Monkeys and Mist Maidens

Schooner Cove, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Schooner Cove in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a great place to discover plants, birds, intertidal life and geology.

Last Saturday I joined Josie Osborne of the Raincoast Education Society and a group of birders looking for rocky shorebirds during the Tofino Shorebird Festival. Our destination was a large rock islet in Schooner Cove, a fabulous location for birds and intertidal life. It’s one of my favourite places in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve since it’s also very interesting in botanical and geological terms as well.

Yellow Monkey-flowers (Mimulus guttatus)
Beautiful Yellow Monkey-flowers (Mimulus guttatus) cover the rock at Schooner Cove.

I usually have visited the cove later in the spring or during the summer so I was pleasantly surprised to discover masses of both Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus) and Tracy’s Mist Maiden (Romanzoffia tracyi) covering the rock in a wash of yellow and white that could be seen from quite a distance away.

Yellow Monkey-flowers (Mimulus guttatus)
A close look at Yellow Monkey-flowers (Mimulus guttatus) reveals the reddish spotting on the lower lobe of the tubular flower.

Both of these plants love rocky wet seeps. Yellow Monkey-flower is a delightful yellow, tubular flower often with red spots on its lower lip. It’s the more common of the two plants and can be found in many places on Vancouver Island. While Yellow Monkey-flower is Yellow listed it is also considered to be abundant and widespread and thus not at risk of extirpation.

Tracy's Mist Maiden (Romanzoffia tracyi)
Bands of white Tracy’s Mist Maiden (Romanzoffia tracyi) contrast with the yellow of Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus). Both plants love wet rocky seeps.

In contrast, Tracy’s Mist Maiden is a little more restricted to coastal bluffs in its range. I’d seen it before in smaller clumps at a few other locations within the park but never in this sort of large mass. If you don’t have the time to make the 45 minute walk out to Schooner Cove you can find this Yellow listed plant on the rocks close to the washrooms at Incinerator Rock and on some of the outcrops at South Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Now’s the time to do it since this is an early blooming plant.

Tracy's Mist Maiden (Romanzoffia tracyi)
Tracy’s Mist Maiden (Romanzoffia tracyi) has small delicate white flowers and basal leaves. Look for it on exposed coastal bluffs on Vancouver Island, BC.

Tracy’s Mist Maiden has small delicate white flowers and thick basal leaves that are round in shape and coarsely toothed. It prefers exposed rocky bluffs with wet seepage. It’s much less common than the Monkey-flower and while the population is considered to be secure it is also vulnerable to possible extirpation. There’s definitely not as many places on Vancouver Island to see this plant so it’s worth making a trip out to the west coast to see it in bloom!

We didn’t see too many shorebirds from the rock in Schooner Cove so it was great to be able to spend some time noting the plants that were in bloom and enjoying the spring wildflowers. I’ve got photographs of several other plants that were also in bloom but I’ll save them for a future post!