Wildflower Meadows on Mount Arrowsmith

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.

Meadow at Mount Arrowsmith
The south-facing sub-alpine meadows on the Mount Arrowsmith Saddle Route are filled with a gorgeous array of wildflowers.

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.

Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa)
Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa) formed mats of pink and lavender on the rockier parts of the meadow.
Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)
Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) grows throughout the meadows but we found a particularly nice patch at the base of the rock face.

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.

Subalpine Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus)
Subalpine Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus) was the most common flower in the meadows.
Perennial Sand-dwelling Wallflower (Erysimum arenicola)
Perennial Sand-dwelling Wallflower (Erysimum arenicola) seemed to prefer the somewhat drier scree slopes and individual flowers were scattered throughout the meadows.

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.

Nelson's Oxytrope (Oxytropis campestris var. spicata)
Nelson’s Oxytrope (Oxytropis campestris var. spicata) is unusual in that it is also found on Vancouver Island – other varieties of this species typically are found only on the mainland.

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.