Reflections of White Birch

When thinking about wetland ecosystems along the coast, it is easy to imagine the sedges and rushes or other low growing plants we’ve come to expect around water. What might escape this mental picture are the surrounding trees that stabilize the banks or edges of a small pond or poke out from the center of a swamp. Trees play an important role in many types of wetland environments that are classified as Palustrine Wetlands.

Mark Faviell, this week’s selected photographer, has reminded us of the larger fauna we might see reflected in an open water wetland. His Reflections of White Birch depicts the flipside view of a wetland: the canopy cover. The reflections of what he has determined to be White or Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) gleam in contrasting whites and charcoal against a sunny sky. This plant can be found in a variety of ecosystems including along floodplain sites or on the margins of swamps and bogs. In our case the trees stand gracefully above open water in North Vancouver. What is interesting about the White Birch is its importance and historical uses. It never strays very far from water: the birch bark is commonly known as a cover for canoes, and is an important winter food for many animals and birds, including moose.

The distinctive white peeling bark is a giveaway when identifying the tree, however there are several similar plants which might be found near BC wetlands. Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloids) has round to triangular leaves, catkins and smooth light-coloured bark. Another tree that might be confused with our feature is a cousin, the Water Birch (Betula Occidentalis), which can be found east of the Coast and Cascade mountains particularly in Southern BC. This similar tree is sometimes witnessed in shrub form and often grows along stream banks and marshes. For those in the North Eastern part of the province, the Alaska Paper Birch (Betula neoalaskana), is a similar plant that grows on poorly drained soils in boggy environments.

Thank you to Mark for this beautiful image. If you’d like to see more of his work you can see his website or Flickr page.  To take a look at our growing collection of BC Wetland images or to add your own photographs to it, click here.

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