Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada

Vegetation

Arbutus Tree Arbutus tree on Cabbage Island
© Parks Canada / Josh McCulloch 2006

Many plants in the Gulf Islands are at the northern extreme of their range, and are not found elsewhere in Canada. Garry oaks and arbutus trees—with their smooth red bark and evergreen leaves—are unique to this small area of British Columbia. Garry oak associated-ecosystems support many of Canada's species at risk.

The dominant ecosystem of the southern Gulf Islands supports Douglas fir, Balsam fir and Western red cedar forests. Most of the islands' forests have been logged in the past, with only pockets of old growth forest remaining. On the drier rocky ridges, there are open wildflower meadows and grassy hilltops, usually interspersed with Garry oak, arbutus and Douglas fir woodlands. Coastal bluffs represent another sensitive ecosystem, one in which plants face disturbance from wind, heat dessication, storms and salt spray, and must sustain themselves on very shallow soils.

Resource Conservation Staff Resource Conservation staff removing invasive Himalayan Blackberry and Scotch Broom at Roesland on Pender Island.
© Parks Canada / Cameron Sanjivi

Many invasive introduced species such as Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry and gorse are displacing native species in many areas of the Gulf Islands and present a significant challenge to the sustainability of park ecosystems. Agronomic grasses from Eurasia dominate many sensitive ecosystems today.