By: Bob Brett
Date: June 30, 2000
The stunning colours in landscaped gardens may sometimes make us forget the beauty of our native flowers. But then, all garden flowers started out as native flowers somewhere.
Two of the most beautiful plants now blooming in Whistler are wild roses and orange honeysuckle. Both plants would look great in a domestic garden, but Mother Nature has kindly done the gardening for us.
Wild roses line the edges of many roads, filling the air with their sweet smell. Nootka roses (Rosa nutkana), with their big, pink flowers and large thorns, are our most common wild rose. Baldhip roses (Rosa gymnocarpa) have smaller flowers, are covered in soft prickles and, true to their name, are the only roses in our area without sepals on the end of the fruit (the hips).
Rose hips are an excellent source of Vitamin C and, with seeds removed, were eaten by First Nations’ people. The flowers are also edible and can add a colourful splash to any salad.
Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) is rarer in Whistler than in warmer locales, but a close look will reveal a few flowering now in the gravel pit across from the base of Lorimer Road and in the Spruce Grove area. Orange honeysuckle is also called tripweed because of its annoying affinity for twining across the forest floor, just above foot level.
The sweet nectar at the base of the honeysuckle flowers is prized by both hummingbirds and small children, but the berry may be poisonous. The vines are so strong they were used by First Nations in place of rope, including as reinforcement for suspension bridges over the Fraser and other big rivers.
Cultivated plants may smell as sweet, but for my money nothing compares to those in the wild.