CASUAL COUNTRY: Walking through Cariboo wildflowers

Vanessa Robinson, left, talks about the forest structure during a small sidestep into the Douglas fir forest looking at Cariboo wildflowers for an Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College workshop on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Vanessa Robinson, left, talks about the forest structure during a small sidestep into the Douglas fir forest looking at Cariboo wildflowers for an Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College workshop on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Usually bright purple, the wildflower commonly referred to as shooting star, has different variations in colour and different structure than most wildflowers, with petals pulled back and the centre of the flower pushed down. Robinson described the “buzz” pollination of the flower by bumblebees, using a high-frequency vibration to release the pollen. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)Usually bright purple, the wildflower commonly referred to as shooting star, has different variations in colour and different structure than most wildflowers, with petals pulled back and the centre of the flower pushed down. Robinson described the “buzz” pollination of the flower by bumblebees, using a high-frequency vibration to release the pollen. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)
Vanessa Robinson provided an animated and vivid description of the shooting star wildflower while leading participants of Cariboo Wildflowers workshop on a walk through a spring meadow. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)Vanessa Robinson provided an animated and vivid description of the shooting star wildflower while leading participants of Cariboo Wildflowers workshop on a walk through a spring meadow. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)
Shooting star wildflowers carpeted the meadow where a wildflower walk by the Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College took participants on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Shooting star wildflowers carpeted the meadow where a wildflower walk by the Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College took participants on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Kris Andrews photographs the carpet of shooting star wildflowers during a wildflower workshop through the Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Kris Andrews photographs the carpet of shooting star wildflowers during a wildflower workshop through the Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College on May 28, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Calypso orchids are a delicate and endangered wildflower found in the shady mossy forest floor of Douglas fir forests. These wild orchids are sensitive to any disturbance and even touching them can kill the plant. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)Calypso orchids are a delicate and endangered wildflower found in the shady mossy forest floor of Douglas fir forests. These wild orchids are sensitive to any disturbance and even touching them can kill the plant. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Casual Country)

It is truly a beautiful thing when a person’s passion and enthusiasm for a subject is infectious.

This was definitely the case with Vanessa Robinson during the Cariboo-Chilcotin Elder College workshop Cariboo Wildflowers this past spring.

Crouching down to get up close to a wildflower in the open meadow the group is standing in, Robinson points out the vast numbers of the tiny purple flower blooming around us, creating a delicate pattern laced throughout the grasses. She identifies the flower as Shooting Stars.

The vibrant blooms have strange anatomy, which she vividly describes, along with the process of pollination the tiny flower undergoes thanks to the high-frequency vibration of bumblebees.

Robinson is beaming as she shares her curiosity at the interdependence of the bees and the flowers.

“Who is really controlling who?” she asks, clearly not expecting an answer, but full of wonder at contemplating this eternal, mystical question.

Robinson was as charming and engaging an instructor as could be imagined for the course, and everyone seemed to have a question or be spurred on by Robinson’s own curious nature, engaging with the Douglas fir and grassland environment which surrounded us.

There was a small detour to a panoramic view which, despite having been born and raised here, might be one of the most quintessential springtime Cariboo landscape views this reporter has witnessed.

Bordered by a Russel fence, an open grassy hillside rolled down towards where a herd of cows were grazing. There were Douglas fir trees bordering the field, and arrow-leaved balsam root flowers blooming atop the hill. The rocky outcroppings of Desous Mountain were visible towards the Fraser River valley.

Covering what must have been less than a kilometre, the wildflower walk still took over two hours to complete, with discussions ranging from wildflowers into a sidebar discussion on forest fires and forest structure resulting from fire suppression.

It was a morning well spent and one which has resonated with me since, as I walk more carefully and thoughtfully through the forest and fields, enjoying the smaller things and the bigger picture.

Read more: Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College back in operation for 2022



ruth.lloyd@wltribune.com

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