OUR HOME AND NATIVE PLANTS: WEST COAST
Continuing with our celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, we travel westward to explore our beautiful Pacific coast in part two of our cross-Canada botanical journey:
FIELD GUIDE: WEST COAST
Province: British Columbia
This region is composed of one province: British Columbia (BC), on the Pacific coast of Canada. This eco-zone is renowned for the majestic Rocky Mountains, its dramatic, fjord-carved Pacific coastline, and ancient, stately forests. Among the species found here are western red cedar, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western and mountain hemlock, yellow cyprus, and alder. These coastal forests are home to some of the tallest, oldest, and most productive trees in Canada, where coniferous giants can soar to heights of 85-90 metres.
A large province, the climate of the coastal and inland regions of BC differs greatly. The Pacific coastal area is mild and humid year-round, with summer daytime temperatures around 20°C. In winter, the region enjoys the warmest winters in all of Canada, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing. Central and inland regions are drier and hotter in the summer, and temperatures of 30°C or more are not uncommon. In winter, colder, snowier days prevail.
When walking in the woods, you’ll find…
Where found: waste places, edges of forests
Uses: Cedar is often called the “tree of life” – and for good reason. When diluted and applied topically, cedar is thought to be soothing to aches and pains resulting from conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism, and was also a traditional remedy to help control bleeding. The scent of cedar also helps to repel mosquitoes and black flies.
Evening Primrose (indigenous):
Where found: disturbed wastelands where there is sun, thin soil, and good drainage.
Uses: Both First Nations and settlers used evening primrose for several medicinal purposes. Wounds and bruises were treated with a poultice of leaves, while a tea or infusion of the plant was drunk to soothe coughs and digestive complaints. Current interest in evening primrose focuses on the oil pressed from its seeds, which is rich in Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 oils are one of the two “good” fats essential for health of the skin.
Where found: moist soils, waste areas, fields, forests, and along roadsides.
Uses: The only representative of the very ancient and primitive class Sphenopsida, dating back 350 million years ago to the Devonian era. A living fossil, the plant at that time was as large as palm trees! Horsetail is traditionally used as a diuretic, helping to treat kidney ailments such as urinary tract infections, edema, and kidney stones. Due to its high content of silica, horsetail is recommended for skin, hair, and bone health. Used in a oil, it is beneficial for soothing irritated skin conditions and rashes, and is helpful to help get rid of white spots from nails.