Vendovi Island Forest

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Harsh Paintbrush and Oregon Sunshine
Harsh Paintbrush and Oregon Sunshine at Paintbrush Point on Vendovi Island.

Last Saturday I joined a boatload (literally) of Washington Native Plant Society friends for a field trip to Vendovi Island. It’s one of the smaller of the San Juan Islands, located a few miles south of the southern tip of Lummi Island and northeast of Guemes Island. Up until 2010 it was privately held. Then the San Juan Preservation Trust purchased it and has opened it to the public from May through September.

We’d hoped to enjoy spectacular meadows of wildflowers on a couple of west-facing balds, but with our very warm and early spring the flowers were well past their prime. There was still a little camas blooming, and quite a bit of harsh paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and death camas.

1501114 Backlit Douglas Maples, Douglas-firs, Sword Ferns along trail [Acer glabrum var. douglasii; Pseudotsuga menziesii; Polystichum munitum]. Vendovi Island, WA. © Mark Turner
Backlit Douglas Maples, Douglas-firs, Sword Ferns along trail to Paintbrush Point on Vendovi Island.

Our group hiked the trail through the forest to Paintbrush Point, back down to Sunrise Beach, and then over to Sunset Beach. The forest is relatively undisturbed, with a mix of Douglas-firs, bigleaf Maples, and Douglas maples. The understory is thick with sword ferns. I found myself attracted more to the forest than to the crispy flower meadows.

Sword Fern
Sword Fern
Sword Ferns new fronds unfurling
Sword Ferns new fronds unfurling
Sword Ferns
Sword Ferns

We saw few large stumps in the forest, and pondered how much logging had been done, how much of the island had been kept cleared by Native Americans, and what other disturbances might have affected the forest.

Decaying Stump
Decaying stump capped by wood ferns, surrounded by a sea of sword ferns under a canopy of Douglas-firs and bigleaf maples.

This is one of the few stumps we came across along the trail. It was capped with a crown of wood ferns, delicate foliage contrasting with the coarser fronds of the sword ferns that carpeted many acres of the forest floor.

Bigleaf Maple
Backlit bigleaf maple crown

It was a warm, brilliantly blue-sky sunny day. That bright sky filtered down through the canopy, making the maples leaves glow an incandescent green.

All these forest photos were made with my Canon 24-105mm lens, most with a polarizing filter to reduce the glare off the foliage. I used my 70-200mm lens for the wildflowers at the top of the post in order to stay behind the barrier and protect the fragile meadow habitat.

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