows on rocks and boulders in open areas that have a moss cover.
Other common names for this species include British Felt Lichen and the Flaky Freckle Pelt.
Two biologists on a beautiful property armed with cameras, smart phones and a marginal knowledge of websites took up the challenge of documenting one species a day on that property. Join along! Posts and photographs by Leah Ramsay and David Fraser (unless otherwise stated; started January 1, 2014.