Nerdy about Nature with Leah Evans
Alongside her partner, Hayden Robbins, Leah Evans is Lead Guide and Program Director of Whitecap Alpine’s Summer Hiking experience. For all those that have hiked with Leah, you will know that she is passionate about conservation and plant life. Through Whitecap, she states that “[her] goal is to use hiking as a vessel for learning more and increasing peoples’ backcountry stewardship.”
Leah’s interpretive knowledge is mind blowing. While hiking with Leah, she will introduce you to flora, fauna, local history and local First Nations’ traditions. Leah is ever curious and loves more than anything to not only share her wisdom, but also learn as much as she can from those around her.
As a precursor to alpine hiking this summer, Leah has shared with us some fun facts about flora that you may come across while out exploring in the mountains. Read Leah’s fun facts below, and keep them in your back pocket in case of awkward conversation on the hiking trail!
* Disclaimer: Leah has spent a lot of time studying and learning about Whitecap’s backyard. She sees value in getting to know and love a certain place, but does not deem herself to be an expert in the field of plant biology.
1. Fireweed- This plant loves wide open spaces, especially areas that have had a recent forest fire burn. Their bright pink flowers will speckle a burnt landscape, signalling the start of a new cycle of life. They also aid in slope stabilisation. Fun fact- you can make tea from the Fireweed by drying out their large, mature green leaves.
2. Monkey Flower- I love this flower. This flower is only really found at cold streams in the alpine (alpine springs), therefore you know you are nearby a cold water source when you see them around.
3. False Hellebore- Also known as Corn Lily, or Indian Poke. In several cultures it has been used medicinally to treat lung disease, bowel complaints and rheumatism. However, it is considered highly toxic if used improperly. At Whitecap the colours of the Hellebore signify the change of seasons: In summer the leaves are a brilliant green, but once the first frost of Fall hits the valley, the leaves turn a light brown.
4. Aster- Did you know ‘aster’ is latin for star! This beautiful flower is on the buffet table for elk, deer, moose, bees and bears.
5. Moss Campion- My all time favourite flower because they are so resilient. These guys live in the harshest parts of the alpine landscape, generally nestled into dirt patches between rocks. It can take up to 100 years for a section of moss the size of a quarter to grow!
6. Indian Paintbrush- Most obviously named because it looks like a ragged brush dipped into paint. The colour of the flower will depend on different minerals in the soil- they generally prefer deep sandy earth. Hummingbirds love the red paintbrushes.
7. Mountain Heather- These plants play a huge role in slope stabilisation. Purcell Lodge did a Mountain Heather study in a 14km meadow covered in Heather. They found that when you step on the plant in the same spot (up to 50 times) it will kill it. With the effect of climate change on alpine environments, these beauties are having a hard time growing back. This is why at Whitecap, if there is not a trail, we ask our guests to spread out to limit the amount of impact on the Heather.
8. Cotton Grass- If you see this plant it is a sign that there is water present as they generally grow in marshy ground. The white fluffy tip of the flower feels exactly like a tuft of cotton. Did you know despite their name, they are not actually a grass!