Fruits of Fall

On a recent trip to the West Kootenays in BC, I found a couple of plants that invited closeup photos. Both are familiar: one is a shrub, often found in my home area, in fact, and even around the edges of my garden. The other is a tree I seldom see because it isn’t native to BC.


The bush is snowberry—but I think a couple of its other names, waxberry and ghost berry, are utterly appropriate. They grow wild around vacant properties near my home (and across Canada), but this one was planted as an ornamental in a small formal garden below the hotel in Nakusp where we spent a night.


Apparently it is unusual precisely for those white berries (known as drupes) which not many plants produce. I’ve seldom seen anything eat them so they may persist right through the fall and winter. But sources says they are on the menu of bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and grizzly bears, as well as some birds. Even though they are poisonous to humans, that shouldn’t stop you from using a branch or two of them as fall decorations on the front door.

The tree belongs to the red oak family which has pointed leaf lobes. This oak isn’t native to western Canada, and so was planted as an ornamental on the walkway that runs alongside the Upper Arrow Lake which forms part of the Columbia River passing by Nakusp.



I collected an acorn (they’re also called oak nuts, of course) from those littered under the trees. Growing up in Ontario, where oaks are common, I remember painting faces on these rotund little figures with jaunty brown berets. We can eat them, but they take considerable work to process: cracking, soaking in water to reduce the amount of bitter tannin, roasting, grinding. Best leave them for jays, ducks, squirrels, mice, deer, rabbits and other critters. Acorn woodpeckers relish them, obviously, but that bird’s habitat is far south of BC (we saw them at Clear Lake, CA) where oak forests provide this main diet item.



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