Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) Shrub grows between 1 and 6 m tall. The leaves are elliptic and pointed at tips, darker above than below, hairless but edges have fine sharp teeth. It blooms in many-flowered, bottlebrush-like clusters at end of branches from May to June.

Fruits are shiny purple to black cherries around 8mm across, ripe in late August. They are edible and can be sweet, but “astringent.” The stones contain hydrocyanic acid and should not be swallowed.

Source: Johnson, Kershaw, MacKinnon, Pojar. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland. Lone Pine Publishing, 1995.


The showy blooms in May accompany us on many Waskahegan trails, in clearings and open forest areas, also on hillsides and dry and exposed locations. Often found alongside High Bush Cranberries and Saskatoons.

Although we are discouraged from picking along the Waskahegan Trail, if you like making jam from wild fruit, Ilona recommends a mixture of Choke Cherry and High Bush Cranberry. After boiling with only a small amount of sugar, you need to pass the fruit through a colander to remove the seeds.

Our Violets

Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) is a common perennial that grows 10 – 40 cm tall, depending on surrounding plant growth. The plant arises from short, thick rhizomes, often with slender creeping runners that can be seen if you gently brush away dead leaves. The heart-shaped leaves (sharply pointed tips and saw-toothed edges) and the white 5-petal flower with its yellow centre—purplish lines on the lower three petals—are the main characteristics for identification. (Source: Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia).


You will spot these bright flowers in shady, moist usually deciduous woods and along the trails in late spring. Distinguish this violet from the also common Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) that are overall shorter, have smaller oval leaves and blue to deep violet flowers, and are among the first to appear along the trails – see below.

Spotted Coral Root Orchid

Spotted Coral Root Orchid (Corallorhizea maculata) is a saprophyte, a plant that roots in dead material, symbiotically sharing its substrate with fungi. “Coral root” refers to the stubby roots looking like branched coral (Gadd 302).

Coral roots are sometimes referred to as ‘chicken-toes’ (Parish 282).

Saprophytes cannot be cultivated. Because of their dependency on decaying matter, coral roots will grow wherever dead material happens to be. In other words, this plant may be “abundant in one part of the forest floor one year and completely absent the next year” (Parish 282).

The term ‘spotted’ (maculate) refers to the spots seen on the flowers (Parish 283). Another distinctive feature is the lack of any green parts (leaves).


  • Gadd, Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
  • Parish, Coupé, Lloyd. Plants of Southern Interior B.C.


Generally, wild orchids are a rare sight, found only in undisturbed environments. Aren’t we lucky to have the opportunity to walk—carefully—through their habitat! We found these orchids and took pictures in late June, along the Pipestone Creek trail, in a low-lying, moist area of otherwise dry north-facing slope of the creek’s valley.

FYI: These “seepage slopes” occur throughout forests on hillsides where the water table is curved downward as in large river valleys or where the water bearing sand/gravel layers come to the surface for other reasons (artesian seeps). A large agricultural field which slopes into a river valley is also prone to have runoff during rainy weather. North facing slopes are the wettest otherwise because they have the lowest solar input to keep things dry. (Jerry Shaw)