Tag Archives: Dodecatheon

Beacon (Camas) Hill, Victoria BC

After the Indigenous Plant Walk the day before, my Airbnb hostess Kelly Kerr invited to show me around the Beacon Hill Park, a 200 acre mix of both natural areas, formal flower beds, but above all else the site is of great cultural significance to the Lekwungen People (now known as Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation). In fact, the City of Victoria has adopted 2017 as a Year of Reconciliation, and a traditional longhouse will be built on a hilltop site! When the British arrived they wrongly assumed that the open meadow landscape was “natural” and unused. In fact, the Lekwungen had cultivated and maintained these shrub-free grasslands for centuries. The meadows were worked to grow camas which was their most important root crop, as well as other edible wild plants. Both common and great camas (Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii) were used. This habitat was reminiscent to the English of the ideal 19th century parkland landscape that they recognised from home and was instrumental in Victoria being founded at this site!
The Beacon Hill area was apparently “one of the most productive camas territories on Vancouver Island,” The Lekwungen people both harvested bulbs for their own use and also traded with other west coast peoples. Thankfully, it is now likely that these productive and butterfly rich grasslands will be gradually restored. The album of pictures were taken in the park and along the adjacent shoreline where native families would arrive in the past for the harvest. They would harvest the bulbs in summer when the seed heads were ripe. Only the largest bulbs were harvested and the others replanted. Invasion by shrubs was minimised by regular burning. Each family had its own designated area. The practice of farming natural areas in this way was commonly practiced around the world by native peoples.

The first shooting stars (Dodecatheon)

Lomatium utriculatum

Fawn lilies and Camas in Victoria

My first day in Victoria and Vancouver Island, BC was a mixed one. As this was probably my only chance I decided to go to the Butchart Gardens, a one hour bus ride outside of Victoria, and rated by some as one of the finest gardens in the world. I didn’t have high expectations, but was disappointed that there were almost no plant labels (apart from the rose collection) and otherwise very few native plants as far as I could see…
The botanical highlight was walking back to my lovely Airbnb room along the 30 min long Songhees coastal path. A interpretive sign  informed of the rare Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem in which both camas (Camassia), an important Native American food plant, and Fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum) grew alongside Dodecatheon (shooting stars)! A couple of minutes later I saw many fawn lilies in the woods and one emerging flower stalk of Camassia (both leichtlinii and quamash grow here)!
Almost exactly a year ago, I was on the otherside of the Pacific witnessing the mass flowering of katakuri (Erythronium japonicum) in Japan:  http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=9121