The Fastest Plant in the World and Groovy Cottonwood – Canada – Columbia Valley

Only a few weeks have gone by since I was taking pictures of all the wild flowers along our route as we cycled the Great Divide from Banff to the US border along the Rockies in British Columbia in late July.
Over the last few weeks all the flowers have turned into ripe berries, due to the heat and drought this year.
Cornus canadensis - Bunchberry. Amazingly these are the fastest moving flowers in the world!
Cornus canadensis – Bunchberry. Amazingly these have the fastest moving flower parts in the world!
Bunch berry are edible, although early indoctrination that red = poison has stopped me from trying one
Bunchberry are edible, although early indoctrination that red = poison has stopped me from trying one.
We camped near the wetlands in the Columbia Valley the area was full of the purple berries of Mahonia nervosa.
Mahonia nervous -Dull Oregon-grape
Mahonia nervous -Dull Oregon-grape which are edible in small quantities,
Snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus
and the poisonous Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus
Wild Rose hips
Wild Rose hips are also plentiful around the area, unfortunately we arrived too late to see all the rose flowers that preceded them. Must have been spectacular. Alberta calls itself the Wild Rose Country.
Devils Club - Oplopanax horridus
Devils Club – Oplopanax horridus. More unusual and much more agressive are the Devils Club or Devils Walking Stick that were traditionally used as medicinal herbs by The First Nation.
Showing the visous spines of the Devils Club
Showing the visous spines of the Devils Club
One of the many lichens. The damp woods are also full of weird and wonderful fungi as well as some native fauna.
These crickets sort of fly down from the tree tops while making a loud crickety racket
These crickets drop down in large numbers in spiral, semi flight formation from the tree tops while making a very loud crickety racket. I was suprised when I first found one how small they were.
One of the nice things about camping is the early light, although some people may not like all the spiders webs they can be very beautiful.
Rowan trees are abundant around the hillsides and towns and are all covered in lush orange berries.

The two large mammals that are abundant in these areas, and that we have yet to see are bears and cougars. Although we have cycled through an area densely populated with both of these we are probably more likely to see a bear in town raiding an apple tree!

To me one of the most impressive plants here are the Bunchberry or Cornus canadensis, whose brilliant red berries light up the sides of the tracks where ever there is a clearing.

Botanists have shown this to be the fastest moving plant in the world.  Tests have shown that the petals move at 22 feet per second when they open with an explosive force launching the pollen in the air 10 times the height of the plant so it can be carried away in the wind. The stamens are like miniature trebuchets which are special catapults that maximise the throwing distance by having the payload (pollen) attached to the throwing arm (filament) by a hinge.

Rowan berries
400 year old cottonwood trees
These 400 year old black cottonwood trees are the oldest in the world. The woods in this area seem to be mainly cedar, cottonwood and aspen. We found an area of unusually old cottonwood, about 400 years old, that had escaped the many forest fires in the region.
Stringy cedar bark
Apparently you can easily tell the types of trees apart by looking at their bark. Cedar wood is stringy, spruce is scaly and cottonwood is groovy! This is an example of stringy cedar bark
Cottonwood bark is groovy
Cottonwood bark is groovy

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