A forest of berries and the silent agreement that lies within
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

August 18, 2011

I initially came to the west coast of Vancouver Island in the spring of 2008 to finish my degree at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre. I spent the summer studying the natural world around me and when I wasn’t working or studying, I spent a lot of my time in the forest exploring, watching, and listening.

Looking under leaves, these tasty berries can be hidden from view.

The Coastal Temperate Rainforest exhibits a unique ecosystem that has matured over thousands of years. Some of the most complicated old growth forests can be found here on the west coast. Besides the mosses, birds, and insects, it was the berries that grabbed my attention the most. Colorful, delicate, sweet and sour, they were ripe for the picking. At first it was the salmon berry ranging in color from yellow to red and tasting of a very bitter-sweet experience. Then the blue berries and red huckleberries were suddenly in bloom. They were my favorite, the perfect sweet and the perfect sour respectively in my mind. As the summer grew on, salal berries ripened, followed by thimble berries and finally the season ended with the notoriously famous black berry. Beyond enjoying the multitude of flavors, I noticed that the species themselves seemed to have the entire summer partitioned into different times for fruiting bodies to ripen allowing each berry a moment to shine. It seems logical to spread out a blooming season over the whole summer and not hammer scavengers or (seed spreaders) with a single month or two to consume all berry types.

The path leads on

My fascination is how this trait or communication has developed over time and over species. Plants typically have the ability to communicate with themselves and each other through root systems and hormonal changes in the apical meristem or “growth tip.” To get a better idea of how plants communicate, one might be interested in a TED talk by Stefano Mancuso http://www.ted.com/talks/stefano_mancuso_the_roots_of_plant_intelligence.html.

Perhaps when the fruit is plucked, a hormone is released letting the plant know the berry is no longer there, meaning it was successfully eaten. If this information is feed-back over many generations, it could cause the berries to pinpoint an opportune time to ripen, a time when others do not. This is of course just a theory but it supports the theory of Darwinism and competition. There are always other factors to consider and a theory remains just that until tested and proven. For now, being back on the coast I find myself in the month of the Salal and Thimble berries and it is time to go forage in the Coastal Temperate Rainforest.

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