Plants of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland


168 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55192-479-X
DDC 581.9711'33





Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


As a temperate rainforest, the Pacific Northwest has the greatest weight
of living matter per hectare and some of the tallest trees in the world.
Needless to say, plants are everywhere. Horticulturalist and
arboriculturalist Collin Varner is obviously an ardent hiker and plant
lover. His four meticulous pocket guidebooks, which identify all of the
native or introduced plants surviving in the wild in this region, are
recommended for backpackers all across the Northwest.

The books have durable, laminated pages of colour-coded tabs making
reference to the types of plants (e.g., flowers, berries, shrubs, trees)
easy to find. Plants are shown in full detail in beautiful colour
photographs. Accompanying fact sheets provide the plant’s description,
habitat, uses by Aboriginal people, and the site location. Schematic
orientation maps show the prime locations to observe the plants.
Appropriately written in bright red are warnings about poisonous plants
such as the rather benign-sounding corn lily.

With these guides, the reader is more than equipped to take on the
trails, the parks, or just the garden. That blackberry plant
aggressively trailing over the back fence is likely to be the Himalayan
blackberry, an introduced but “heavily armed” species slowly taking
over the Pacific Northwest. The arbutus, Canada’s only native
broadleaf evergreen tree (although more a shrub), is distinguished by
its contorted and peeling bark. The cottonwood, the tallest deciduous
tree in the Pacific Northwest (not to mention the principal tree used to
make tissue paper), showers snow like seeds over much of the greater
mainland in spring.

Although the guidebooks individually cover different parts of the
Pacific Northwest, there is duplication of the plants in each book.
Plants of the Gulf and San Juan Islands and South Vancouver Island
probably covers most plants (except the alpine) that locals and visitors
to the Pacific Northwest are likely to encounter. However, any one of
these pocket books is an excellent resource.


Varner, Collin., “Plants of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,