Fragile Oaks

It’s that time of year when leaves are falling to the ground and trees are doing their best to set their progeny up for the spring. I was poking around some Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) looking for invertebrates and discovered several acorns in the leaf litter.

Garry Oak | Quercus garryana
Garry Oak | Quercus garryana

Garry oak are the only native oak trees west of Manitoba and are found primarily on southeastern Vancouver Island and southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia. Less than 5% of original Garry oak habitat remains in near-native condition in BC. It is under threat from urban and agricultural development, fire suppression, and invasive introduced species like Scotch broom. In the Comox Valley, at the northernmost part of the Garry oak’s range, a unique stand of oaks owned by School District 71 was nearly sold as part of a development project in 2006.

Garry oak ecosystems are important because they support a significant number of Red and Blue listed species. The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT) states that there are “116 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, butterflies, dragonflies and bugs are at risk of extinction in Garry oak and associated ecosystems.” They are also important from a cultural perspective since First Nations people traditionally managed and harvested plants from Garry oak meadows.

Garry Oak | Quercus garryana
Garry Oak | Quercus garryana

You can read more about Garry Oaks and the recovery effort by visiting the GOERT web site. Jocie has written about Garry oaks in her article Northern Limit for Garry Oaks. Garry oaks are a magnificent tree and they, and their associated ecosystems, are well worth saving.