Celebrating the blooming of a black hawthorn, Metth’unulhp [Island Halkomelem], MÁT̸ŦEN ILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Crataegus suksdorfii cf. Crataegus douglasii var. suksdorfii on the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day

early blossoms of Suksdorf hawthorn on Salt Spring Island on Earth Day 2020 April 19 P1010019

In a time of pandemic and social distancing, the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day inspired a solitary exploration of a particularly successful native fruit tree, a cosmopolitan native, one of two species of black hawthorn, Metth’unulhp [Island Halkomelem], MÁT̸ŦEN ILĆ [SENĆOŦEN with a diagonal line through the first ‘T’ for a ‘ts’ sounds and a horizontal line in the ‘L’ to make a heavy ‘L’ sound], Crataegus suksdorfii (cf. Crataegus douglasii var. suksdorfii) — an important species for local permaculture with modest food and exceptional ecological restoration values.

There are two species of native, black hawthorn on the Gulf and San Juan Islands. In Canada, these are classified as,

Crataegus douglasii var. douglasii (a shrub with ten stamens, tetraploid, and with tasty fruit sometimes made into cakes but mainly in the interior and sometimes traded on the Coast) and

Crataegus douglasii var. suksdorfii (a tree form with twenty stamens and diploid with less desirable fruit for humans).

In the rest of the world, the two are considered separate species:

Crataegus douglasii and

Crataegus suksdorfii.

early blossoms of Suksdorf hawthorn on Salt Spring Island on Earth Day 2020 April 19 P1010033

Both species are currently being propagated and observed at ḴEXMIN field station.

In celebration of circumpolar cherry hybridization & ecological experimentation

2020 April 17 young cherry hybrids ( < 10 years of age) along Beaver Point Road, Salt Spring Island P1010014

Cherries and cherry blossoms involve genotypes, cultural landscapes, and human cultures that span the Northern Hemisphere from North America to East Asia to Europe. Three cherry gene pools converge and hybridize on the Gulf Islands of Pacific Canada: two native species (one, chokecherry, that transmit some of these westerly genes to the rest of populations in Canada); Japanese cherry varieties including Umeboshi varieties planted by settlers in the early 20th Century and most forcibly abandoned during the horrors of internment and state expropriation in 1942 into the late 1940s, and more modern Eurasian cherry cultivars. Today, these hybrids continue to proliferate and ‘volunteer’ including these curious individuals, with a lot of East Asian blossom with chokecherry branch form, below ḴEXMIN field station.

Back to Tuam: Northern Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah dotted with Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziessi, parkland

The lower edge of the Mount Tuam oak savannah 2020 April 12 * P1010002

One the many 200 to 300 year old Garry oaks on the south-west slope of Mount Tuam,
2020 April 12 P1010025

The Garry oak savannah on the south-west face of Mount Tuam, Salt Spring Island, form in part as a Salish horticultural landscape. Today, most of the Northern Garry oak savannah on the Gulf Islands has been overgrown but this dreamy space persists and gives us many clues to what was and possibilities for ecological restoration and permaculture.


A grove of 100 to 200 year old oaks on Mount Tuam that have only been invaded by Douglas fir in the last 20 years 2020 April 12 P1010015

There is not a lot of Northern Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah left: grasslands with forbs, herbs, and wildflowers and less then 50% of the cover in large oaks, many between 200 and 300 years old. With many of these historic savannahs are now overgrown with young Douglas fir forest and invasive plants, such as broom, the south-west face of Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island, part ecological reserve and special management area and part Department of Transport lands for the beacons for Victoria International Airport, is a particularly sunny, windy, and dry set of habitats. With little fire and many invasive forbs, these lands have maintained the expansiveness of grassland along high-contrast ecological edges around ancient trees.

View this post on Instagram

Fire, invasion & cloning

A post shared by ḴEXMIN field station (@kexminfieldstation) on

One of more of a score of Garry oak clonal circles, well under a century old,
on the lower half of the Mount Tuam oak savannah 2020 April 12 * P1010038

On April 12, 2020, ḴEXMIN field station researchers explored three current dynamics in the Tuam savannah:

  1. the persistence of a large number of 200 to 300 year old Garry oak trees creative through Salish stewardship including low-temperature burning, with little competition from other trees because of the dryness of the slope due to sun and wind, that in turn provide exceptionally high ph environments for plants and invertebrates;
  2. the recent invasion of the more mesic edges of the savannah with very young Douglas fir that in turn shade out many grassland and oak woodland species; and
  3. the gradual loss of the larger, older Garry oak trees, vulnerably to increasingly powerful storms, and their replacement with circles of younger clones, from the same roots (that could well be thousands of years old) that might well come to grow together into very large individuals much like what they have replaced.
The contrast between a savannah Garry oak and a parkland Douglas fir, of roughly the same ages of 200 to 300 years each on Mount Tuam * 2020 April 12 * P1010027 * The ridge and island in the distance is Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Islands, Washington State
A cross-section of a ‘parkland’ form of a 200 to 300 year old Douglas fir,
on Mount Tuam * 2020 April 12 * P1010021

Within these small expanses of remaining Northern Garry oak savannahs are a few large, old Douglas fir trees that established in these oak, forb and grass lands centuries before. The habitat values of these coniferous trees, typically two or three times the height and biomass of the larger, older Garry oaks, are explored in terms of,

a. vertical structures and refuges particularly for nesting,

b. high contrast edges and perches especially for raptors, and

c. exceptional shade.

 

 

 
 

 
View this post on Instagram
 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

Large Douglas fir trees provide crucial habitat within landscapes of oaks, forbs, and grass

A post shared by ḴEXMIN field station (@kexminfieldstation) on

Within these small expanses of remaining Northern Garry oak savannahs are a few large, old Douglas fir trees that established in these oak, forb and grass lands centuries before. The habitat values of these coniferous trees, typically two or three times the height and biomass of the larger, older Garry oaks, are explored in terms of,

a. vertical structures and refuges particularly for nesting,

b. high contrast edges and perches especially for raptors, and

c. exceptional shade.

 

 

 
 

 
View this post on Instagram
 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

Large, 200 to 300 year old Douglas fir trees within expanses of large oaks, forb, and grass land

A post shared by ḴEXMIN field station (@kexminfieldstation) on

Precious Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah on Mount Tuam, Salt Spring Island

old Garry oak, western parcel of Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve – Salt Spring Island April 1978 photograph by a very young, Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

Garry oak, Quercus garryana, has an exceptionally long range along the Pacific from the higher mountains of Baja California to the shores of the Salish Sea. But the tree only dominates certain ecosystems, and grows into a particularly large tree, from west central Oregon northward. Around the Salish Sea, Garry oak savannah, where grasses and forbs are not under more than 50% tree cover are the products of particularly dry, south-western slopes combined with several thousand years of low-temperature, Salish burning.

Because of suppression of wildfire and traditional Salish burning, these Garry oak savannahs are in rapid decline shifting to Garry oak woodland, with more than 50% tree cover with much less, exposed grassland. And without fire, Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is often establishing, overtaking, and killing Garry oak as we can see this beginning to happen to a grove of Garry oak on Mount Tuam.

2020 April 5 pocket watch discovery above Mountain Road below the south-west corner of the middle of the three parcels of Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve

On the April 5, 2020 walk from Mountain Road into the Garry oak savannah, just below the south-western corner of the central of the three parcels comprising Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve, I found this old pocket watch that was probably uncovered by snows months earlier. This Westclox pocket watch is identified as made in Canada which only took place from 1922 to 1930 after which time the Canadian plant in Peterborough, Ontario was bought by a larger company with another name. This model was the first mass-produced pocket watch and, while cheap, could well have been the prized possession of the owner. While the watch was found in young forest (barely fifty years old), it was a few metres away from sheep fencing and in the period when the watch was produced and sold, the major activity for non-native people to be on those slopes was to tend flocks.

fawn lily, Erythronium oregonum, an indicator of relatively undisturbed ground

fawn lily, Erythronium oregonum, on a cliff on the west side of Grandma Bay on the south-western corner of Ruckle Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island 2020 April 4 * P1010002
fawn lily, Erythronium oregonum, on a cliff on the west side of Grandma Bay on the south-western corner of Ruckle Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island 2020 April 4 * P1010002