Gnarly branches and thousands of acorns

›› Jan Firstbrook

Have you noticed the Garry oaks (Quercus garryana) in Fernwood? This area used to be a Garry oak meadow that was ­managed and cultivated by the Lekwungen Peoples since time immemorial. They burned the meadows to increase the number of camas bulbs and discourage Douglas fir trees and other plants. Camas bulbs are an ­important source of food that has been threatened by habitat loss due to ­colonization.

Although the Garry oak meadows are gone in Fernwood, replaced with lawns and homes, these oaks are still surviving in drought conditions though seriously endangered by development. The ­existing population is mature and in need of ­regeneration and young Garry oaks need to be planted and protected.

The Garry oak ecosystem is found only on Southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. These resilient trees have lived here for 7,000 years and are very unique. Parks Canada states that these Garry oak woodlands support more ­species of plants than any other ecosystem on land in BC.

These trees provide shade, soak up the rain, provide a home for wildlife, capture carbon, and cool our city.

Where can you find a grove of Garry oaks? Stadacona Park has large 20-meter-tall trees with sturdy trunks and gnarly branches reaching up to the sky. To ­experience a Garry oak meadow or woodland, one could visit the Lieutenant ­Governor’s residence in Rockland, Uplands Park near Willow’s Beach, and PKOLS’s (Mount Doug) rocky outcrops.

Would you like to be a volunteer ­collecting acorns from different areas in order to grow diverse seedlings? Garry oaks produce acorns when they are 30 years old! If you are interested in learning more about Garry oaks and supporting the eco-system, contact the Garry Oak ­Meadows ­Preservation Society (GOMPS) and Garry Oaks Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT).

We are very lucky to live in an area that has such magnificent trees.