Roadside Veggies: Cow Parsnip, Indian Celery

Between Sooke & Port Renfrew are moist roadside drainage ditches brimming with Heracleum lanatum.

Cow Parsnip bloom, Indian Celery, Heracleum lanatum garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Commonly named Cow Parsnip or Indian Parsley, you’d expect a gourmet treat, but it’s not something I’d eat.

Cow Parsnip leaf, Indian Celery, Heracleum lanatum garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The massive maple leaf distinguishes it from the more toxic Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)  & poisonous Water  Hemlock (Cicuta).

Even still, this beauty contains a milky sap that is photo-toxic, kinda like euphorbia & poinsettia.  Once exposed to sunshine, any skin that contacted the sap burns & blisters. Nasty.

Cow Parsnip, Indian Celery, Heracleum lanatum garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

But wait – there are some positive notes:

  • The giant flowers are landing pads for butterflies  It’s important to many native pollinators.
  • In its happy place, Cow parsnip can reach 3 metres  – – that’s 10 feet tall!  That’s architecturally impressive.
  • It’s hairy – and deer seem to avoid fuzzy plants.  Perhaps they’re finicky that way.
  • Cow Parsnip is said to be kinda stinky.  I didn’t notice, but now that I think about it, I wandered into this patch of Cow Parsnip after 5 days of camping – – so my own stink may have been masking all other smells…
    Deer seem to avoid fragrant plants, so there’s a fair chance that Cow Parsnip is safe from them.
Cow Parsnip, Indian Celery, Heracleum lanatum garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Hmmm, I might not be desperate enough for its food value, but I just might find a spot for Cow Parsnip in our landscape.  Imagine this self-seeding biennial as a garden ornamental at the back of a moist bed or border.

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Spring Wildflower Walk 2

We left home in the camper van, and less than 30 minutes later we were pulling into our campsite. Gotta like having great parks so close to Victoria.   🙂  After a quick lunch we head to the trails.

western red columbine, Aquilegia formosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
western red columbine, Aquilegia formosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The early show of lilies is past, allowing other flowers to take front stage.  Western red columbine rivals any of the earlier shooting stars or fawn lilies.

Columbine is one of the native wildflowers that fits comfortably into a home garden.  I’m pleased that one has bloomed in our yard.  I’m counting on it to self-seed and grow into a patch.  Hummingbirds pretty much feel the same way.  They regularly check out the happy colors.  Butterflies too.    Oh yeah, deer like it as well– especially the blooms.  Growing Aquilegia formosa in a protected space is best.

DSCN3728DSCN3727Starflower is a much less conspicuous wildflower.  They carpet the ground in mossy dappled shade.  The flower is simple and tiny.

It kinda reminds me of the trillium because sometimes the flower is white, and other times it’s pink.

The flower stem is so fine, the blossom seems to float above the plant, hence the name starflower.  Kinda cool, eh?

DSCN3734Nearby is another tiny flower.  It’s a rose for sure, but so much smaller than the wild rose that’s Alberta’s provincial flower.   Granted, I’m not in Alberta anymore… but in BC’s coastal rainforest, plants tend to grow unusually big.  (ie. massive trees)  Well, it turns out the diminutive baldhip rose (rosa gymnocarpa) is native.  It also has teeny-tiny thorns along mature stems.  C warns they’re not to be trifled with.  The thorns are so small there’s no getting them out once they get in.  Can you imagine slipping then grabbing a branch to steady yourself?

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The foamflower  (Tiarella  trifoliata)  is right at home on an old, rotting log not far from the stream-bank.

The frothy cluster of white flowers shoot above the foliage like the foam from an ocean wave surging off a rocky coast.
Poetically named, don’t you think?

This is one of a few native plants that seem very similar to me, therefore making ID a bit tricky.

The fringecup (tellima grandiflora) is another.
Both:

  • grow in the moist part-shade of thickets near stream-banks,
  • have knee-high, erect stems
  • display their bloom above the foliage,
  • produce many delicate, white flowers.
  • are perennial
  • grow from shallowly rooted rhizomes

But when I study each carefully:

  • the leaves of foamflower are pointy & grouped in 3’s;
    while the fringecup leaves are rounded – – more heart-shaped.
  • Ffoamflowers dangle away from the stem;
    while the fringecup flowers sit much closer to the stem.
  • The petals of the foamflower are spread open;
    while the fringecup are tightly curled and are cup-shaped.
  • Both have white flowers,
    but the fringecup’s shift to pinks as they age.

Both also grow successfully in our garden.  And happily, the deer have left them alone 🙂

DSCN3818A colony of maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum ) grows not far from the fringecup.  They also like the moist forest setting – but they like it really moist.  They’re practically bathing in the mist of the waterfall.  ‘Adiantum’ is Latin for ‘unwetted’.  The foliage sheds rain.

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Yes, I realize they’re not wildflowers, but they’re so pretty, I figure they still count.

They’re also super-easy to identify:

  • They have black stipes (aka stems).
  • A semi-circular tier of fronds sway in the tiniest breeze above that 1-2 ft. tall stipe.

These 2 facts alone make maidenhairs different from the majority of ferns I encounter out hiking.  I’m enchanted by this place!

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I have to apologize to my friend KL for once mocking her family vacations at Goldstream Park.  I thought it un-adventurous to camp less than 10 km from home.  Now I understand better & appreciate their choice.

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