Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Native Crops Project For Hull's Field

Using Native Plants to Link Local Agriculture Initiatives With Environmental Stewardship

Tatiana M. Montgomery
July 2000

Table Of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Overview of Project
1.2 History and Resources of Hull's Field
1.3 Critique of Proposed Development
2 Significance Of Hull's Field
2.1 Community Supported Agriculture
2.2 Urban Agriculture and Land Use
2.3 Wetland Stewardship
3 Why Use Native Plants?
3.1 Historical Food Source
3.2 Benefits of Native Plants
3.3 Implications for BC Tourism and Restaurant Industry
3.4 First Nations Ethnobotanical Appreciation
4 Conclusion
5 Bibliography
6 Figures and Tables

Figure 1. Aerial view of Hull's Field and surrounding area. (Not included in this web edition.)
Table 1. List of native food plants potentially suitable for Hull's Field seasonally-flooded field, disturbed meadow, and Douglas-fir/salal ecosystems.
Table 2. Selection of internationally-respected and award-winning restaurants in Southern Vancouver Island region that focus on locally grown organic produce.
Table 3. List of native plant gardens in Greater Victoria and representative habitat.
Table 4. Examples of ethnobotanical gardens from around world.

1 Introduction

1.1 Overview of Project

"the value and potential of aboriginal food plants is not being realized" Nancy J. Turner (1)

The Native Crops Project proposes that unique and value-added products can be realized by farming with native plant species that were traditionally used by First Nations as food sources. With the added implementation of a Demonstration/Ethnobotanical Garden, educational and interpretive sessions can discuss the benefits, agricultural uses, and cultural history of native site-adapted plants. The motivation behind preserving Hull's Field as food-producing land is to put into action principles of community-supported urban agriculture, environmental stewardship, and ethnobotanical knowledge for the Western Communities region. Many members of our community agree on the need to maintain and provide stewardship for this distinct agricultural wetland that exists within a growing urban environment. While the natural features alone are a great asset as a wildlife refuge, an aquatic ecosystem, and an essential green space, the area also represents an important link with the agricultural heritage of Langford, of which little else remains. I have brought to this report a combination of my academic studies, personal interests, and community commitment in order to build a framework for the Native Crops Project that attempts to achieve the following goals:

1.2 History and Resources of Hull's Field

Hull's Field is found in a lowland basin that once included an outlet stream extending from Langford Lake, through what is now Hull's, and out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Figure 1). Due to the rich soil and adjacent water source, this property was drained and used as a potato farm for nearly 16 years until 1964, when hydro lines were put in. Subsequently, parts were filled-in with gravel and sawdust, and Hull's Field has since been left fallow. Along with the re-accumulation of peat deposits, it is being re-vegetated with wetland flora including hardhack, willows, Pacific crabapple, sedges, rushes, and grasses.

This property lies within the Coastal Douglas-Fir biogeoclimatic zone and contains roughly three habitats, namely seasonally-flooded field, disturbed meadow, and Douglas-fir/salal. It is unique in that the surrounding lowlands of our community are mainly composed of gravelly, loamy, sandy soils that are not conducive to agriculture. They require supplemental fertilization and heavy irrigation, whereas, the soil found in Hull's is built on fertile organic matter that retains water and minerals. Indeed, this type of soil-formerly classified as "Metchosin Muck"-once followed the path of the original outflow from Langford Lake, and was the single largest deposit of this type west of Victoria (2). Unfortunately, Hull's Field is the only significant portion that remains, and is the only available option for low-intensive agriculture in the Langford-Colwood area.

Thinking along the lines of conventional agriculture, the potential of this land might hinge on its necessity for drainage, for when drained, its soil is one of the best on the island (2). This is reflected in its soil capability rating, where drainage increases its value from Class 3 to 2, and excess water is seen as the limiting factor. Of course, if crops that withstand such conditions were planted, drainage would not be necessary for them to thrive in wet areas. Thus, its agricultural potential can be realized with little impact on the whole ecosystem. Furthermore, because of the three microhabitats present, a variety of mixed crops may be grown within this area.

Hull's Field currently plays a role as a wildlife refuge and green space, providing important habitat and nesting sites. Up to 115 resident and migratory bird species may be seen to frequent this property throughout the year, as illustrated by waterfowl, hawks, owls, songbirds, and quail. The area is also home to amphibians such as salamanders and frogs, various small and mid-sized mammals, bats, and a host of invertebrates including beneficial insects. The value of habitat is not contingent on the presence of rare or endangered species, on the contrary, the health and biodiversity of an ecosystem is dependent on having sufficient natural habitat. This point can be no more revealing than when speaking about habitats capable of supporting wetland flora and fauna. Wetlands are increasingly rare due in part to the frequency that developers and planners continue to drain, fill, and build over them. There is only a fraction of wetlands left on southern Vancouver Island, and as signatories to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, Canadians and British Columbians must look for creative ways to fulfill our commitment, which includes maintaining habitat.

1.3 Critique of Proposed Development

The District of Langford has supported the developer's application to remove Hull's Field from the ALR and dedicate a portion as parkland because of the perceived sensitivity of the lake to agricultural practices. It is worth pointing out that there was no study done with regards to the feasibility of organic farming or native plant nursery stock, which are much less detrimental to the land when correctly implemented. It would seem that the assumption being advanced is that any agriculture equates to pumping the lake full of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides-this is hardly the reality of current and responsible agricultural practices. Furthermore, that development, paving, housing, and settling ponds are seen as "enhancements," which caused one member of Langford Council to offer that "would help Hull's Field function as a true wetland" (3). This is an outrageous suggestion, in light of the following conclusion:

...the quality of the water in the lakes will deteriorate with increased population...A special plea is made for Langford Lake. Only a quarter of its water volume is flushed during the winter and the lake already shows signs of pollution...with the expected population growth, this is in real danger of becoming a cesspool. (4)

Although the proposal to dedicate roughly half of the properties to parkland appears altruistic, the integrity of the habitat is not protected, nor secured from future damage. Once the 3-4 lane thoroughfare complete with bike lanes is built, the system of settling ponds dug, the network of trails cleared, and the increased volume of lower quality water flushed into Langford Lake, the entire ecosystem will be significantly altered. This will not be preserved habitat; it will be an unregulated recreational area degraded by development, which much of the flora and fauna may not tolerate. In comparison, the Native Crops Project recognizes the critical inter-relatedness of agriculture and habitat protection, and represents a viable plan that supports both agricultural incentives and environmental concerns.

Just under 3% of Vancouver Island presently falls within the Agricultural Land Reserve, and the reality is that prime arable land remains scarce and finite. The pressures of human settlement and development are great, but despite the forecasted increase in population to this region, all Land Use and Growth Strategies developed for Southern Vancouver Island maintain the integrity of the ALR. The exception to this is the Official Community Plan of Langford, which in the case of Hull's Field, has supported in principle the rezoning of land currently safeguarded for future agricultural needs of Greater Victoria.

The Vancouver Island Summary Land Use Plan (VISLUP) states that "the continuation of land-based agriculture depends in large part on maintenance of the ALR," and it "confirms the land currently designated and used for agriculture" (5). The Plan clearly indicates which activities may be supported in Agriculture zones, and reinforces that agriculture is the essential purpose with conditional tourism opportunities. [Tourism practices must be consistent with the basic intent of the zone.] Moreover, residential and commercial opportunities are rated as incompatible and inconsistent with agricultural land. The Native Crops Project defends this primary intent and provides for tourism capabilities that are complementary to agriculture-comparable to the tourism associated with BC vineyards and wine production.

The CRD is in the process of adopting a new Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), and emphasizes that under the old plan, growth was not contained, resulting in urban sprawl and expansion into rural lands, including Langford and Colwood (6). Expansion into farmland and green space is not the answer for the future, and the message to city planners and politicians is that growth must be re-directed to build up those areas already zoned to accommodate residential and commercial needs. Furthermore, the RGS states, "research shows that the Capital Region's communities have designated enough land for accommodate nearly all of the region's forecast growth." [Includes existing and proposed neighbourhoods from 1996 Official Community Plans.] The environmental vision of the RGS is twofold: to protect and maintain green spaces, including farmland, wetlands, and fish and wildlife habitats; and restore natural systems where damage has occurred. Again, the Native Crops Project can fulfill these criteria while making productive use of agricultural land.

The RGS has designated separate categories for Green Lands (ALR land inclusive) and Urban Containment Areas with policies governing each. Green Lands "would not be available for new urban development," and any municipality attempting to expand outside the Urban Containment Area "would need an inter-municipal review and approval of other municipalities." [Development outside urban containment boundary limited to approximately the levels permitted in 1996 OCP's.] In light of such a review, it is questionable as to why the District of Langford has changed its Official Community Plan over thirty times since 1996 and supported new developments, prior to the adoption of a new Regional Growth Strategy. Fortunately, public opinion strongly supports the preservation of agricultural land, thus constraining short-term political decision-making (7). It is clear that Langford does not need to convert more green and agricultural lands to accommodate population growth- urban population growth is not synonymous with urban expansion, but rather with urban change. Single-family homes dominate the Langford-Colwood area, some of which will be in need of replacement in the coming future and will provide sufficient existing land on which to build higher-density housing. This is where growth in Langford is not in line with either the VISLUP or the RGS.

2 Significance Of Hull's Field

2.1 Community Supported Agriculture

Our daily food choices have a huge social, economical, and environmental impact, both locally and globally. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) promotes local production of the widest variety of food items and maximization of the growing season through sustainable and organic methods. The result is better quality foods with higher nutrient value at a lower cost to the consumer. Because of the greater sense of self-sufficiency that CSA provides, there is less reliance on imported foods and large companies. Hence, the local farmer can contribute to his community in a meaningful way while making a living through support from the residents.

Currently, Vancouver Island imports over 90% of its produce, and expends resources and creates pollution in the process. As the Island's population continues to grow, there will be a greater demand for food and specialty items; direct access to produce can be expanded by ensuring that there is sufficient agriculture land available. In order for this region to reach its expectation of abundant and low-cost foods, there must be a renewed interest in local production as supplementary to trade items. Increased demand is also likely to arise from the public as people become more knowledgeable, make healthier choices, and continue to express concerns over pesticide residues. Such trends are already apparent with the availability of organic produce and local markets.

Equally important is the maintenance of lands that can accommodate a variety of produce, as different conditions can be more favourable to select crops. Hull's Field fits this criteria in that it contains three native microhabitats, but also because the soil composition is distinct compared to neighbouring soils. The CRD Growth Strategy Plan calls for a stronger regional economy and includes "specialized agriculture" as a focus. In Moura Quayle's words, "we need to think about community supported agriculture and agri-tourism enterprises that combine a variety of activities to provide a transition zone" (8).

2.2 Urban Agriculture and Land Use

Urban agriculture forms part of the survival strategy of urban dwellers all over the world and has historically been integral to urban areas. Urban community gardening in Canada has experienced waves of interest over the past hundred years, but once the industrial revolution arrived, the rural-urban divide was drawn. Growing plants in cities was considered primarily for their recreational, leisure, and aesthetical values (9). This trend is typical of the modern urban culture, which considers urban food growing as marginal and ephemeral. Permaculture, however, is the concept of productive and sustainable cities, as opposed to consumptive and unsustainable ones, and is being promoted by a growing number of people, including academics. Various grassroots movements have also emerged to promote urban gardening and food production in an environmentally sustainable manner. [In Greater Victoria, Lifecycles, an environmental nonprofit, non-governmental organization dedicated to cultivating awareness of and initiating action around food, health, and urban sustainability in the community is geared towards education and building community connections through hands-on projects that work towards creating better local and global food security.] In the past, attention was often focused on the environmental philosophy of urban farming practices, rather than its agronomic and financial aspects. This may explain why federal and provincial agriculture authorities have commonly shown a lack of interest in urban food growers, whom they may not see as part of their constituency (9). However, the beneficial aspects of urban agriculture are undeniable and its role needs to be re-evaluated and considered by all governing agencies.

We need an immediate strategy to encourage young people to be educated in professions and activities involving agriculture in order to retain and increase both our food security and diversity here on the Island and throughout BC. Communities also recognize the importance of exposing city-raised children to farming experiences. The next generation requires knowledge of food production systems to make informed decisions about overall stability and future land use issues. Urban farms can provide this opportunity. By undertaking food production in an urban setting, a number of economic, physical, and psychological benefits can be achieved:

Often the greatest challenge to urban agriculture is securing land access and tenure. Existing bylaws and policies reflect general attitudes that separate the urban from the rural along the lines of food production. Municipalities could help ensure the viability of urban agriculture initiatives, by zoning for urban food production, designating public space for the purpose of producing food, or requiring development projects to integrate food-producing space into their proposals. Such zoning changes are indicators that the potential for urban food production is being taken seriously. We in Langford are fortunate that we have Hull's Field, an area designated and safeguarded for agriculture purposes, and it would be an unnecessary and wasteful action to remove it from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

2.3 Wetland Stewardship

It has been stated that "approaches to environmental issues will be, if not the most important, then one of the most important factors influencing the direction of agricultural production over the next twenty-five years" (7). High standards of environmental regulation and protection of resources often compete with agricultural needs, and are one of the defining arguments in the Hull's Field application. The Native Crops Project is unequivocal in its responsibility to the Langford Lake ecosystem, and it puts forth a unique plan that marries the needs of habitat stewardship with agriculture. It breaks up the debate that currently polarizes environmentalists and producers, and leads the two in a new direction. Habitat is actually increased by the very practice of using native plants, as is the overall health of the ecosystem and surrounding region.

The importance of these factors has already lead to the increasing use of native plants in the landscaping industry. Although initially used to demonstrate water-conservation-due to their evolutionary adaptation to our dry summers-the interest in providing habitat sanctuaries is growing. Government agencies such as Naturescape work to restore and enhance natural habitat within urban areas in order to offset destruction, degradation, and fragmentation to ecosystems (10). Consequently, this project is a timely endeavour: to learn from the stewardship principles embraced by the landscape industry and apply them to appropriate agriculture initiatives. What is more, the UN Conference on Environment and Development recommended the implementation of integrated agricultural projects that include other natural resource activities such as forests and wildlife.

The difficulty is that there are few remaining natural sites that can support wetland flora and its wide-diversity of associate inhabitants. Hull's Field can provide an ideal site for many of the food products considered by this project, since many of these plants require moist meadows and wet to swampy sites in lowland areas. Farming has historically taken place near water resources in areas that we now would consider sensitive, and with this recognition, there can be no better-suited site to showcase the workability of stewardship principles in agriculture.

3 Why Use Native Plants?

3.1 Historical Food Source

Traditional food plants of this region were once used extensively by First Nations people and to a lesser degree by early settlers. However, their use quickly declined with the rapid influx of non-native species from the Old World and South and Central America. This current lack of representation in the food market is by no means due to any natural deficiency, on the contrary, there is a wealth of healthy, flavourful, and unique food items waiting to realize their potential once again. Indeed, it is surprising that of the herbaceous plant species native to North America, historically, very few have been considered for widespread consumption-with the notable exception of the sunflower. The question remains as to why there has never been a systematic, large-scale search for crop plants within Canada.

This trend has been changing of recent, as see n with the popularity of the eastern cranberry and blueberry, and now is an opportune time for some forward thinking and fresh ideas. As an experiment in selective plant-breeding techniques, varieties could be developed to take advantage of desired traits, such as higher-yielding plants and larger fruits. Many native food plants with promising market value are well-suited to the habitat found within Hull's Field, and some are already present (Table 1).

3.2 Benefits of Native Plants

In addition to the untapped bounty before us, the use of native plants offers many clear advantages to conventional agriculture, going even further than organic farming in support of eco-friendly practices. Through the evolutionary process of natural selection, plants become extremely fine-tuned to the challenges and opportunities of their local habitats. The result is that the farming or gardening of such plants is of relatively low maintenance, without the need for extensive irrigation, chemical pest control, or additional nutrients. Without disputing that the growing of plants for human use presupposes that the ecology of an area will be altered, it is clear that re-establishing stands of plants that naturally inhabit a particular area will pose the least level of disruption. Furthermore, the health of the ecosystem can be enhanced in a number of ways:

By putting into practice a responsible and well-managed agriculture plan for the area that includes native crop plants, the soil and water quality of Hull's Field and Langford Lake wetland ecosystem can be maintained and improved.

3.3 Implications for BC Tourism and Restaurant Industry

Vancouver Island and BC are increasingly prospering from a thriving tourist industry. One of the important attractions of this region is the many internationally renowned and award-winning restaurants found here (Table 2). A common theme throughout is their preference for locally grown, organic foods that hi-light the best of west-coast cuisine. Some chefs have already experimented with native plants in a limited way as there is currently no reliable or sustainable supply. It has been expressed to me that there is a high level of interest from both the chefs and the public in accessing these native foods. The opportunity to offer distinctive food items that are exclusive to this region would further promote the tourist, restaurant, and agriculture industries.

Being that Victoria is known as "the city of gardens," it is inexcusable that there are so few public gardens that display native plants, even fewer that display wetland species, and none that specifically emphasize food plants (Table 3). In fact, our largest and most renowned, Butchart Gardens, is lacking a native plant exhibit altogether. Mainland BC and nearby Washington State have much more to offer in terms of interesting native plant gardens. It would be desirable to use a small portion of Hull's Field as a demonstration garden in action. Interpretative talks covering plant food uses and agricultural stewardship principles could be given along with food samples. Not only would this attract tourism dollars to the Western Communities area, but it is easily accessible from the highway, where hundreds of tourists pass each day on their way to Provincial Parks in the region.

3.4 First Nations Ethnobotanical Appreciation

Much of the current knowledge about native food sources has come from First Nations people, and as with other aspects of indigenous North American culture, there remains a risk that further generations will not benefit from this heritage. Out of principle, the integrity of this project must include input from the aboriginal community and consider their needs. I would encourage their participation in the following, but not limited endeavours:

In light of renewed theories concerning the peopling of the Americas, the Pacific Coast region is believed to have played a significant role during the last ice-age as an ice-free corridor-essentially allowing people who crossed over the Bering Strait to travel down the west side of North America (11). Thus, the anthropological and archaeological interest in this region is on the rise. Establishing an Ethnobotanical Garden would be of great value for Straits Salish First Nations, residents of BC, and tourists alike. The idea of such a garden is not a new one, examples can be found in North America, Mexico, and South America (Table 4). Of special note, there are two ethnobotanical gardens currently under development in mainland BC and one that exists in Alert Bay, representing the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation. The quintessential difference between many of the existing Ethnobotanical Gardens and the type being proposed here is that of dynamics. This would not be merely a "demonstration garden" to display a piece of the past, but it would be an interactive experience with hands-on learning, where foods could be tasted. Such a project could bring a variety of traditional foods alive again and would represent what the future has to offer.

4 Conclusion

This report has outlined the viability of a native foods project adapted to Hull's Field, and shown the long-term benefits to the community through local production of novel food items and stewardship of its natural and cultural features. The project fosters new partnerships between agricultural, environmental, and aboriginal interest groups to build on existing infrastructures while bringing together the creative strengths of each. Furthermore, its theme of preserving food-producing lands functions at multiple levels, including community, industry, tourism, education, nonprofit agencies, and government. On the other hand, the development interests supported by the District of Langford are not in the best interests of community-based agriculture. I further wish to emphasize that both the Vancouver Island Summary Land Use Plan and CRD Regional Growth Strategy uphold the mandate of the Land Reserve Commission and its current designations for southern Vancouver Island.

Moura Quayle has made clear that it is time to encourage agricultural innovation and support creative ideas in regards to securing prime agriculture lands (8). She writes, "as a forward thinking society, we must dig in, take responsibility, and make sure that future generations have a vibrant agricultural land base." This proposed native food enterprise would be a benefit to agriculture and deserves thorough consideration. By acknowledging the contribution that traditional food plants can make to the agriculture industry, the stage is set for agri-policy makers to ensure the native crop legacy of our province.

5 Bibliography

1. NJ Turner. A Gift for the Taking: The untapped potential of some food plants of North American native peoples. Canadian Journal of Botany. 1981. 59: 2331-2357.

2. Day, JH, L. Farstad, and DG Laird. Soil Survey of Southeast Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, British Columbia: Report no.6 of the British Columbia soil survey. Canada Department of Agriculture. 1959, Ottawa.

3. Goldstream Gazette News. 24 May 2000, Victoria.

4. Western Community - Landscape Analysis for Urban Development. Canadian Forest Service and Fisheries and Environment Canada. 1976, Ottawa.

5. BC Land Use Coordination Office. Vancouver Island Summary Land Use Plan. 16 February 2000, Victoria.

6. Capital Regional District. CRD Regional Growth Strategy: Foundations for our future. Updated 19 July 2000, Victoria.

7. Niels Holbek. British Columbia Agriculture - 2025: Looking ahead the next twenty-five years. Provincial Agricultural Land Commission. 1999, Burnaby.

8. Moura Quayle. Stakes in the Ground: Provincial interest in the Agricultural Land Commission Act. Agricultural Land Commission. 25 September 1998, Burnaby.

9. Rita Lindayati. Urban Agriculture: A survey of academic expertise and programs in Canada. Report 19. Cities Feeding People Report Series. 1996.

10. Your Guide to Backyard Conservation in British Columbia. Naturescape British Columbia.

11. Special Report: Discover the new story behind the peopling of the Americas. Discovering Archaeology. February 2000.

Table 1. List of native food plants potentially suitable for the Hull’s Field seasonally-flooded field, disturbed meadow, and Douglas-fir/salal ecosystems.

*indicates plants with greatest market potential as identified by Turner (1)

indicates plants given worthwhile mention (1)

‡indicates undetermined habitat suitability

§indicates need for further determination of flavour





Gaultheria shallon* (ERICACEAE)


Wet coniferous forest + edges

Berries and leaves (floral industry), already present, shrub to 5m tall

Vaccinium ovalifolium


Oval-leaved blueberry

Moist coniferous forest + openings, bogs

Berries, ripe July, highly regarded by all First Nations§

Vaccinium caespitosum* (ERICACEAE)

Dwarf blueberry

Bogs, subalpine wet meadows

Berries, ripe July-September, fair source of vitamin C, preferred + sweet

Vaccinium uliginosum (ERICACEAE)

Bog blueberry

Bog, moist alpine tundra

Berries sweet, fair source of vitamin C

Vaccinium membranaceum (ERICACEAE)

Black huckleberry

Moist coniferous forest, open areas

Berries, ripe mid-summer-fall, picked for sale in Cascades, very tasty, few natural habitats remain

Vaccinium parvifolium (ERICACEAE)

Red huckleberry

Coniferous forest edges, openings, rich soil, on stumps

Berries, ripe July, juicy + slightly acidic/tart, depends on mycorrhizal fungi on logs and stumps

Vaccinium deliciosum


Blue-leaved/Cascade huckleberry

subalpine wet meadows, bogs, open forest, alpine tundra

Berry crop collected in Cascades + Olympics

Vaccinium ovatum (ERICACEAE)

Evergreen huckleberry

Coniferous forest edges + openings, salt-spray zone

Berries, ripe early autumn-December, juicy, sweet-musky taste/slightly tart; "Thunderbird" variety

Vaccinium vitis-ideaea* (ERICACEAE)

Lowbush/mountain cranberry, lingonberry

Coniferous forests, bogs, alpine tundra

Berries persist through winter, valuable source of vitamin C, marketed in Europe as preserves

Ledum groenlandicum* (ERICACEAE)

Labrador tea

Peatlands, moist-acidic soil

Leaves used for tea (colds, sore throats, relax, drowsy), drink in moderation

Viburnum edule


Highbush cranberry Squashberry

Moist forest edges, wetland + stream bank margins

Berries, ripe late summer-fall, tart, shrub to 3.5m tall.

Sambucus racemosa ssp.pubens var. arborescens

[Sambucus caerulea]


Red elderberry

[Blue elderberry]

Streambanks, swampy thickets, moist clearings

[Dry to moist, open sites]

Berries, ripe summer, cook, excellent tangy jelly + wine, shrub 6m tall, incorrectly thought to be toxic

[Berries, high vitamin C + b -carotene + minerals§]








Empetrum nigrum



Exposed coastal heathlands + bogs, wet sites

Berries, juicy, good source vitamin C, available through winter§

Ribes divaricatum

[Ribes lacustre]


Coastal/common/wild gooseberry

[Black (swamp) gooseberry]

Moist woods + streambanks, rotting wood

Berries, shrub 2m tall, known horticulturally as worcesterberry§

[Berries, agreeable but insipid flavour§]

Erythronium revolutum


Pink fawn lily

Moist woods and streambanks, shade

Bulbs, collect spring, slightly bitter-milky taste, may be a rare/uncommon sp.

Fritillaria camschatcensis


Northern rice root

Black lily

Moist open places, meadows, streambanks

Bulbs, collect spring-fall, soak + boil (stews, soups), rice-like flavour w/ slightly bitter taste, sensitive sp.

Fritillaria lanceolata


Chocolate lily

Open places + woods, along major drainages

Bulbs, boil, tender + delicate taste, rice-like flavour with slightly bitter taste

Allium cernuum*

[Allium acuminatum]


Nodding onion

[Hooker’s onion]

dry open woods, exposed grass, sandy, with Doug. fir

[open forest + rocky sites]

Bulbs, similar to onion taste and smell, sweet when cooked, foliage as scallion

[restricted sp.]

Brodiaea coronaria


Harvest onion

Open gravelly sites

Corms (2cm), as onion§

Camassia quamash*

[Camassia leichtlinii]


Common/blue camas

[Great camas]

grassy slopes + meadows

Bulb, sweet with prolonged cooking (like baked pear), inulin may cause flatulence

Lilium columbianum (LILIACEAE)

Tiger lily

Damp meadows, thickets, open forest + clearings

Bulbs (3-5cm), collect late summer, boil (soups, stews), steam, bitter peppery taste, used to flavour

Calypso bulbosa



Pink slipper orchid

Forests, rich humus soil

Corms, rich butter-taste, flower very perfumed, rapidly disappearing

Platanthera dilatata


White bog orchid

Swamps, fens, marsh, wet meadow

Flower very fragrant (like cloves + vanilla + mock orange)

Polygonum bistoroides


American bistort

Moist/wet meadows, streambanks

Rhizome + leaves, cooked, leaves high vitamin C + b -carotene

Rumex acetosella

[Oxyria digyna]


Sheep sorrel

[mountain sorrel]

Disturbed sites, fields, open forest

Leaves, tart salad green, oxalic acid, introduced plant already present

Rumex occidentalis


Western dock

Moist to wet meadows, streambanks

Young leaves, cooked like spinach, oxalic acid, already present

Montia perfoliata*


Miner’s lettuce

Moist, sandy, forests, thickets, meadows

Basal leaves, salad green, good source vitamin C + b -carotene, already present





Claytonia lanceolata*


Western spring beauty

Indian potato

Moist meadows, mid-high elevations

Corms, collect late May-June, raw/cooked, sensitive sp., not found on south Vancouver Island

Amelanchier alnifolia*


Saskatoon berry Serviceberry

Meadows, moist, open forest + edges, well-drained

Berries, ripe August, sweet + juicy, 3x higher Fe + Cu than raisins, varieties exist for commercial and garden use, shrub to 5m tall

Rubus spectabilis (ROSACEAE)


Moist to wet places, stream edges, wet-logged

Berries, ripe May-June, mushy after rain, shrub to 4m tall, forms variable clones, unarmed

Rubus parviflorus



Open sites (clearings, road edges), with red alder

Berries, ripe July, very sweet, mushy, shrub to 3m tall, unarmed

Rubus pedatus

[Rubus nigerrimus]


Creeping raspberry

[Northwest raspberry]

Moist mossy forest, streambanks, bog forest

Berries, juicy + flavourful, small + soft, creeping stem + unarmed

Rubus leaucodermis

[Rubus idaeus]



Black raspberry

[Red raspberry]

Disturbed sites, thickets, open forest

[east of Cascades]

Berries, good taste, already present, stems 2m + armed§

Rubus ursinus

Trailing blackberry

Disturbed sites, thickets, dry open sites

Berries, delicious taste, trailing to 5m + armed, already present, possible to get weedy?

Rubus arcticus

[R. acaulis]


Dwarf nagoonberry/ raspberry


Bogs, wet meadows + thickets

Berries, excellent flavour, good source vitamin C, jams, jellies + liquor, unarmed, not native to island

Rubus chamaemorus




Berries, baked apple taste, ripe midsummer, high vitamin C, unarmed, not native to island, scarce on Queen Charlotte’s due to deer

Fragaria virginiana

[Fragaria vesca]


Wild strawberry

[Woodland strawberry]

Almost any open habitat except bogs; clearings, sandy, disturbed

Berries, ripe June, leaves for tea, better tasting of 3 sp.§

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica



Wild sweet potato

Wet spots, marsh, stream edges

Roots, dig late fall/early spring, cook, sweet + slightly bitter (like sweet potato), already present

Trifolium wormskjoldii


Spring bank clover

Moist, wet places, open sites

Rhizome, long + fleshy, dig late fall, cook, taste sweet + crisp like young peas

Epilobium augustifolium*



Moist to dry disturbed sites, meadows, thickets, riverbars

Young leaves, cooked, or for tea, high in vitamin C + b -carotene, marketed in Russia





Osmorhiza chilensis

[Osmorhiza occidentalis§]

[Osmorhiza purpurea§]


Mountain sweet cicely [Western sweet cicely] [Purple sweet cicely]

Open forest, edges, glades [Moist thickets + openings] [Coniferous forest, openings, streambanks, meadows]

Taproot (1-3), raw/cooked, sweet like young carrots, already present

Perideridia gairdneri*


Gairdner’s yampah

Wild caraway/carrot

Vernally moist open forest, meadows

Tuber, raw or cooked, tender, excellent flavour like anise/caraway

Lomatium nudicaule*


Indian celery/ consumption plant

Dry open sites

Young leaves, raw/cooked, celery taste, high vitamin C, grows well cultivated

Lomatium utriculatum


Spring gold

Indian carrot

Dry, open rocky slopes, vernal meadows

Roots, cooked

Mentha arvensis


Field mint

Streambanks, wet meadows, clearings, wetlands

Leaves, for tea + flavouring

Satureja douglasii


Yerba buena

Open, well-drained, coniferous forest

Leaves, for tea or as herb

Galium trifidum

[Galium cymosum]


Small bedstraw

Marshes, fens, bogs, swamps, clearings

Burs, collect when ripe-green, roast + grind for coffee

Urtica dioica*


Stinging nettle

Moist, rich soil, disturbed sites, stream-banks, meadow

Young leaves, cooked, minerals, high vitamin C, b -carotene, protein,1-3m tall, stinging hairs

Shepherdia canadensis




Open woods + thickets, dry gravelly soil‡‡

Berries, ripe summer, whipped/cooked, contains saponins, shrub 1-2m tall, nitrogen fixer

Sagittaria latifolia*




Marshes, lakes, ponds, partially submerged

Tubers, starchy, raw/baked, 20-90cm tall, a sp. cultivated in China

Typha latifolia*



Marshes, ponds, lakeshores, slow flowing water

Rhizomes, starchy, 1-3m tall, removes heavy metals and absorbs nutrients from polluted waters

Asarum caudatum


Wild ginger

Rich bottomlands, moist, shaded

Roots, fresh + dried, lemony-ginger flavour

Cardamine angulata??


Angled bitter-cress

Moist forests and streambanks

Leaves, salad green, at risk sp.

Table 2: Selection of internationally respected and award-winning restaurants in Southern Vancouver Island region that focus on locally grown organic produce.



The Aerie, Malahat

"We are excited about the local products that grow in abundance around us. Vancouver Island offers flavours that are truly unique and ingredients that are fresh and wholesome. With every menu we celebrate the bounty of our region...our flavors reflect the Pacific Northwest."

Sooke Harbour House, Sooke

"We grow naturally, organically, and seasonally"

Café Brio, Victoria

"West Coast contemporary food by one of the ‘most innovative chefs working on the West Coast’."

"Whenever possible only the freshest, local, certified organic produce available, is used."

The Empress Room, Victoria

Award-winning, internationally recognized restaurant uses the freshest of local ingredients.

Butchart Gardens, Victoria

"Do you know where I can get salmonberries right now?"

"There definitely is a growing market for native food plants"

Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino

"Our chef has a deep conviction for the use of regional products and obtains inspiration from the bounty of the forest and the ocean and his food is fresh, healthy and imaginative. He includes such native plants as shepherd's purse, wild sorrel or chickweed."

Hastings House Country Hotel, Saltspring Island

"...Gardens and orchards provide much of the herbs and produce for the exquisite menus...abundant selection of local produce."

Camille’s, Victoria

"We are proud to utilize as many fresh local ingredients as possible and we prepare our dishes in a health-conscious full- flavored style"

Table 3. List of native plant gardens in Greater Victoria and representative habitat.



Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Plant species from around province; dry rock garden

University of Victoria, Sannich

Mostly Garry oak meadow habitat; uncertain future due to lack of funds and urban development

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Sannich

Mostly Garry oak meadow, well-labelled; tried wetland garden few years ago unsuccessfully; in development: drought-tolerant native plants

Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, Sannich

WaterWise Lawn; in development: restoration of Garry oak meadow habitat; future: wetland restoration

Victoria Horticulture Society, Victoria

Victoria Garry oak meadow, woodland & rock species; WaterWise gardening

Lifecycles Urban Gardening, James Bay

WaterWise garden includes native shrubs; organic gardening

Victoria Compost Education Centre, Victoria

Local species; WaterWise and organic gardening

Government House, Victoria

20 acres Garry oak meadow habitat; not open to public

Table 4. Examples of ethnobotanical gardens from around world.



U'mista Ethnobotanical Garden

U'mista Cultural Centre (Kwakwaka'wakw),

Alert Bay, BC

Secwepemc Ethnobotanical Garden and Native Heritage Park

Secwepeme Cultural Education Society (Shuswap), Kamloops, BC: under development

Ethnobotanical Garden

Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School Yard, Vancouver, BC: under development

Daybreak Ethnobotanical Garden

Discovery Park, Seattle, Washington

Cahuilla Indian Ethnobotanical Garden

The Living Desert Wildlife & Botanical Park, Palm Desert, California

Temalpakh Ethnobotanical Garden

Malki Museum on the Morongo Reservation, Banning, California

Ethnobotanical Garden

Besh-Ba-Gowah Museum, Arizona

Ethnobotanical Garden

Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona

Beatrice H. Krauss Ethnobotanical Garden

Lyon Arboretum, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden

Center for Plant Conservation National Collection, Captain Cook, Hawaii

Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden

Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Ethnobotanical Garden

Santo Domingo de Guzman Cultural Center, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico

ReNuPeRu Ethnobotanical Garden

ExplorNapo Camp in Amazon Rainforest Reserve, Peru

Sachamama Ethnobotanical Garden

Near Iquitos, Peru

Ethnobotanical Garden

Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, UK

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Revised December 3, 2001

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture