Book Review: Reading up on B.C.'s flora and fauna

If you live somewhere long enough, or if you’ve lived somewhere for your entire life, you may never notice the natural world around since it’s basically always the same. 

I was born in Richmond so I’ve never really had an opportunity to experience other environments, be they tropical or desert, extreme hot or extreme cold.  Even though I could experience nature just by going a couple of blocks away from the Cambie Branch to the Richmond Nature Park, I take our wild spaces for granted. It takes a book like The Flora and Fauna of Coastal British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest by Collin Varner to really drive home the variety of life we have in our part of the world.

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Divided into sections on various types of plants and creatures, Flora and Fauna lists the hundreds of plants and animals that are commonly found here.  From trees and flowers to fungi and invasive plants, and from fish and insects to land mammals and reptiles, nearly everything you can expect to find around the city and the region can be found here.

Each entry features a photo and a basic description, so if you spot something in your outdoor wanderings, you can expect to be able to identify it in this book. Also included in many entries are more specific habitats and sometimes even the etymology, an explanation of the name of the item.  If there’s a major downside to the book, it’s that there are no maps to more accurately pin down where one might see a given entry.

I know there are bears in B.C., but it never occurred to me that we had river otters.  I never knew that there were so many kinds of ducks in the world, let alone in coastal B.C.   Next time I take a walk around the city, especially around the newly opened trails around the Garden City Lands or along the dyke I’ll keep an eye out for a short-eared owl or Downey woodpeckers.  They probably live in a Garry oak.

Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library

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