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 The endangered Garry Oak ecosystem is at the centre of educational initiatives on Vancouver Island 
                                                         text by Eva Rasciauskas   photos by Leonardo DeGorter 

Cared for by restoration volunteers, this rare Garry oak meadow at Devonian Regional Park is home to species found nowhere else in Canada. Today, only a fraction of the Garry Oak ecosystem remains in southern British Columbia. Land conversion for residential, agricultural, and industrial development reduced the range of this unique ecosystem to small patches spread across the province, mostly on Vancouver Island.

Kristen Miskelly (right) opened Satinflower Nurseries with her husband, James Miskelly, in 2013. They are trained biologists who have established a unique model for their ecological restoration business, providing public access to the nursery and educational workshops about local plants. During these events, she explains how to replace lawns with native meadows, highlighting Garry oak species for their importance to pollinators and the environment. A separate location in Metchosin serves as a seed bank and propagation area for the nursery. (bottom left)
Jill Fraser, who cares for the garden and the seed bank, holds a young satin flower (Olsynium douglasii) in her hands. (top left)
Miskelly named her nursery after this flower, a Garry oak meadow species that blooms early in the spring.

Kristen Miskelly (centre) conducts a Meadow Makers session at her nursery in Saanich, near Victoria. Her four-month program teaches locals about native plant restoration, and how local species adapted to the region's climate don't need pesticides. Landscapers and seasoned gardeners are a regular presence in her courses.
Garry oaks are British Columbia's only native oak trees. An imposing one at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria spreads its long branches around a meadow. (above) Not far away, a young Garry oak tree stands near the park entrance. Gretchen Brewin planted it during a ceremony honouring her in 2019. She was Victoria's first woman to serve as mayor. (right)

Tsawout Elder Earl Claxton Jr, a plant knowledge keeper and historian of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, stands in front of a  greenhouse at PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ nursery. He restored this greenhouse years ago, and today he uses it to teach plant stewardship skills to students. (left) Many young W̱SÁNEĆ lost touch with important items of their traditional diet as foreign plants were introduced in the region. The Camas bulb, a Garry oak species, used to be their "potato" before it was replaced by exotic bulbs.

Uplands Park, in Oak Bay, protects the remnants of a Garry Oak meadow ecosystem by the ocean. Originally intended for development, this area was turned into a park after the municipality bought the land in 1946. (above)
All photographs © Leonardo DeGorter
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