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Horse Barn Valley, June Natural History Walk 2022

By Laura Duncan

The mosquitoes were not as voracious as feared, the weather was sunny and warm without being overpowering, and the people were there to share their knowledge about the flora and fauna. In other words, it was a terrific day for a natural history walk in Horse Barn Valley.

The first part of the walk was on the lush Talus Trail. Its stately cedars and delicate-looking ferns are reminiscent of coastal forests. Upon reaching the talus slope, we discussed the recent pika sighting, the false azalea and Labrador tea. We also talked about the fact that we were not looking at rocks on the slope — we were actually looking at lichens! The rocks are coated with a variety of crustose, foliose and fruticose lichens that play a huge role in making minerals available, creating conditions where other plants can grow and aiding in the formation of soil.

Three people hike along a trail with a talus slope to their left. In the foreground, a black and white dog walks away from the camera
Hikers on Talus Trail (Photo by Laura Duncan)

Form there we looked at the wetland where the very poisonous water hemlock grows, and then we looked at Dipper Lake, which remains very high.

A closeup of a bright green water hemlock leaf
Water hemlock leaf (Photo by Laura Duncan)
Hikers on a trail surrounded by lush greenery and larch trees
Hiking on Coral Route

After climbing Bullfrog Hill, we travelled the Coral Route where the abundance of coral root plants is amazing this year. It was notable that many species of plants were much more lush than usual. The cool, wet spring must’ve suited many plants.

Red coral root plant
Spotted coral root (Photo by Struan Robertson)
Yellow coral root plant
Yellow coral root (Photo by Struan Robertson)

A real feature of the walk was the naked broomrape found at the Coral Route Viewpoint. This uncommon plant parasitizes alumroot, stonecrops and possibly other genera. On the Coral Route Trail, it was clearly associated with alumroot. Thanks to Struan Robertson for noticing this unusual plant.

A closeup of a plant with green leaves and bell-shaped purple flowers
Naked broomrape (Photo by Laura Duncan)

Join us on the next exploration of the Natural History of the KNP in July! Details to come or contact Ruth at


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