Last week I hiked out to do some intertidal exploration at the wonderful rocks at Schooner Cove, a truly inspiring part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and at a low tide, spectacular for marine life. However, the other aspect of Schooner Cove that is often missed is the small dune ecosystem along the shore of this “remote” cove.
Schooner Cove is a fair walk from the closest parking area at either Incinerator Rock or the Schooner Cove Trail. From Incinerator it is approximately 45 minutes of brisk walking along the beach. This is the access point that I prefer because the walking is easy on the hard flat sand at low tide. I spent a couple of hours poking around the rocks at Schooner before the tide started to turn and it became less safe to hunt for sea stars and more exotic life around the front part of two rocky islands that are completed surrounded by sand at very low tides (less than 2 foot tides). I’ll write more about the tide pooling in a later post.
Since I no longer was able to access the diverse intertidal zone at Schooner I turned my attention to the dunes and botany. The dunes here are smaller than those at Wickaninnish Beach but they are very interesting. There are a number of unusual plants growing in the dune in addition to things like Yellow Sand-verbena and Beach Morning-glory that you’d also find at Wickaninnish Beach.
One of these plants is Searocket (Cakile sp.). It also grows at the Wickaninnish dunes but it is very noticeable at Schooner Cove. It occupies the dynamic edge of the sand between the top of the beach and the dunes themselves, moving out towards the high tide line. At Schooner, I found two species of Searocket – American Searocket (Cakile edentula) and European Searocket (Cakile maritima). The former is native, although there is some thought that it might actually have been introduced to the west coast since it is also found on the Atlantic coast and around the Great Lakes. The latter, like the name suggests, is introduced from Europe.
So how to tell them apart?
American Searocket has thick fleshy leaves that are oblong and lobed. The flowers are white to pinkish-purple and have 4 petals (searockets belong in the Mustard family). It is found on sandy beaches along the ocean.
European Searocket also has fleshy leaves but they are more finely divided. In addition, the flowers are larger but similar in colour to the American Searocket. It grows in the same habitat as American Searocket.
American Searocket was very common at Schooner Cove and although I only found one European Searocket plant it was great to be able to compare the two species side by side.