Margaret Lidkea, Chair of the Friends of Uplands Park Society, recounts the story of the liberation of a Grandparent Garry Oak from invasive plants and the work of restoration of the ecosystem around this Garry Oak that has been accomplished by students from Willows Park working with the Friends of Uplands Park.
An archival aerial photo from the 1920’s shows this oak and a nearby native Black hawthorn tree in a plowed field with no other plants. You can see how dark it is underneath, preventing plants that need light from growing. The trees surrounding the oak are invasive Norway maples whose canopy prevents enough sun from reaching the ground. The only plants underneath were English ivy and Daphne laureolaaka “Stinky rat food plant”.The big branch growing west covered the West trail. It was easy to see the smaller branch that grew NW down to the ground. We think it may have been a“Treaty Tree branch”. The 1st Nations, without a written language, had the tradition of sealing contracts or treaties by taking a branch of a young Garry oak tree down to the ground and placing a large rock on top so that it grew that way. There are 3 documented Treaty Trees in the Uplands and at least 1 other in another yard.
In the Fall of 2015, a few classes from Willows Elementary cut down many of the native but invasive snowberry bushes and removed the English ivy underneath. I removed the Daphne laureola because its toxicity and poisonous factor made it inappropriate for school children to remove. This photo is just after the invasive Norway maples and European ash were removed, summer 20
In summer 2016, a big branch pointing south fell down. In the Fall, more of the invasive plants were removed. The stump from the branch that fell grew many twigs of oak leaves. Will it regrow?
Summer of 2017, the biggest branch fell down and so did the Treaty branch. The branches were left on the ground to provide habitat for animals and also niches for plants. Fall 2017, more Willows School classes became involved in removing invasive ivy and also sawing down young Norway maple and English hawthorn trees. They also started to plant native species and scatter seeds. Students are creating a Garry oak meadow almost from scratch. Some of the green plants in the foreground are an endangered dense-flowered willowherb growing from seeds thrown by students.
Fall 2018, about 20 Willows’ classes are removing invasive ivy, planting about $1500 of native plants purchased from Saanich Native Plant Nursery with donations, and sowing “seed bombs” made in class with seeds from native plants that will hopefully grow.
Slide show of photos