Herbaceous Ecosystems (HB)

In the Discovery Islands
• Herbaceous ecosystems occur in areas of coarse shallow soils and bedrock found on exposed hilltops and headlands, on mossy outcrops in forest openings, and on shorelines outside of the salt spray zone.
• They are characterized by continuous low lying vegetation and diverse species including grasses, herbs, wildflowers, mosses and lichens. Herbaceous ecosystems have very few (<10%) trees and shrubs because their shallow and fast-drying soils limit the growth of larger plants.
• Herbaceous ecosystems frequently form patchy mosaics with Sparsely Vegetated, Woodland, and other ecosystems.

DIEM has mapped Herbaceous ecosystems ochre in the Sensitive Ecosystems Mapping.

A herbaceous plant is one without a woody stem and that typically dies back at the end of the growing season. Some herbaceous species have underground parts (rhizomes and roots, bulbs, corms) that survive through winter, so this grouping of plants includes annuals, biennials, and perennials.

In the Discovery Islands, herbaceous ecosystems most frequently occur as moss and lichen meadows on rocky outcrops. They often feature a variety of hummocks, hollows, and vernal pools. These are lingering moisture sources—and key amphibian habitat—as the surrounding vegetation dries in the summer.

In the moist springtime, the Discovery Islands’ herbaceous ecosystems support abundant displays of rare and delicate wildflowers. Herbaceous ecosystems also provide highly specialized micro-habitats for many species of rare butterflies and lichens. The lifecycles of certain rare species depend entirely on the specific conditions found in extremely small locations (some with an area of a few square centimetres) within these fragile ecosystems where any disturbance is amplified by wind, rain, and drought.


Look For Typical & Rare Species in Herbaceous Ecosystems

TYPICAL FAUNA  Arctic skipper butterfly, common nighthawk, garter snake species, hydaspe fritillary butterfly, northern alligator lizard, pale tiger swallowtail butterfly, red-tailed hawk, Townsend’s big-eared bats

TYPICAL FLORA  Arbutus, blue-eyed Mary, chocolate lily, common blue camas, death camas, field chickweed, hairy manzanita, Menzie’s larkspur, reindeer lichens, ocean spray, rock mosses, sea blush, Saskatoon berry, wild apple, yarrow

SPECIES AT RISK   Slim-leaved onion (Blue), arctic wood-rush (Blue), yellow sand-verbena (Blue), common nighthawk  Yellow, Threatened), barn swallow (Blue, Threatened), common wood-nympth (butterfly) (Red),

ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES AT RISK   Dune wildrye/beach pea, arbutus/hairy manzanita;   shorepine/common juniper/hairy manzanita

*For comprehensive species lists & rarity explanation, click here.

Some Observations of Local Species

Some Local Herbaceous Ecosystems

Familiar Locations: Cortes Island: Easter Bluff, Quadra Island: Heriot Ridge, Read Island: Viner Point, Maurelle Island:  The Dome, Sonora Island.