While walking the Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve the tendency is to look upward—the trees are so large and dramatic and that is what immediately captures one’s attention. However, it’s also a good idea to look down once and a while and see what’s blooming. The understory is amazing in the temperate rainforest of the west coast of Vancouver Island, and amongst the lush deer fern and thick salal, it is occasionally possible to stumble upon an unusual flower on the dark forest floor.
Such was the case this week when I did a quick loop of the trail on the far side of the highway (there are two loops—one accessed at the far end of the parking lot, and a second on the opposite side of the road between Ucluelet and Tofino). I was trying out my new Fuji X100s and photographing the familiar forest canopy images that most rainforest walkers typically capture when I noticed a plant that I didn’t immediately recognize. From the pattern and shape of the leaves and the structure of the flower I knew it was a saxifrage of some sort, but one that I wasn’t familiar with.
I got a couple of record shots with the macro setting on the Fuji, but wasn’t too happy with them (the X100s does street/people photography well, landscapes reasonably well, but macro is a bit hit and miss). I noted the location of the plants and, since some of them were growing near the end of the trail, figured I could make a quick trip back with better macro gear and tripod.
At home I checked Pojar and MacKinnon and identified the saxifrage as coast boykinia (Boykinia occidentalis), a species that I’ve never photographed. The next day I returned and spent some time photographing the flowers, trying both my 105mm and 60mm macro lenses. The tripod helped since the light levels at ground level were so low and without a flash longer exposures were necessary.
I think what struck me most about the plant were the leaves—loosely heart-shaped, deeply cleft (5-7 lobes), and distinctly toothed. The flowers were arranged in a loose panicle and much larger than foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata) which was also in bloom along the trail. Coast boykinia prefers moist stream banks and forests and these plants were true to form, I even got my knees wet when kneeling down trying to position the camera properly on the tripod.
A chance encounter with new plants on a familiar trail is one of the many reasons I like to revisit places several times over the course of the year. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time!