Bunchberry and E. C. Manning Provincial Park in BC

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Bunchberry flowers (D. Gordon E. Robertson, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

Bunchberry is an attractive plant that lies close to the ground. A good place to see the plant is in E. C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia. The park is a great place to explore in any season. It offers many attractions. For me, the main ones are the lakes, the trails, and the different plants and animals that can be seen there, including bunchberry. Apart from the first and the third image, I took all of the photos in this post during one of my visits to the park.

Despite its relatively small size, bunchberry belongs to the dogwood family. Its “flower” is actually an inflorescence made of multiple small flowers, or florets. What appear to be four white petals are actually bracts. The small and greenish-yellow florets are surrounded by the bracts. The florets eventually produce a shiny bunch of red berries, which gives the plant its name.

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The berries of the plant

There are three species of bunchberry in British Columbia: Cornus canadensisCornus suecica, and Cornus unalaschkensis. All three species are very similar in appearance, and are not easy to separate. (E-Flora BC, University of British Columbia)

Bunchberry has a wide distribution. It’s found in the northern part of North America as well as in Asia. The plant is a herbaceous perennial. The shoots arise from a creeping rhizome, or an underground stem. At least where I live, bunchberry grows in forested areas that are partly shaded.

The glossy leaves of the plant are oval and have a pointed tip. Their veins are very noticeable. The leaves appear to be positioned in a whorl under the inflorescence. They remain attractive in the fall, when they frequently turn red or purple. A cultivated form of bunchberry is sold for gardens.

Bunchberry in fall (2)

Bunchberry in the fall (Arthur Chapmen, CC BY 2.0 license)

Though it’s commonly known as a berry, the fruit of bunchberry is technically a drupe, or a stone fruit. It has a fleshy outer section surrounding a hard pit, or stone. The stone contains the seed. The drupes are edible. (Be sure that you have identified the plant correctly before you try one.) The fruit isn’t appealing for humans due to the large stone and the small amount of soft flesh around it. The drupes are eaten by some birds and mammals, however. I admire the fruits instead of eating them.

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A view of Lightning Lake in Manning Park

E. C. Manning Provincial Park is located about a three-hour-drive away from Vancouver in the Cascade Mountains. It offers hiking, cycling, non-motorized boating, and fishing in summer and skiing and other snow and ice activities in winter. The photo opportunities in the park are wonderful. Hiking trails range from easy to difficult and include alpine routes. Safety precautions should always be taken when hiking and sufficient supplies should be carried (even while considering the load). This is especially important on the longer and more remote trails in Manning Park.

The park has a chain of three lakes. A fairly flat trail travels around them. The journey around all three lakes is easy but time consuming. Fortunately, there’s a bridge after the first lake that enables people to cross to the other side and then return to the starting point in a loop. The first and most popular lake in the chain is called Lightning Lake and the bridge is known as the Rainbow Bridge. The bridge can be seen in the video below. Canoes can be rented by the Lightning Lake parking lot in summer. The lot is located right next to the lake.

The trail around Lightning Lake is a good route for novice hikers or for those who don’t want to walk along a difficult trail or for a long time. Beaches are located along the route. Programs presented by naturalists are presented in the area in the summer.

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Part of the trail around Lightning Lake

The park contains multiple campsites. These either have a water supply or are close to one. There are no electrical or sewage hookups in the park, however. Generators are allowed at certain hours and a sani-station is available in summer. In the winter, the campsites are closed but the parking lot beside Lightning Lake is open for self-contained recreational vehicles.

Manning Park contains a resort with a lodge and cabins where people can stay. The resort has a store, pay phones, a restaurant, washrooms, and picnic areas for everyone to use, whether or not they are staying at the resort. The lodge provides access to the Internet for people staying there, but the Internet connection and the cell phone connection in the lodge is somewhat limited. The park itself has no cell phone service.

The resort offers its own attractions for visitors. In winter, it operates shuttle buses to a mountain and has chair lifts for skiers. It also offers snow tubing, tobogganing, snow shoeing, and ice skating.

Manning Park is fun and interesting to explore, but a trip should be planned carefully. The resort has first aid staff, which is important to know in an emergency. The nearest hospital is a forty-five-minute drive away in the town of Hope, however. The nearest gas station is located just outside the East Gate of the park and is about a fifteen-minute drive away from the resort.

The Coldspring campground is the nicest one that I’ve explored and is located beside a river. It’s situated near the resort. The site is very popular and fills up quickly. Travellers need to make a reservation or arrive at the campground early in the day to find a campsite there.

The park’s website should be checked before a visit to check for current conditions and campsite availability. The website is run by the provincial government. The resort has its own website. An exploration of the park is very worthwhile. Multiple visits would be required to explore the whole park, but even a single trip can be very enjoyable.

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