Keep an acorn in your pocket and you’ll always have a youthful appearance.
That’s a bit of folk wisdom Chris Hyde-Lay has picked up over his years on the job as manager of parks services for Oak Bay.
Another legend traces back to the First Nations peoples who believed that the Gary oak was the only tree strong enough to hold the spirit of the thunderbird.
It’s easy to see how these legends have taken root.
Gary oaks live long. The oldest one that Hyde-Lay knows of, in the 500-block of Falkland Road, is thought to be more than 400 years old.
The trees are also strong and resilient, and a vital part of an ecosystem that sustains what Hyde-Lay calls “the most remarkable assemblage of plants anywhere in Canada.”
He says Uplands Park is home to 31 rare plant species and that the “vernal pools” within the park are a national treasure.
Only about one per cent of the original Gary oak ecosystem that once dominated the South Island still remains and Uplands Park is home to much of that remaining resource.
“These are great old trees and we’d like for people to learn about them and the ecosystem that they’re a part of,” says Hyde-Lay.
“They need to know that these trees have real value. For example, they’re great at taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and for storm water retention.”
But the old trees have a less measurable, but equally as important, benefit, says Hyde-Lay.
“They have an effect on the social and psychological well-being of a community. They make you feel good. We want people to know that.”
That’s the goal behind Tree Appreciation Day. The event takes place at the main gate of Uplands Park between 10 a.m. and noon on Nov. 4, and features not just an educational component but a chance for active participation as well.
“There’s going to be a park walk, and we’ll be giving people information on things like winter moth banding,” says Hayes-Lay. That’s a system designed to protect the oaks from pests that can injure or even kill the trees.
Staff and volunteers will also teach participants how everyone can help turn those tiny acorns into mighty oaks.
“We’ll be potting up acorns and showing people how and when to transplant the seedlings for the best results,” says Hayes-Lay.
Participants of all ages are welcome to the event. Refreshments will be served.
The public is urged to wear comfortable clothes and asked to bring gloves and shovels if possible. Parking is available at Cattle Point.
More information on Tree Appreciation Day can be found at recreation.oakbay.org.