Northern Range Limit: Bella Coola

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Bella Coola sits on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound, where ships load timber and glacial melt (water mixed with till) spills into the sea.

One of the northernmost collection of Pyrola picta is from the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, Canada. This valley terminates at the town of Bella Coola on Queen Charlotte Sound. The entire valley is surrounded by glaciers and the sea is colored by glacial till.BCV

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Karl Jolles carefully excavates part of the rhizome and roots of a Chimaphila plant, preparing it to be pressed and dried for a permanent collection.

In 2006, my brother, Karl, and I traveled to the Bella Coola Valley to observe the habitat of P. picta and make collections for permanent herbarium holdings. Approaching the valley from the east, we collected plants from two large populations, each occurring in mixed cedar and Douglas fir forests on dense, mossy substrates with Linnea borealis (Twin flower) and Chimaphila umbellata (Prince’s pine).

Collections for herbaria are carefully selected and pressed, and information about their phenology, habitat, growth habit, and associated plants in the area are all recorded so that scientists may derive as much information about the plant as possible when they see the specimen in an herbarium.

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Typical habitat of Pyrola picta in the Bella Coola Valley. The ground, including any fallen trees or limbs, is completely covered with moss.

This trip inspired me to make a trip in 2012 along the north coast of British Columbia to see if the range of P. picta extends further north. Members of the P. picta species complex are reported to inhabit both Coastal and Inland Douglas Fir habitats in addition to Coastal Western Hemlock (Taylor & MacBryde, 1977). These reports formed the basis for a backpacking trip along the Inland Passage, during which I was able to hike into forests along coastal British Columbia and southeastern Alaska.Taylor&MacBryde

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