Speechless—that’s how I felt after spending a full day photographing flowers in Harewood Plains in Nanaimo. Not only is the flower display in the meadows absolutely stunning, it is also one of only five locations on Vancouver Island where you can find bog birds-foot trefoil (Lotus pinnatus).
Harewood Plains covers an area of about 3 square kilometers. It is mostly a series of open, wet grassy meadows which are connected by a service road underneath hydro lines. At this time of year, the meadows were dominated by a sea of pink sea blush and yellow monkey-flowers. Common camas was still in bloom, but earlier in the spring the same meadows that were awash in pink and yellow were covered in blue at the peak of the camas bloom. Last week I found some camas, but the majority were already gone to seed. There is plenty of edge habitat with open Douglas-fir forest and a few Garry oak.
The meadows are extremely sensitive habitat. The soil is thin over conglomerate rock and wet seeps run through the grass and flowers. In the past, off-road vehicles like ATVs and 4×4 trucks caused significant damage to the both the plants and the soil. It is easy to find scars in the landscape that indicate people have driven here before. Regrettably some of those tire tracks look relatively recent. Signage indicates that anyone causing damage to plants and/or habitat is liable for a fine of $50,000 per offense.
The signature plant of the meadows is the bog birds-foot trefoil (Lotus pinnatus). Harewood Plains is one of five places on Vancouver Island, and Canada for that matter, where this rare red-listed plant can be found. This is also the location which has the largest number of plants—approximately 80% of the total individuals in British Columbia, around 1500 plants. Including the bog birds-foot trefoil, at least 10 rare red and blue listed plants have been found in the meadows.
I felt very lucky to see this very rare plant in bloom. It is just one of the many reasons why this area should be formally protected as an eco-reserve. Harewood Plains is an incredibly interesting, sensitive, and beautiful place. It is definitely worth preserving.