Willows students help put 2,500 native plants into Oak Bay’s Uplands Park

Restoration of Garry oak ecosystem continues

Heavy restoration of the sensitive ecosystem at Uplands Park continued with help from École Willows elementary school students.

November is an ideal time for tree planting and invasive removals and throughout the month, students all the way from Kindergarten to Grade 5 visited to work on the park. It’s the fourth year of the school participating in the project with Uplands Park’s fearless stewards, Margaret Lidkea and Wylie Thomas, who have been instrumental in helping restore the park in partnership with the District of Oak Bay.

“In all we planted more than 2,500 plants sourced locally through Saanich Native Plants and sowed many hundreds of thousands of seeds collected from the park,” Thomas said.

While there is great promise showed, including surprising growth of the endangered plant Graceful cinquefoil, there is still much work ahead to restore one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada, Lidkea said.

The biggest thing we can teach students is that they can make a difference, she added.

READ MORE: Uplands Park designated a national heritage site

“Students have removed invasive English ivy and other invasive plants, and then planted native species around a surviving 250-year-old Garry oak tree … a grandparent tree,” Lidkea said. “And now that the underbrush and Norway maple canopy is out, we’re finding Scotch broom babies growing that must go back 20-plus years.”

Parts of the area were plowed in the mid 1800s to grow grain for cattle (and likely vegetables) for the soldiers at Fort Victoria. Then it was left fallow. There’s even a 1920s photo in Oak Bay Archives showing the plowed field. In moved popular plants that early Uplands residents imported from England, such as English holly, One-seed Hawthorn, European ash, Norway and Sycamore maple, Thomas said.

“The understory was so dense and dark that little other than invasive Daphne (also known as Spurge Laurel) and English ivy survived,” Thomas said.

Lidkea calls the Daphne Laurel a toxic, stinky rat food plant. Yes there are rats in Uplands.

“These plants support rats and very few native animals,” Lidkea added.

This past week Oak Bay Parks planted four Garry oak trees (with Willows student help) and over $5,000 worth of native plants. Oak Bay purchased three of the oaklings while Sally Hallam’s kindergarten class from last year raised money from their Kindness of Trees calendar to pay for the fourth.

Some of the native species planted include: Nodding onion; Great Camas; Western buttercup; Red columbine; Woolly sunflower; Large-Leafed avens; Graceful cinquefoil; Sea blush; Shooting stars; Douglas’ Aster; Fool’s onion; and a mix of native sedges (grass-like plants); tall Oregon grape and Mock orange.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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Willows elementary students remove invasive species and plant native species in Uplands Park. (Margaret Lidkea Photo)

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