Vanilla Leaf

Along the forest edging of our campsite at Ralph River grows a pretty carpet.  What catches my eye is the unusual leaf configuration.  It kind of looks like the footprints of some 3-legged duck.

vanilla leaf, deer foot, achlys triphylla, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I know to bring my copy of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast when we go into the wild.  It’s always my fastest way to ID native plants.

It turns out this plant is named deer foot.  Really?

Duck foot vs deer foot.  What’s your call?

vanilla leaf, deer foot, achlys triphylla, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Its more commonly known as vanilla leaf.

The first people’s of the west coast hung dried bunches of vanilla leaf in their homes as an air freshener and insect repellent.

OK, that’s a naming convention I can support.

-30-

Bunchberry

bunchberry aka Cornus canadensis and dwarf dogwood, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Native to the moist Pacific Northwest, bunchberry is at home in the forest shade around Buttle Lake and the Ralph River Campground of Strathcona Park.

It also happens to be comfortable growing at the base of an old stump in PS’ fern garden here in Victoria.

PS has nurtured her garden for 40+ years and is particular in what she grows.  I understand why Cornus canadensis (aka dwarf dogwood) makes her list.

bunchberry aka Cornus canadensis and dwarf dogwood, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Extended Seasonal Interest

  • late spring:  white flowers
  •  mid-summer: edible red berries
  • autumn: burgundy leaves
  • winter: darn near evergreen

It’s almost enough to make my list too because it invites wildlife into the garden.  The birds like the berries, and I’m willing to share.  It’s the local deer that I have little faith in.  With small juicy plants like this, thry’re not likely to  leave anything for me to enjoy.

-30-

Devil’s Club

The pyramid of flowers is as tall as a beer stein…

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The leaves are wider than a dinner plate…

The plant towers over my head !

It reminds me of something from Gulliver’s Travels into the land of giants.  Where else would I find such drama??

But we aren’t in Brobdingnag.  Strathcona Park is a real place (and just as magical).  It’s these moist rain forests of Vancouver Island that provide the right conditions for Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus).

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This could make a great architectural statement in the garden.  Shouldn’t I get one?

Actually no.   It’s armed and dangerous.

ARMED:
Check out the spikes!
They spiral all the way up the stem and run along the veins of the leaves — on both sides!  Yikes!

Devil"s Club Oplopanax horridus, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

C had an adventure hiking through a stand once.  Can you imagine?  WorkSafe BC does not recommend it.

DANGEROUS:
It’s not just the wicked spines.  The luscious red berries look mighty tempting but they’re poisonous.  Yup.  Bears might chow them down for dessert, but if you’re a people, give them a miss.

The original people of this coast have a long history with Devil’s Club. Uses vary widely, from making fishing hooks to tattoo dye. They celebrate its powerfully medicinal as well as spiritually protective  charms.

I wonder how many centuries it would take before I gathered enough nerve to ask anything of a plant so obviously stand-offish.

-30-