along the fern dank creek
skunky golden chalices rise
from large lettucy leaves
One last hike at Ruckle Provincial Park before we catch the afternoon ferry to Vancouver -- the city on the mainland, that is, not the island. During a short walk on a flat trail that winds along a creek, flashes of bright yellow among the dark ferns draw me down for a closer look. Tall golden chalices with a central spike rise up from what looks like huge romaine lettuce leaves. The area smells like a passing skunk cast its noxious spray, and I suddenly remember why this gaudy plant is called Yellow Skunk Cabbage. The odor of Lysichiton americanus attracts flies and beetles to pollinate the tiny flowers on the spadix wand, and perhaps the bright yellow hooded spathe also acts as a beacon light for the insects. The odor is enough to discourage most folks from even thinking about using those leaves in a salad, but they are also toxic. The peppery taste causes a prickling of the tongue and throat, possible stomach pains and even death if eaten in large quantities. So the Yellow Lantern, as it is also caused, flashes a warning to everyone but its chosen pollinators: Danger! Stay Away!
At the end of the short trail, a number of houseboats float at anchor in the quiet waters of King's Cove, which is shaped like a round-bottom bottle with a narrow neck at the gulf end.
One houseboat seems to be outfitted with a plastic geodesic greenhouse.
Far in the distance we can see other gulf islands flying white cirrus banners, and between the boats and us, the head of a river otter stitching the still waters.
The tide is out and we walk a long way on the pebbly shore to get to the water's edge.
A hodgepodge of barnacle-clad shells and rocks, water soaked pine cones, bleached driftwood and drying seaweed litters the ground.
When I turn over one claw-shaped piece of driftwood, I find a little gray crab, its tiny claws clinging to a crevice, almost perfectly camouflaged against the wet wood.
The gray and brown feathers of a dead duck also blend into the gray and brown pebbles, flight returning to the earth from which it was born.
Some people have set up camp on the shore, with a driftwood campfire sending blue smoke up through a pink flowering tree.
While the rest of the group rests on big driftwood trunks, enjoying the sun, I go exploring along a little creek that flows into the cove. On a slender branch, a delicate white lichen orb.
And an extensive colony of plants with slender leaves and brown and white spadix that look like magic wands. Anyone know what they are?