The Garry Oak Trees have deeply lobed leaves that are bright green and shiny on top and paler with red to yellow hairs underneath. The leaves turn brown and crispy in the fall. Leaves often have galls, created by wasps. The acorns are small with a shallow cup on one end. The Garry oak has grayish to black bark with thick grooves and scales.
In British Columbia, it only grows on southeastern Vancouver Island as far as Campbell River and on the Gulf Islands, with some isolated groups of trees in the lower Fraser Valley. It’s very common down around Victoria on the south island.
Garry oak forms open parkland and meadows that are scattered with douglas fir and in the spring, the open areas are bursting with wildflowers and herbs such as camas, Easter lilies, western buttercups, and shooting stars.
A varied bird community makes its home in Garry oak meadows, as well as numerous mammals and insects. Garter snakes and alligator lizards can be seen basking on sun-warmed rocks. Most of these meadows are now threatened by urban development. They must be saved, and you can help by writing to the ministry and requesting to have them protected.
Garry oak wood was used by coastal peoples for combs and digging sticks as well as for fuel. They also ate the acorns either roasted or steamed. The first peoples would burn the understory in these meadows to cultivate a supply of camas bulbs. Camas are an important food source for many Coastal groups. The Garry oak ecosystems would benefit from this and grow very healthy in these meadows.