Garry Oak Meadow Wildflowers at Mount Tzouhalem

The Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve is spectacular for viewing wildflowers typical of Garry oak meadows. Beginning in the early spring, deltoid balsamroot, shootingstar, and common camas are very prolific. In early summer, the onions begin in earnest and several species are easy to find in the long grass. Looking more carefully, it is possible to find a number of other less obvious, but beautiful smaller flowers.

Grassy lookout at Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve near Duncan, British Columbia.
Grassy lookout at Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve near Duncan, British Columbia.

What Wildflowers are Blooming in July?

Aside from the obvious Garry oak meadow wildflowers like fool’s onion, harvest brodiaea, and Hooker’s onion, there are many other flowers in bloom in the meadows in July. Some of the flowers are quite showy and easy to see. In contrast, others are smaller and require more work.

Garry oak wildflower meadows are unique ecosystems and there are a number of flowers to discover. Mount Tzouhalem is interesting because it is a small pocket of open grass and established Garry oak meadows at a bit of an elevation. As a result, there is the possibility of finding plants that are somewhat unusual. Knowing what is in bloom and when makes it easier to identify and appreciate these wildflowers.

Wooly Sunflower

Common Wooly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum), a common Garry Oak meadow wildflower.
Common Wooly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) flower detail.

This wildflower is hard to miss. Large patches of common wooly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) grow in the forest opening near the entrance to the ecological reserve. However, they also grow in the dry, grassy Garry oak meadows. Because it looks like a small sunflower, this Yellow-listed wildflower is easy to find and identify.

Sea Blush

Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) can be found in association with Garry oak meadows.
Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) late bloom at Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve.

Although this plant blooms prolifically earlier in the spring there are still some plants in bloom in the Garry oak meadows. Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) is distinctive with its terminal cluster of pink flowers. In July, sea blush is starting to go to seed but it is still worth looking for this wildflower. Sea blush is Yellow-listed in British Columbia.

Gairdner’s Yampah

Gairdner's Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri)
Gairdner’s Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) flower detail.

Superficially this wildflower looks a little like a white-flowered version of bare-stem desert-parsley (Lomatium nudicaule). However, it is actually Gairdner’s yampah (Perideridia gairdneri). Like bare-stem desert-parsley, this flower also belongs to the Carrot family Apiaceae. It is a First Nations food plant and the root, or yampah, was pounded to make flour. Like many of the other wildflowers in this Garry oak meadow, Gairdner’s yampah grows primarily on southeast Vancouver Island and the gulf islands.

Tiny Vetch

Tiny Vetch (Vicia hirsuta) found in a Garry oak meadow.
Tiny Vetch (Vicia hirsuta) flower detail.

A member of the pea family, Tiny vetch (Vicia hirsuta) was introduced to British Columbia from Europe. It is common on southeast Vancouver Island, nearby gulf islands and the Lower Mainland. The flowers are very small and white to pale blue in colour which makes initially makes it difficult to notice. However, with a bit of effort this small vetch becomes easier to find.


Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena) blooming in a Garry oak meadow on Mount Tzouhalem.
Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena) flower detail.

I only found a few farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) in bloom in the ecological reserve. Like the other wildflowers in the meadows, this beautiful little plant prefers dry, grassy meadows, slopes and bluffs on southeast Vancouver Island and the surrounding gulf islands. As a result, the Garry oak meadows at Mount Tzouhalem are good habitat for this species of wildflower. Because it flowers in mid-summer, farewell-to-spring is also called “summer’s darling” or “herald-of-summer.”

Getting There

Mount Tzouhalem is near Duncan on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The parking area is reached through a maze of subdivision streets and can be tricky to find, especially on a first visit. Programming the destination into a phone for GPS direction is challenging as well because the name may not be recognized when you speak it. As a result, you may have to type the name in order to get directions to the correct destination.

Accessing the ecological reserve is a fairly short and easy 15 minute walk. Narrow trails follow the edges of the grassy Garry oak meadows where wildflowers can be viewed. Because this is a sensitive ecosystem it is important to stay on the trails to avoid damaging plants. It is possible to see all of these wildflowers from the trail itself.

Driving from downtown Duncan make your way to Maple Bay Road. Turn right onto Kingsview Drive and folllow that up to Chippewa Road. Turn right onto Chippewa Road and follow it until it turns into Kaspa Road. Once on Kaspa Road look for the narrow road that accesses the parking area. The trail to the the ecological reserve begins on the far right side of the parking area. See map below.

Mount Tzouhalem Parking Area