Seasons in the meadow
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
Garry Oak Ecosystems in Canada
Fort Rodd Hill is located on the traditional territory of Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation, who have cared for these lands since time immemorial. The natural areas at Fort Rodd Hill represent regionally-significant examples of Garry oak ecosystems, a once vast mosaic of Garry oak woodlands and wildflowers meadows that have been tended and maintained by Coast Salish peoples for millennia.
Garry oak ecosystems are among the most endangered ecosystems in Canada, with only three percent remaining in a natural state, and more than 100 species that are considered at risk. In Canada, they are only found in British Columbia, on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, some of the Gulf Islands and a few spots on the mainland. The remaining habitat is threatened by habitat loss, invasive species, and forest fire suppression. It is critical to protect and restore the remaining habitat, and to recover the species at risk that depend on this habitat.
Seasons in the Meadow
The Garry Oak Learning Meadow at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse NHS is an immersive outdoor classroom where visitors may explore, learn, and be inspired by a sampling of plants and pollinators that make this ecosystem special. It wasn’t always this lush: Parks Canada, volunteers, and members of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations transformed a section of lawn to restore—or “naturescape ” it—with native plants. Featuring a huge variety of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that are naturally adapted to the region’s wet winters and long summer droughts, the Garry Oak Learning Meadow is designed as a sustainable landscape feature that is maintained with the help of volunteers.
Not intended to be a manicured garden, this living landscape evolves with the seasons. Year round, escape from the noise and rush of the city to experience this natural oasis with your senses: whether it’s the fresh scent of new blossoms in the spring, the sound of buzzing bees and hummingbirds whizzing by in the summer, the sights of ‘second spring’ that tease us in the fall, or the touch of the crisp breeze in winter while nature is hard at work below the surface. Learn more about the highlights of each season below:
Beginning with a burst of white fawn lilies in early March, the pendulous blooms of the red-flowering currant soon attract a flurry of Anna’s hummingbirds and queen bumblebees that have emerged from hibernation to start new colonies. As temperatures warm, the meadow fills with swaths of hot pink sea blush, magenta shooting stars, yellow western buttercup, and purple great camas. A steady murmur of bees serenades passersby, while busy performing their important work of pollinating. Butterflies, wasps, flies, and even beetles are also important pollinators.
Did you know that there are over 450 species of bees native to British Columbia? Download this Southern Vancouver Island Bee Identification Guide from our friends at Pollinator Partnership Canada to start discovering the amazing diversity of bees in your backyard!
As the spring rains cease and the coastal region enters a long period of summer drought, spring wildflowers are replaced by golden expanses of grasses swaying in the breeze, and the rattle of seeds shaking in ripe camas pods. In seasonally wet areas of the meadow, mid-summer species such as mountain sneezeweed, Henderson’s checkermallow, goldenrod, and yarrow come into bloom, attracting a flurry of late-season pollinators. The air becomes sweet with the scent of blooming Nootka rose, oceanspray, and mock orange, where pale swallowtails pause for sips of nectar.
The meadow never sleeps. Locals call fall “second spring” because as soon as the fall rains start, this ecosystem turns green again. Native plants like sea blush and western buttercup will sprout with the first rains, and grow slowly as a green carpet of seedlings throughout the winter before bursting into bloom in early spring. Beneath the soil, camas and chocolate lily bulbs will start pushing out new roots.
You might hear a spotted towhee scuffling through fallen leaves in search of its next meal. Spotting the eastern grey squirrels in the fall is always a funny distraction—watch–out, they love to throw Garry oak acorns around!
While winter may appear to be a time of rest in the meadow, things behind the scenes are quite busy. Underground, earthworms and fungi are doing the important work of turning fallen Garry oak leaves into a rich humus that provides a natural fertilizer for the plants that grow in the meadow. Bulbs continue to sprout roots and new seeds start to germinate, waiting for warmer spring days to arrive.
Where water accumulates seasonally in wetter areas of the meadow, colourful songbirds like golden-crowned kinglets often stop by for a bath or a drink.
“Naturescaping” is a style of gardening that seeks to create, maintain and enhance wildlife habitat and native biodiversity by using native plants and natural landscape features.
Why grow wild?
- Bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife depend on native plants for food, shelter, and nesting.
- Adapted to the local soil and climate, native plants need less water and fertilizer.
- Native plants have cultural value. Esquimalt and Songhees Nations continue to take care of native plants, knowing that these foods and medicines will, in turn, take care of them and their families.
- Working together to restore natural areas connects us to each other and to nature.
Growing wild at home
- Help nature by incorporating native plants into your landscape.
- Gardening with native plants is fun and easy. Many local nurseries offer a wide selection of native plants and seeds.
- For suggestions on which native species to plant to benefit pollinators and other wildlife in your region, check out the ecoregional planting guides developed by Pollinator Partnership Canada.
The Pollinator Steward Webinar Series is an informative resource where you can learn how to be a pollinator steward - webinars cover the why and how of supporting pollinators through habitat creation and maintenance, outreach, and citizen science. Learn how you can support pollinators in your own neighborhood.
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