Spring Blossoms: What’s Flowering Now at Derby Reach

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – April 28, 2020

During these challenging times, while we are all doing our best to practice social and physical distancing measures it is also important to practice self-care. Getting some fresh air, taking a nature walk and appreciating our natural environment is one of the many wonderful ways some of us incorporate self-care into our everyday lives.

Good news! Most regional parks are open at this time. Metro Vancouver Regional Parks recognizes that spending time in nature is an effective way to reduce stress and support physical and mental wellbeing – their goal is to continue to provide the Regional Parks service that is such an important part of so many peoples’ daily health routines.

And of course, April showers bring May flowers, but guess what? We already have lots in bloom at Derby Reach Regional Park! We want you to enjoy the blossoming plant life of our local wetlands before these early spring flowers disappear – even if you can’t get out to the park in person.

Here is what you’ll currently find flowering along the Houston Trail at Derby Reach, as the spring freshet advances and rainy season begins:

Spanish Bluebell, Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides Hispanica)

Wood hyacinths look like little bluebells and are also called Spanish bluebells – but are, in fact, not bluebells. Unlike other kinds of bluebells, wood hyacinths are bulbs rather than herbaceous perennials. These are found in sunny spots along the trails at Derby Reach, they are blue in the park but can also be found in white and pink.

Cherry Laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus)

Cherry laurel is evergreen, cultivated widely as shrubs or small trees perfect for a bit of privacy because it copes well with difficult growing conditions. Did you know the leaves can have the scent of almonds when crushed? But don’t ingest this plant because it is poisonous and may cause severe discomfort to us humans.

Double Flowered Japanese Rose (Kerria Japonica Pleniflora)

This rose shrub has double yellow flowers that resemble pom-poms. It can be a high maintenance shrub that requires regular care and upkeep, but it also grows beautifully in the wild among the trees at Derby Reach.

Perennial Honesty (Lunaria Rediviva)

These bright pink flowers are currently scattered throughout the park dotting the trails of Derby Reach. They are very low maintenance and grown worldwide for their fragrant flowers and papery seedpod partitions, which are a favourite for many in dried-flower arrangements.

Little-Robin (Geranium Purpureum)

Little-robin is an herb with tiny but beautiful pink flowers, among the first blooms available for early pollinators in our area. It is an invasive species (but no one seems to mind because they are so pretty and easy to get rid of compared to ivy or other invasives) and grows in rocky, stony places favouring grasslands and woodlands.

Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton Americanus)

Skunk cabbage is a perennial wildflower that blooms very early in spring and grows in marshy, wet areas of woodlands. Skunk cabbage can be beneficial in the garden because it attracts pollinating insects but deters squirrels and raccoons from getting to your vegetables before they are ready to harvest – but be careful because skunk cabbage can be quite poisonous to humans and our pets.

Stream Violet (Viola Glabella)

Also called yellow wood violet or pioneer violet, stream violet is very shade-tolerant and loves nitrogen-rich soil and cooler environments. It grows well along streams and in damp clearings. It is a common native species throughout most of BC and uniquely hybridizes with Queen Charlotte twinflower violet on Haida Gwaii.

Wild Cherry (Prunus Avium)

Wild cherries have been a sweet source of nutrients for humans and other wildlife for several thousands of years. It is one of the main species which supply most of the world’s commercial cultivars of edible cherry. The species has also escaped from cultivation and become naturalised in some temperate regions, like here at Derby Reach and all over Metro Vancouver.

Forget Me Not (Myosotis Sylvatica)

Silvatica means ‘growing in the woods, forest-loving’ but the name Forget Me Not is folklore. The most common account of the naming of this flower comes from Germany, involving a couple comprised of a woman and a male knight, who were strolling along the Danube River when they spotted a blue-flowered plant dislodged by the water and about to be swept downstream. With the desire to save it, the knight leapt into the water. The current was too swift and as he was being pulled in to the water, he threw the flowers onto the bank, calling out, “Vergiss mein nicht”, or forget-me-not.

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Formosa)

Bleeding Hearts are a shade-loving plant that really attract hummingbirds and once you plant a bleeding heart, you can enjoy the bright flowers for years to come. The heart shape of the flower is formed by its two outer petals, which saccate at the base, in botany-talk.

Salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

Salmonberries grow along the entire coast of BC and have bright pink flowers that bloom early in the spring and ripen in May or June. They are a crucial flower option for early spring pollinators and the tart but edible berries are great for humans, birds, and other wildlife to enjoy.

5 Reasons to Get Outside this Winter

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – January 25, 2020

There are some fantastic reasons to get into nature and enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s oh so cold outside.

If you prepare for the weather conditions it can be easy to appreciate these important benefits:

Fresh Air
Fresh air is crucial for our well-being even when we want to be bundled up indoors all day to avoid the snow, slush, and freezing rain.

Learn Lots
Seeing how our environment changes throughout the seasons can be inspiring and informative.

Boosts Metabolism
When it is cold our bodies work harder to stay warm and we burn more energy.

Cheer Up
Feeling the warmth of daylight, especially on shorter winter days makes most of us perk up instantly.

Energize Yourself
Getting our heart rate up for a few minutes while being out in the cold can give us a burst of energy.

Being out in nature is a wonderful way to relax and unwind no matter what the season. We hope to see you out and about on the trails on Brae Island and Derby Reach this winter! You can find trail warnings and alerts for Metro Vancouver Regional Parks HERE.

The Invasion of the Orchids

Written by Jeremy Smith and Joan Martin, DRBIPA Members & Langley Field Naturalists – August 20, 2019

It’s the invasion of the orchids! Well, not quite, but there is an introduced orchid spreading across our region that acts like a weed. Its name is the Broad Leaved Helleborine or Epipactis Helleborine. One of the members of Derby Reach Brae Island Parks Association spotted it on the Tavistock Trail on Brae Island, where it appears to be spreading.

This is an unassuming little plant, 35 – 50 cm tall, with a single stalk and purple flowers along the upper stem. When you bend down and look closely, you see they are indeed orchid flowers. It is classed as an invasive alien in parts of the United States. It will probably become a lot more common in our area over the next few years. It is very adaptable, growing in disturbed areas such as gardens and roadsides, as well as more natural forested areas.

Don’t let its small size fool you though, there is a lot going on with this plant. Firstly, all orchids need an association with a symbiotic fungus, at least when they are seedlings. The seeds are almost as fine as dust and the fungus helps this tiny, tiny plant extract nutrients and water from the environment. Many orchids maintain this mycorrhizal symbiosis all their lives. Secondly, the sweet nectar contains small amounts of opioids. Yes indeed, insects respond to opioids. This neurochemical response may be 100 million years old or more. The wasps and other hymenoptera insects that pollinate these flowers may have been addicted for a long, long time!

Is It Safe to Feed Wildlife In Our Parks?

Written by Roxci Bevis, DRBIPA Program Coordinator – June 17, 2019

Many people feed wildlife without realizing the negative effects this can cause for both animals and people. Sometimes we want to see animals up close and encourage them over to us with food or think the animals are hungry because it feels like they are begging for food. other times, feeding the animals is just an accident, like when we leave food waste behind without disposing of it properly.

Even though it is tempting to feed the wildlife in our parks it is not safe to do so and here are just a few reasons why:

  • “People” food is not healthy for animals and can make them sick, especially bread and popcorn, common items people feed to birds.
  • It makes animals lose their natural fear of humans leading them to gather in recreational and residential areas which poses many safety concerns.
  • Feeding wildlife near cars contributes to animals feeling safe near moving vehicles, getting hit more often – and also leads to animals breaking into people’s cars to try and find food.
  • When food is provided regularly animals may become dependent on it without finding their own source of food leading to young animals not learning how to find natural food sources on their own. If the human food source is removed the animals may starve.

Feeding wild animals, whether on purpose or not, does more harm than good. This is one of the reasons DRBIPA Volunteers work so hard to conserve our parks, to ensure the natural habitat for wild animals is protected now and in the future.

The best way we can help our environment and all our animal friends is to support native plant growth, and protect natural shelter for animals along with their natural food and water supply. Let’s keep wildlife wild!