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A little bit of Naturalist in everyone

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By Veronica Sommerville

Although most activities offered in Whistler take place outside, many times the rush of high speed and the charge to get the most out of the day leaves some of the finer, more subtle details overlooked.

A fine fall day last autumn, I found myself walking in the forested hills along Green River Forest Service Road. A lack of rainfall and blustery winds allowed the late summer colours to linger through October and the forest was positively glowing. After a steep ascent the hill briefly flattened to a bench where the forest became predominately deciduous, with large patches of devils club. Carefully skirting one of these areas of relentlessly barbed foliage, I came across a patch of ferns I have never seen before. They teetered on delicate and sinewy black, squarish stems adorned with small graceful sets of leaflets with the underside edges decorated with downy spores. I felt energized and anxious as I always do when I find plants that I have never seen and am unable to identify. It wasn’t difficult once I returned home to find this elegant and attractive fern was appropriately named Maidenhair, Adiantum pedatum .

On another such occasion, this time during our summer months when our unpredictable coast weather had graced us with an extended period of warm and dry, I was doing some exploring around the Lost Lake wetland. Down on my haunches examining the soil, as this area has a history of supporting a log mill, I spotted one of my favourite wetland plants, the sundew, Drosera rotundiflia . If there was ever a plant to interest even the most indifferent onlooker, this is it. The Round-leaved Sundew is a carnivorous plant that will digest insects for nutrients, as it inhabits very nutrient-poor, acidic sites. The individual stalks are shaped like a curious round disk covered in thick red hairs that end in a tiny ball. These "hairs" are sticky and act as flypaper when an unsuspecting insects alights upon it, where it will then be slowly digested by acidic juices.

I am asked often what it means to be part of the Naturalist Society and I think that the ability to appreciate our surrounding natural environment is the only prerequisite. The above stories are two of the thousands of reasons why I consider myself a naturalist. You do not need to hold a degree or be an expert to be a naturalist. These stories are about plants, but they could be about animals, interesting geological formations, rare bird sightings, cool insects, even the way the winds form fascinating snowdrifts in the high alpine. This is why there is a naturalist hidden in everyone.

Upcoming events:

It's time to start thinking about setting up bat houses for the spring arrival of the little flying mammals. If you are interested in building a bat house, call or e-mail Stéphane to obtain handyperson building plans. sté phane@telus.net

Calling all Aspiring Nature Writers – Have an interest in natural history? Want to educate others about your favourite flora and/or fauna? Write your very own Naturespeak article. For more information contact April McCrum at 604-932-0919 or aprilmccrum@yahoo.ca .

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