While in Victoria this week I drove to the top of Mount Douglas to search for early spring flowers. I was hoping to find some Satinflower but was unsuccessful. However, in the late afternoon light I did find a number of beautiful spring flowers so the trip was definitely worth it.
In my last post I mentioned that there are two flowers that go by the common name of Spring Gold – one is Common Spring-gold (Crocidium multicaule) and the other is know simply as Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum). It was the latter that I found growing on the open grassy and mossy south facing slopes of Mount Douglas this week. L. utriculatum does have another name that refers to the look of its leaves rather than the colour of its flowers. Perhaps using the common name Fine-leaved Desert-Parsley might reduce the amount of confusion when talking about these two plants. However, the bright yellow flower heads definitely provide a splash of springtime golden colour on the dry, rocky slopes where they are found.
Some searching around the bluffs below the summit of Mount Douglas revealed two other bright yellow spring flowers. Chickweed Monkeyflower (Mimulus alsinoides) grows on shaded mossy slopes and ledges. It tends to cluster in areas called vernal seeps where water trickles throughout the winter and into the late spring. Eventually, after the winter rains stop, they dry out. Chickweed Monkeyflower is a member of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) and has small yellow flowers with a large lower lip that is usually spotted with reddish-brown blotches.
Another yellow flower that I found on Mount Douglas belonged to Tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium). It is usually taller and grows in drier, more open sites than the similar Dull Oregon-grape (M. nervosa). Look closely at the leaves as well. M. aquifolium generally has 5-9 leaflets per leaf and each leaflet has 1 central vein. M. nervosa has 9-19 leaflets and each leaflet has 3 veins.
The golden flowers of Mount Douglas are definitely worth a springtime visit. The summit is easy to access and this has led to a great deal of human impact in the form of broken glass, beer cans, discarded plastic bags, and a network of trails through sensitive open bluff plant communities. Use discretion and choose your path with care. Most of the flowers are easy to see and photograph without further damaging the already degraded slopes. Fortunately, the further you get from the summit parking area the more natural the landscape becomes.
Read more about some of the other flowers on Mount Douglas in my article Spring Flowers at Mount Douglas.