As many of you know, with the changing season, one of the most distinct signs of spring in our coastal temperate rainforest is the beautiful pink flowers of the salmonberry plant. This native plant is incredibly important to a variety of organisms because it is the first native forest flower to bloom and first fruit to ripen, allowing for a new food source for bugs and hummingbirds and more.
But before this delicate flower or fruit comes to show its full colours, it’s hidden in the depths of each of those little buds that you can see out on your walks right now.
This is a longitudinal view of a salmonberry bud from Stanley Park. It measures roughly 7 mm and upon examination, I discovered five mites all measuring at 0.1 mm that were using this bud as their playground. Even the smallest parts of nature, like this bud, are a home to something.
This bud, called an auxiliary bud, has all the specialized building blocks of what the plant aims to become in the upcoming months. It’s all there: the leaves, the stem, a flower, and a fruit. In this image you can see the flower and its parts in the center, surrounded by silver-haired leaves.
As the spring season continues, this salmonberry plant won’t be making any new buds, but all of its growth will be seen as a slow unravelling of each layer within the bud. First we’ll see the leaves unfurl, a stem will elongate, then the flower will blossom and change colour, attracting recently returned rufous hummingbird pollinators, and finally, in the very middle of this bud, there is the site where dozens of individual eggs will be fertilized, turning into seeds, making up the colourful fruit in the end.
Pretty darn neat to see all that complexity, and potential, hidden in that inconspicuous bud, all ready to go, just waiting for the sunny days to come.
By Dylan Rawlyk, School Programs Manager