Category Archives: Outdoors

Outdoors on Vancouver Island

Yellow Flag Iris: Silent killer choking Buttertubs Marsh

As people walk around Buttertubs Marsh they often comment how beautiful the yellow flowers look in the marsh.

Yellow Flag Iris growing in Buttertub Marsh
Yellow Flag Iris growing in Buttertubs Marsh

Unfortunately, those flowers in the marsh are Yellow Flag Iris which is a non-native wetland plant. These plants have spread and threaten to choke out the entire marsh.

Why is the City of Nanaimo not removing the invasive Yellow Flag Iris from Buttertubs Marsh?

Something has to be done now before it’s too late!  The City of Nanaimo needs to act quickly to save this valuable wetland from this infestation.

May is ‘Invasive Plant Month’ and yet there is no mention of the Yellow Flag Iris on the city’s website.


yellow flag iris - invasive plant killing Buttertubs Marsh
Yellow Flag Iris – invasive plant killing Buttertubs Marsh

Facts about Yellow Flag Iris:

  • Their dense roots block water flow (flood issue)
  • Stem fragments can form new plants if they break off and drift to suitable habitat.
  • Toxic to humans and livestock
  • Yellow flag spreads by rhizomes and seeds. Up to several hundred flowering plants may be connected through underground stems.
  • Overwintering waterfowl depend on rush seeds as a high energy food source but the rushes are almost totally choked out.

This Saturday, May 31st from 12pm – 3:30 pm at the Bowen Park Wall Street parking lot, Nanaimo residents can drop off invasive plants they have removed from their yards at the ‘Drop Zone’.

Nanaimo Buttertubs Western Painted Turtle News

New signs have been put up at Buttertubs Marsh recently. Two areas have signs that read:
Species at Risk
Western Painted Turtle
Nest area

Western Painted Turtle signs Nanaimo
Western Painted Turtle signs at Nanaimo Buttertubs Marsh

The Western Painted Turtle is the only native pond turtle left in B.C.  This unique turtle is named after the bright yellow stripes on its head, neck, tail and legs, and the glowing red on its underside. Painted Turtles have webbed hind feet, and slender claws on their front feet.  Males have much longer claws than females.

Painted turtles can grow to over 30 cm in length. Most adult Painted Turtles spend the winter hibernating in the mud at the bottom of ponds and lakes. In June or July, female turtles lay 6 to 18 oval eggs, about 3 cm long or the length of a two-dollar coin, in a carefully prepared nest.   Nests are built between dusk and dawn.

Females are very watchful for predators. Once the eggs are laid, the female fills the nest with soil, compacting it with her feet and plastron, and then covering it with vegetation and debris. If predators do not find the nest, the baby turtles break out of their eggs around September. Even though their shallow nests can reach –5 degrees C, most hatchlings stay in the nest until the following spring.

Survival is quite low due to weather variations plus predation of eggs and hatchlings. Female Painted Turtles only reproduce about every second year, and when they do reproduce, they lay one batch of eggs in the summer. They like to eat insects, snails, earthworms, frogs, tadpoles and algae.

Western Painted Turtle - Linley Valley West
Western Painted Turtle – Linley Valley West

Many people worked hard to try and save important wetland areas in Linley Valley West where these turtles live, but the lack of action by Nanaimo City Council has led to the unnecessary decimation of the turtles in that valley.

Team Save Linley Valley West had a bio-inventory of almost 300 acres of Linley Valley West which confirmed the area’s “high overall conservation value” as home to sensitive ecosystems and threatened species. Included in the list was the Western Painted Turtle which had nesting sites adjacent to the ponds at Linley Valley West now destroyed.

Destruction of Seasonal Ponds in Linley Valley West

The recent destruction of a seasonal pond in Linley Valley West is a sad reminder of the short sightedness of Nanaimo City Council and staff. Here are some pictures taken last week:

Seasonal ponds in Linley Valley West
Seasonal ponds destroyed in Linley Valley West

What are seasonal ponds and why are they important?

A seasonal or ‘vernal’ pond is a pool of water that exists for only part of the year, often drying up by the summer and not reappearing again until the fall rain starts. Because of this cycle, seasonal ponds support a special ecosystem, and a number of insects and amphibeans live here which cannot survive anywhere else.

The City of Langford recognized the importance of its seasonal pond—why couldn’t Nanaimo?

Spencer’s Pond, designated as a City Park by the City of Langford, BC, is a seasonal (vernal) pond located between Leigh Road and Spencer Middle School. It is home to a wide variety of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. There are no fish as the pond dries up completely in the late summer for a short time. This keeps the potential bullfrog epidemic at bay because the tadpole stage of bullfrogs is longer than one year.

Insects include damselflies, dragonflies, backswimmers, water boatmen, giant water bugs, diving beetles, water scorpions, caddisflies and mayflies. Amphibians include Pacific tree frogs, red legged frogs and salamanders. Because of the healthy assortment of insects and amphibians, as well as the work of birds and bats, there are very few mosquitoes present at the pond.

Despite numerous biological reports and over 6,000 signed petitions sent over two years to the City of Nanaimo, staff and councillors remain mute on the subject. Follow Team Save Linley Valley West on facebook as it continues to document the plight of this ecosystem for the record.

What is the future of North Nanaimo? Linley Valley West is one of the last continuous green spaces in the north end of the city that hasn’t been clearcut all at once and left to sit idle with developers’ signs left as permanent fixtures still advertising unsold units seven years later.

Time is running out. Please come to the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on October 21, 2013 at 4:30pm at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. There will be three delegations speaking from Team Save Linley Valley West and they need your support.

Arbutus trees in Nanaimo

Arbutus tree at corner of Mostar and Island Hwy
Arbutus tree at corner of Mostar and Island Hwy

Arbutus trees are expected to become extinct in approximately 15 years in many coastal areas. The change in weather patterns and new tropical fungi are accelerating the decline of arbutus trees.

Archibald Menzies, naturalist on Captain Vancouver’s 1792 voyage to the Pacific Northwest, made the first botanical description. In his honour, the tree was given the scientific name Arbutus Menziesii. The arbutus tree is Canada’s only broad-leafed evergreen, found in areas of the Strait of Georgia at lower elevations.

Since that time, arbutus trees have been painted, photographed and used to promote the natural beauty of Vancouver Island. They are a unique tree and one that is disappearing fast.

It is ironic that at a time when arbutus trees are on the verge of extinction in coastal BC, there is no protection.

Near the corner of the Island Highway and Mostar there is an arbutus beside the Remax sign. This arbutus is surrounded by green grass which is not good; tree root development is reduced by grass competition. Also, if herbicides are applied to lawns this is lethal for arbutus trees.  These stresses cause arbutus to be more susceptible to fungus and insects.

Linley Valley Land Grab

Once there was a 1,100-acre tract of urban wilderness in North Nanaimo. The City of Nanaimo had an opportunity to make Linley Valley a park that would rival Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Most of this area known as Linley Valley is held by private interests who have seen a huge return on their investment despite having done nothing except getting the land rezoned.   Before, Linley Valley was not included within the urban containment boundary (UCB) and now it is.

Originally when this area was included into the UCB, it could only be subdivided into five acre parcels allowing two dwelling units per parcel. This meant there could only be 440 homes in the whole area. Now there are plans for a 353 home subdivision on approximately 25 acres, which will cost Nanaimo taxpayers $2.5 million to bring services to these homes. Not to mention the City of Nanaimo bought a residential lot for $425,000 on Vanderneuk Road which could house a pumping station.

In 2002, Watt Ventures Ltd. presented a $100,000 donation to the Nanaimo Area Land Trust in lieu of park land for Linley Valley.

The problem with developers ‘donations’ to third parties is that there is no accounting of where the money goes.

Team Save Linley Valley West is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 7pm, the location is the Kin Hut in Departure Bay,  Nanaimo.

Save Linley Valley West 2013 Public Meeting

Team Save Linley Valley West is holding a public meeting on September 18, 2013 to inform the citizens of Nanaimo and build support for challenging a 353-home development in Linley Valley West recently approved by City of Nanaimo staff. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Kin Hut located at 2730 Departure Bay Rd.

Over 6000 people have signed petitions to protect Linley Valley West‘s 300 acres of woodlands and wetlands. During the past two years SLVW addressed Nanaimo council five times to present evidence of the potential impact of a housing development on the ecology of all of Linley Valley, including the publicly owned Cottle Lake Park and DL 56 in the eastern side of the valley.

On Feb. 27 2012, council voted almost unanimously to consider ways of acquiring Linley West lands, then reversed that decision in a vote at the next public council meeting, with no debate.

For more information visit Save Linley Valley West Facebook