While the yellow glacier lilies are truly spectacular, the route up to the saddle between Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Cokely is gorgeous as well. I was absolutely stunned by the sheer number of wildflowers and overwhelmed by the colour and variety of plants. It made for very slow going and, since Sandy McRuer and I didn’t have the pressure of getting to the top of Mount Arrowsmith, we were able to enjoy the display.
More challenging was capturing an overall impression. I tend to focus more on macro photography and work at isolating individual flowers in an attempt to create a “portrait” of the plant, but I’m trying to develop my ability to take better landscapes. With all this natural chaos, it was difficult to create a composition that really conveys the complexity of the plant communities growing on these south-facing meadows.
While I could have spent a lot longer working on different compositions, I also had to be mindful of minimizing my impact on the plants that I was trying to photograph. The wet areas where many of these plants grow is also very steep and somewhat unstable with loose scree that had fallen from the cliff above. I tried to rationalize it by thinking that these plants were used to disturbance since the slope itself was unstable. By moving as slowly and carefully as possible, I hope that my impact on the plants and meadow was minimal.
While it was easy to be overwhelmed by the lushness of the meadows, it often pays to look a little closer as well. I was focused on getting a better angle to photograph the meadow when I noticed a plant that seemed to be very different—I had seen nothing like it before on Vancouver Island.
Back home, Jocie identified it as an Oxytropis but it took a little digging through eFlora BC and the Illustrated Flora to pin it down. The very cool thing is that eFlora has interactive distribution maps so it was possible to quickly sort through the other varieties of this plant and eliminate the ones that aren’t found on Vancouver Island. Nelson’s Oxytrope (Oxytropis campestris var. spicata) is the only one found both on the island and the mainland … and a specimen was collected by Adolf Cheska on Mount Arrowsmith back in 1976!
These meadows are incredibly beautiful and incredibly fragile. Use caution when photographing the flowers and keep in mind that many of them can be photographed right from the edge of the trail.