Gabriola Island is located within the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone (CDF), the smallest of British Columbia’s 14 ecological zones. The CDF is limited to a low elevation coastal band on southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and a very small fringe on the adjacent mainland. Lying in the rainshadow of the Vancouver Island and Olympic mountains, the CDF is drier than the other BC coastal ecological zones. Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems are among the most imperiled coastal ecosystems. Being highly accessible, they were the first coastal forests targeted for logging and cleared for agricultural and urban development. Only about 0.5% of the land base formerly occupied by CDF forest is now composed of "older forest" (greater than 120 years old). Gabriola’s Elder Cedar Nature Reserve is a rare and fine example of an older CDF forested ecosystem.
The most common species on Gabriola
Hundreds of species can be found on Gabriola, but a prominent few dominate. The Gabriola Museum grounds contain examples of many of the less rare species. Of the many native tree species, Douglas-fir reigns supreme. Except for the very wettest sites, it occurs on a wide range of ecosystems. On drier sites and rocky outcrops, arbutus, Garry oak, and shore pine often grow alongside Douglas-fir. Salal, Oregon grape, evergreen huckleberry, wild rose, snowberry, and ocean spray are common shrubs on drier sites. In moister ecosystems, western red cedar, western hemlock, grand fir, big-leaf maple, red alder, and western flowering dogwood are common forest canopy associates of Douglas-fir, along with understorey shrubs such as salmonberry, thimbleberry, red elderberry, and Indian plum. Common herbaceous plants on moist sites include sword fern, vanilla leaf, western trillium, and three-leaved foamflower.
A botanist's list of Gabriola's flora, large and small
GaLTT member Phyllis Fafard with the aid of several colleagues, has updated her listing of the hundreds of wild plants known to be living on Gabriola Island. (Many changes to plant classification had been made in recent years due to DNA research.) She has listed Gabriola's plants by both their common and their scientific names, organized by plant families. Asterisks (*) indicate introduced taxa and bold type indicates either red listed (endangered) or blue listed (at risk) plants. To download a pdf copy of Fafard's list click here.
GaLTT's Big Tree Registry
GaLTT has a Big Tree registry to document the largest individual trees of each of Gabriola's native species. Check out the website at gabriolabigtrees.galtt.ca . Our island’s location in the relatively dry CDF zone means that many of our native trees do not grow to the enormous sizes found in wetter coastal ecological zones, so our largest Douglas-fir, Western redcedar and Western hemlock do not match those found in other parts of Vancouver Island and the coastal mainland. For other native species that thrive on drier sites, such as arbutus and Garry oak, Gabriola likely has some of the largest specimens found anywhere.
How to nominate a Big Tree
Please let us know if you know of a Big Tree on Gabriola Island that you’d like entered into our registry. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact GaLTT board member Ron Bilquist at email@example.com, or bring your suggestion to our display table at the Saturday morning Farmers' Markets. We’ll send someone out to verify or identify the species, measure it and take photos. GaLTT will confirm the species, sizes and locations of the trees, take photographs, and list them in our registry. Precise location information will allow other interested individuals to find and admire the tree. If a tree is located in a sensitive area, on private land or a site with access restrictions, the exact location can be withheld. The locations of big trees on private land are publicized only with the landowner's permission.
Even better, you can actively participate by identifying, measuring, and photographing the tree yourself. The Tree Book is a useful on-line identification resource provided by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. Another useful source is Plants of Coastal British Columbia compiled and edited by J. Pojar and A. MacKinnon (Lonestar Publishing).
Always be respectful of the environment—don't trample the tree roots or surrounding plants. Once you’ve identified the tree by species, simply measure the trunk circumference (the girth of the trunk) at a specified height—this is the easiest measurement to take accurately without specialized equipment.
On flat ground, measure the trunk circumference at breast height (1.37 m or 4.5 feet above ground level). If a burl or obstruction makes this location unrepresentative, measure at the most suitable point and record the actual measurement height. If using a string or rope, make sure it is made of non-stretch material. Also ensure that the measuring tape remains horizontal as it wraps around the tree.
If the tree forks at or below 1.37 m, measure the circumference at the narrowest place below the lowest fork. Record the actual measurement height.
If the tree is on a slope, measure the circumference at 1.37m up the trunk on both the high and the low side of the slope. Record the average of these two measurements. If the tree is on a steep slope, take one measurement at 1.37m up from the midpoint of the trunk (the estimated germination point of the tree). If the slope is extreme, you may need to measure circumference higher up. Always make note of the measurement height.
If the tree is leaning, measure the circumference at 1.37m up from the axis of the tree base, following the lean of the trunk. Always measure circumference at a right angle to the trunk, otherwise circumference will be overestimated.
For trees of outstanding size, GaLTT will arrange for the measurement of tree height and crown spread.
For photographs, you will need to provide the photographer/image owner’s first and last name, email address (kept confidential), and photo date. Before submitting a photograph you must obtained permission from the image owner and consent from all people captured in the photograph.
Plants found in Drumbeg Park, May 2008
On May 17, 2008 Dr Brenda Beckwith, Senior Laboratory Instructor for the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, visited Gabriola at the invitation of GaLTT. She kindly provided a list of plants (including some non-natives and invasives) she saw in Drumbeg Park during her visit. She noted: "Unfortunately, I decided to develop this list after a few days of being at Drumbeg, so I can't remember all the plants we saw that day. I wanted to, however, provide a list with photos of some of the key plant species we saw that we talked about that day. I hope you find this to be helpful."
Common camas (Camassia quamash)
Nice expanse on site and no doubt more will be discovered as the invasive shrubs are removed. Populaion is threatened by trampling. Remember to identify this species by its withering "frizzy" looking petals and exposed ovaries.
Common forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor)
I think I called this little plant "small-flowered forget-me-not" when I was there, but if it has both yellow and blue flowers, then it's the introduced common variety. I suspect it is. Forget-me-nots have flowers that uncoil like a scorpion's tail.
Common salsify or oyster plant (Tragopogon porrifolius)
Found along trail leading back to the parking lot. Its cousin, yellow salsify (T. dubius), is considered an invasive plant in the region, and this one would likely be as well.
Introduced weed common throughout the area. It had greenish flowers that I showed some how to shoot across the meadow.
Field chickweed (Cerastium arvense)
This is a native perennial chickweed and a nice
unexpected addition to the meadow.
Garry oak (Quercus garryana)
There are several small oaks in the area with recently cut broom. Protect these trees by fencing or establishing plastic tubes around them and mulching them.
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor or Rubus armeniacus )
The large patch of blackberry is problematic. There are likely other plants suppressed by the blackberry, trying to grow underneath. Do we sacrifice them by piling broom on top? If broom is piled on the blackberry it may suppress the blackberry but it might result in a localized ecological black hole in the area for some time.
Pacific sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis)
One of the most successful native forbs; not very showy, but highly adaptable and tolerant of disturbance.
Purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)
This is the one with square stems, indicating that it's in the mint family (but not edible).
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)
A tremendous job cutting broom has already been done on site! In terms of the timing of management, larger broom should be cut at or below ground level just after flowering in the summer, and smaller broom plants can be pulled in the Fall when the risk of soil disturbance is reduced. If possible, the [cut] broom should be removed from the site.
Spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum)
Low-growing plants with concave, beautiful umbels of little yellow flowers. It's doing quite well after its release from the broom, but could be easily trampled.
Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenowii)
A showy little native clover. Sometimes mistaken for the perennial springbank clover (T. wormskjoldii), but this one is annual. Enjoy it while it lasts.
I was unable to determine species as the plants were still in bud. Looked like a widespread population. Susceptible to trampling; as the meadow is further developed and revealed [you] may want to explore some possibilities to keep people out, especially at critical times of the year.