Out with the invasive, in with the native: Greater Victoria Green Team takes to Esquimalt

Local volunteer Katherine Pulak plants a native conifer sapling at Saxe Point Park during a TD Tree Day event, hosted by the Greater Victoria Green Team and the Township of Esquimalt, on Saturday, Oct. 1. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Local volunteer Katherine Pulak plants a native conifer sapling at Saxe Point Park during a TD Tree Day event, hosted by the Greater Victoria Green Team and the Township of Esquimalt, on Saturday, Oct. 1. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Volunteers remove invasive plants like English ivy and holly before planting native trees and shrubs. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Volunteers remove invasive plants like English ivy and holly before planting native trees and shrubs. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Peter Redekop removes English ivy from a tree trunk. He said the invasive species can grow underneath the bark of trees and cause harm. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Peter Redekop removes English ivy from a tree trunk. He said the invasive species can grow underneath the bark of trees and cause harm. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Volunteers pick up shovels and other tools before planting native trees and shrubs. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Volunteers pick up shovels and other tools before planting native trees and shrubs. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Volunteers hoist away loads of English ivy which will give plenty of room for new native plants to grow. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Volunteers hoist away loads of English ivy which will give plenty of room for new native plants to grow. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Volunteers carry in a variety of native trees and shrubs ready to be planted. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Volunteers carry in a variety of native trees and shrubs ready to be planted. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

It was all sunshine and smiles at Esquimalt’s scenic Saxe Point Park as volunteers came out for an opportunity to help improve ecosystem health.

On Saturday (Oct. 1) morning, the Greater Victoria Green Team (GVGT) and Township of Esquimalt hosted a TD Tree Days event, an initiative with a goal of planting one million trees and shrubs by 2030.

More than 40 community members of all ages, backgrounds and abilities took to the waterfront park to remove invasive plants – such as English ivy, holly and daphne – and replace them with approximately 200 plants native to the region.

Maria Varem, GVGT interim program manager, said removing invasive plants creates habitat for native wildlife in addition to expanding the park’s natural biodiversity.

“When invasive species come in, they basically throw everything out of balance in the local ecosystems,” she told Black Press Media. “They tend to overgrow everything – and with ivy specifically, it blocks out light from the ground. If you have existing trees throwing down seeds, those seeds cannot grow because they’re not getting any light.”

Among the native species planted were Douglas fir, western yew, alder, Scouler’s willow, Oregon grape and western sword fern. But only around an estimated 70 per cent of the plants introduced are expected to survive, said Varem.

Still, that’s enough to make a significant impact, she added.

“Having a lot of different native species growing in an ecosystem is really, really important. It helps build resiliency in the ecosystem towards any kind of disturbance or climate change.”

Tillie Stanger-Ross, an Esquimalt High School student, said she came out to collect some volunteer hours for her leadership class, but more importantly because she recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship.

“It seemed like a really great opportunity to get involved in the community and help get rid of invasive species in our local park,” she said.

GVGT will be hosting another TD Tree Days event at the end of the month on Oct. 29 in View Royal.

To get involved, visit meetup.com/greater-victoria-green-team/events.

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