These rare trees are very striking, with a gnarly shape and unique adaptations to the Mediterranean-like climate found in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island’s mountains. Today the Garry Oak Ecosystem in Canada is exclusive to South Eastern Vancouver Island and some Gulf Islands.
Garry oak ecosystems are home to more plant species than any other in coastal British Columbia including 91 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, butterflies and other insects, which are officially listed as “at risk”. Symbiotic gardens of bulb flowering plants also fall in this category, notably Camas Lilies.
Coastal people ate acorns and camas bulbs by managing the Garry oak ecosystems with controlled burning to cultivate a sustainable supply of these important food sources.
Agricultural and urban development have destroyed most Garry oak ecosystems, which are among the most endangered type of ecosystem in Canada – with less than 5% of the original habitat remaining intact. Invasive species brought by modern development, are taking over large parts of the few remaining ecosystems, displacing and dominating the native plants.