The Gary Oak Meadows  

Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) is intolerant of competition and shading by the big evergreen trees; and is usually restricted to open hills exposed to wind and sun in the local summer-dry climate. It dominates an open deciduous woodland, sometimes accompanied by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) or Grand Fir (Abies grandis).

In the park it is found on the upper northern slopes of Beacon Hill and in an area at the north end of the park. The stands in this park are relics of the only extensive original Canadian Garry Oak stand; which is now occupied by the built-up area of Greater Victoria. Most remaining stands are small, and are situated on private land, and threatened with destruction as clearing and subdivision proceed (Brayshaw, 1996).

There are two forms of this woodland in the park, which are distinguished by their ground-cover types: - (a) the grassy form, and (b) the shrubby form. The factors determining which of these forms is found at any point probably include soil depth and the frequency of past fires.

(a) The Grassy Oak Woodland

The grassy Oak woodland resembles an extension of the open grassland among the Oak trees. However, the grassy component, which includes native and exotic grasses, appears rather more luxurient here than in the open, treeless grassland. This community features a rich flora of Spring-flowering plants. Bulbous-rooted plants, such as the Tall Camas (Camassia leichtlinii), Easter Lily (Erythronium oreganum), Hyacinth Brodiaea (Triteleia hyacinthine), and formerly, Menzies' Larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) reach their greatest abundance in this community.

The rare Balsam-root Sunflower (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) is reduced to one large plant on Beacon Hill, and the Fern-leafed Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum) is known by two plants nearby. Menzies' Larkspur (Delphinium dissectum), formerly recorded from this community, has not been seen here since about 1995.

The richness and integrity of this community are strongly threatened by attempts to "improve" nature, by interplanting the native Oaks with exotic pines and English Elm (Ulmus procera) on Beacon Hill, and introducing Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), and English Bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus).

As they grow up, pines and elms will overtop the oaks, since they do not shape themselves to the wind as do the oaks. The pines, by their needle deposits, will render the ground beneath them unreceptive to the establishment of native flowering herbaceous plants: while the elms are more likely to become the centres of spreading dense thickets of suckers, with which the herbaceous flowers cannot compete. This community is most susceptible to invasion by Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

(b) The Shrubby Oak Woodland

The shrubby Oak Woodland features an understory dominated by Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) accompanied by Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana), and, in places, by Indian Plum (Osmaronia cerasiformis). Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinsu) and Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus discolor) are found here; and Ivy (Hedera helix) is a conspicuous invader, and, on Beacon Hill, a still unidentified exotic species of Prumus is spreading.




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