Mount Tzouhalem is located near Duncan on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The area is recognized for its network of mountain biking and hiking trails. However, it is also the location of Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve and a spectacular Garry oak wildflower meadow.
The meadows are a fairly short 15 minute walk from the parking area. A number of unique Garry oak meadow plants grow in the ecological reserve. In addition, it is one of the few locations on Vancouver Island where deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) blooms earlier in the spring. The ease of access and the spectacular views out over the Cowichan Valley make it a popular destination. Unfortunately, over visitation also resulted in damage to the sensitive grass meadows of the ecological reserve in the past.
Wildflowers Blooming in July
Depending on the time of year, a number of different flowers are in bloom. In early July, the grasses are at their peak and members of the lily family (Liliaceae) are in flower. Wildflower viewing is exceptional from the narrow paths that work around the edges of the meadows. Signage and fencing remind visitors to stay on the paths to minimize ecological damage. The change in the meadows compared to several years ago is significant and the ecosystem shows good signs of recovery.
One of the wildflowers in bloom in early July is harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria). The plant is distinctive with beautiful purple flowers in loose umbels of flowers (usually three to five). The common name references the tradition of harvesting the bulbs of this lily. It blooms later than common camas and the bulbs are shallower than fool’s onion—both features make it a preferred species to “harvest.” Harvest brodiaea is Yellow-listed in British Columbia.
The white flowers of fool’s onion (Triteleia hyacinthina) form distinctive white clusters that are easy to see in the long grass of Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve. Appropriately, the common name of the plant is because it looks like an onion but it lacks an onion flavour or smell. An alternative common name “hyancinth brodiaea,” and the Latin genus name hyancinthina both refer to the resemblance of the flower cluster of hyancinths. No longer a member of Liliaceae, this plant is now in Asparagaceae. Fool’s onion is Yellow-listed in British Columbia.
A little more challenging to find due to its shorter height, Hooker’s Onion (Allium acuminatum) is a beautiful plant to look for in the Garry Oak meadows. At around 30cm tall, the rose-pink flowers of Hooker’s onion are typically below the height of the grass. Individual flowers (seven to twenty-five) are located in a terminal umbel. At the base of each flower are three large rose-pink tepals that look like flower petals. Hooker’s onion is Yellow-listed in British Columbia.
Planning Your Visit to Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve
Mount Tzouhalem is an excellent botanical destination in the summer. Depending on when you visit, different species of flowers will be in bloom. As a result, it is worth returning several times during July and August. In July, the members of the Lily family are prolific. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for other species that are less visible. Make sure to check for ticks following your walk through the long grass. And remember that the wildflowers in this sensitive ecosystem should be enjoyed from the paths.
Accessing Mount Tzouhalem requires navigating through a suburb with a maze of roads that run along the contours of the hillside. Your phone’s GPS unit might have difficulty understanding the destination name. As a result, you may have to enter the destination manually. See the map below.
From Maple Bay Road turn onto Kingsview Road and follow it until you reach Chippewa Road. Turn right onto Chippewa Road and continue on it until it turns into Kaspa Road. You should see signage directing you to the parking area once you’re on Kaspa Road. The trail to the ecological reserve leaves from the far right of the parking lot.