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NATURE
· Plants and Animals in the Dry Land
FIRST PEOPLES
· The Osoyoos Indian Band: Preserving Our Past, Strengthening Our Future
HISTORY
· A Scarcity of Water
This is a link to a map of the Grasslands of British Columbia with an optional close-up map of the Southern Okanagan.

FOCUS  Southern Okanagan

Plants and Animals in the Dry Land
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This is a photograph of Arrowleaf Balsamroot with yellow flowers in bloom.
Arrowleaf Balsamroot. Brent Cooke, RBCM.
Perennial grassland plants are adapted to bloom and grow while there is enough moisture in the soil and then withdraw the nutrients into the root system and wither away before the dry summer kills them. It is surprising how quickly a big, leafy plant like Arrowleaf Balsamroot can shrivel to a few thin, dry stalks sticking out of grey leaf litter on the ground.
Bitterroot. Stephen Cannings.
This is a photograph of Bitterroot with pink and white flowers in bloom.

Bitterroot takes this strategy even further. Immediately after the snow melts, its rosettes of fleshy, cylindrical leaves appear and pump food into the thick, starchy root. By early May the leaves have completely disappeared and the flowers sprout from the ground without any sign of green, as if the plant were some leafless saprophyte (parasitic plant).

The food-rich roots of many of these grassland plants were important in the diet of First Nations peoples.

Small annual wildflowers like Spring Whitlow-Grass and Blue-eyed Mary also grow quickly, bloom, and then wither, leaving only seeds to carry their genes through the dry months ahead. These seeds are programmed not to germinate unless the soil is soaked, which usually occurs after the snow melts in spring. In dry country like this, "annuals" may not appear annually. Many wait patiently as seeds in the soil for a number of years for that one really wet spring.

Big Sagebrush is common in our driest grasslands.Richard Cannings.
This is a photograph of Big Sagebrush.
Many plants that keep their leaves through the summer cover them in hairs to reduce evaporation. Masses of small hairs give the leaves of Big Sagebrush, Rabbitbrush, Low Pussytoes and Silky Lupine a distinctly silvery grey look.
Brittle Prickly-pear Cactus. Robert Cannings.
This is a photograph of Brittle Prickly-pear Cactus with yellow flower.
Many plants have very small leaves to reduce water loss. The spines of Brittle Prickly-pear Cactus are leaves that have given up their normal function to act as deterrents to grazing mammals. The fleshy stems store scarce water.
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