Past NPSG Events

Update of NPSG Speaker Series “You can make a difference!”  

By Sylvia Samborski, April 15, 2019.

In September 2018, the Native Plant Study Group launched a series of talks focused on the theme “You can make a difference!”  We planned our talks around the question, “How can we learn and work together to sustain the health of our natural environment?”  Among our members there is a general consensus that our outdoor environments, whether gardens, boulevards or parks, are suffering from severe degradation.  This is a common problem across North America, and is being actively and successfully managed, especially in some eastern communities, through education and sustainable practice.

In order to take action on a local level we felt it was important to become informed about the broad ecological picture.  We could then work to help coordinate and support decisions and actions with other credible organizations and with professionals from every level of government.  The Victoria Natural History Society is a stellar example of an organization that works continuously to involve adults and children in science-based nature education.  As well, many academic leaders are available to share their experience and advice. Victoria is also blessed with well-founded organizations such as HAT, the Green Team, Saanich’s Pulling Together Program, and many other groups that embody sound environmental stewardship.  The Native Plant Study Group decided to draw on the expertise of some of our key environmental stewards.

September 20, 2018 – Everett Peterson, Cadboro Bay Urban Forest

Accordingly, in September forest ecologist and lead steward of Goward House Grounds, Everett Peterson, spoke to the group about his concerns for our native trees and shrubs in the Cadboro Bay area.  He noted the absence of regeneration of these native species because of the effects of deer overabundance, especially in the vicinity of illegal deer feeding stations. After decades of heavy feeding on commercial dairy formula, sunflower seeds, fruits and vegetables–put out by well meaning neighbours who value deer over all other native biodiversity–the deer population has grown exponentially.  The growing deer population has been gradually dispersing to other communities, as the local browse is consumed. Dr. Peterson noted that the deer have become the principal architects of the Queenswood urban forest, browsing down every young native tree, shrub and native wildflower in the forest understorey. As a result we are losing our songbirds and pollinators that rely on these plants for food and nesting.  In the absence of deer fencing, mature native trees and shrubs will age and die without seedlings and saplings surviving to replace them. Everett uses the example of the cottonwoods at Goward House grounds. His essay on cottonwoods follows this introduction.

October 18, 2018 Ann Nightingale – Native birds and native plants

In October, Ann Nightingale, award-winning birder and naturalist gave us a colourful presentation about our incoming fall birds.  She addressed the degradation of the forest understorey by deer browsing and its effects on our bird populations. Ground nesting birds such as juncos, towhees and orange-crowned warblers, are especially negatively affected.

November 15, 2018 Dave Polster, Restoring Severely Disturbed Sites

November’s speaker, Restoration Ecologist Dave Polster shared with us the complexity of restoring severely disturbed sites.  For example, in Saanich, Dave’s ecological restoration team can achieve success only if deer fencing protects a restoration site.  If the fencing were removed, the young willows, aspen and other native species in these sites would be rapidly browsed and unable to reach maturity.

January 17, 2019 Andy MacKinnon – Metchosin Biodiversity & Individual Conservation Action

February 21, 2019 Terry McIntosh – Biodiversity of Camas Hill

In January and February, biologists Andy MacKinnon and Terry McIntosh dedicated their talks to the memory of their friend and environmental steward Moralea Milne.  Moralea was an inspiration to the whole community and worked tirelessly for the environment. She left us with a powerful legacy, through her dedication as a Metchosin councillor and organizer of the “Walk and Talk” series, her beautiful Camas Hill, a conservation jewel she set aside for perpetuity, and through the knowledge that we can follow in her footsteps and truly make a difference to our natural environment.  She epitomized how we as individuals could make a difference.

March 21, 2019 James Miskelly – Hiding in Plain Sight: Hidden Biodiversity in the Capital Region

Our March speaker, James Miskelly, described the Victoria area as home to the highest diversity of vascular plants in BC.  However, some of these native species are endangered or extirpated because of changing ecological conditions. Others are “hiding in plain sight”.  For example, we might think we have one native buttercup, the dramatic Western buttercup that blooms along with Camas in Garry Oak meadows. But there are actually 8 native buttercups in our area, as well as invasives such as creeping and tall buttercup.   Some native plants are hard to find, such as Bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata) or the delicious anise-flavoured herb Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri); others, such as tarweeds look “weedy”, and can be overlooked. Several plants are in decline or have disappeared from our area, such as the delicate pink wildflower Phacelia linearis, familiar to Okanagan naturalists.  James shared various factors that have resulted in the high diversity of native plants, as well as three factors that threaten this diversity: loss of fire, invasive plants, and overabundant deer.

For example, the carbon record indicates that indigenous people used fire to manage the southern Vancouver Island Garry oak meadows for at least 5,000 years.  An early European observer also noted that over 230,000 acres of ground were managed by fire from Nanaimo through Victoria, or about 1,000 square kilometers of burnt “prairie land”.  

James emphasized that the three notable problems that threaten our biodiversity (loss of fire as a management tool, invasive plants and excessive herbivory by deer) have relatively simple solutions.  He suggests that we need to employ individual and group social action, and engage all levels of government in an action plan based on science.

April 18 2019 – Dr. Tara Martin – Impacts of Ungulate Overpopulation on Biodiversity

At the time of writing, Tara Martin, UBC professor and researcher working in our Gulf Island National Parks, is scheduled to speak to the Native Plant Study Group on the evening of April 18th.  See for details. Along with Peter Arcese and other scientists, Tara takes an active role in ungulate management as a step toward the protection of native species and stewardship of the native environment.  Since the Victoria Naturalist goes to print in early April, we will offer a report on Tara’s April 18th talk for a later edition.

A wealth of up-to-date information on stewardship and the particular challenges facing our urban environment is available, both in libraries such as the MacPherson Library and online.  For example:

Wildlife Society Bulletin

Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer, 1997

Deer Overabundance

Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 7pm
Christina Nikolic – Organic Soil Management in 3 Easy Steps: A Close Look Into the Microbial World in Your Garden

Whether you have native plants or imports from around the world, it all boils down to the soil we place them in. Plant health and soil health are intricately connected in a subterranean web of life.

Christina will give a management strategy to create and maintain a balanced soil environment where gardens will thrive for years to come. She will cover a basic who’s who of the microbial world, their role in the ecosystem, and some pointers for maintaining soil fertility the natural way.

About Christina:
Christina’s background is in landscape architecture with a degree from Germany. She is a SOUL Certified Organic Urban Land Care Professional and has been teaching organic horticulture, landscape design, and plant ID at Gaia College for over ten years. Visit

Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 7pm
Paul Spriggs – A Great Scott!! Some Cool Stuff about David Douglas.

Paul Spriggs is an avid rock gardener, plant explorer, photographer and mountaineer. He is the owner of Spriggs Gardens Landscaping company and current Vice President of the Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society. He has a passion for all wild plants, especially those of dwarf stature.

David Douglas is perhaps the best known plant explorer. Charged with discovering new plants for British gardens, he spent the greater part of his life roaming western North America, introducing hundreds of our western native plants into horticulture. His story is sure to fascinate anyone with an interest in adventure and native plants.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 7pm
Wylie Thomas – Restoration of Uplands Park: A Biodiversity Oasis In An Urban Setting

Uplands Park is an incredible place. Within its 31 hectares can be found one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in the country…right in the middle of an urban environment. It also has one of the richest collections of invasive species in the region. Since 2014, Wylie Thomas has been managing a project supported by the federal Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) to help restore Uplands Park’s rare ecosystems and protect its 23 endangered plant species.

In his talk, Wylie will describe the work done to date to control invasive species in the park, and discuss the challenges of managing recreational use in a way that allows people to continue enjoyment of the park while also protecting its natural values. He promises to illustrate this work with lots of pictures of plants (and a few Pokémon) and maps of work done to date.

Wylie Thomas has a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology and a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies. He is currently completing a Diploma in Restoration of Natural Systems at the University of Victoria. Before moving to Victoria from Toronto in 2008, he worked as a consultant advising government and industry on product sustainability, corporate social responsibility and stakeholder consultations related to the development of environmental regulation. The move provided him with an opportunity to focus on what he is most passionate about: protecting biodiversity. Although he grew up in large urban centres around the world, far from wilderness, he is lucky to have had parents who insisted that summers be spent in the country, where he developed a love for insects, birds and plants.
Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7pm
Agnes Lynn – Local Wildflowers At Your Feet

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 7pm
Matt Fairbarns – Ecological Restoration on Trial: 15 Years of Botanical Studies and Invasive Species Management on Trial Island

Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 7pm
Lindsay Kathrens & Julia Jennings – Managing Invasive Plant Species on the UVic Campus

Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 7pm
Nathalie Dechaine – Native Plants: Medicine for the Mind, Body, & Soul

Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 7pm
Chris Filler – What’s in a Name? Dissecting Ecoliteracy for Children

Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 7pm
Pat Johnston – Native Plants for Seasonal Interest and Colour

Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 7pm
Kristen Miskelly & Paige Erickson-McGee – Trials and Tribulations of Cooking with Native Plants: An Ongoing Experiment

Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 7pm
Judith Lyn Arney – Restoration & Propagation of Native Plants on W̱SÁNEĆ territory

Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 7pm
Colleen O’Brien – Restoration of Playfair Park’s Garry Oak Meadow: A Work in Progress

Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 7pm
Erica Wheeler – Herbaria in Botanical Science, Conservation and Education

Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7pm
Syd Cannings – Prospecting for Botanical Gold in the Klondike :  the Rare Plants of Beringia

Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 7pm
Kiersten Brookes – Enlichenment – Learning About Lichens and Ethnobotany at Strawberry Vale Nature School

Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 7pm
Thomas Munson – Ecological Restoration in the City of Victoria Parks – Protecting Victoria’s Endangered Plants

Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 7pm
John Dick – Restoring Garry Oak Ecosystems with Fire

Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 7pm
Amanda Evans – How to Support Victoria’s Wild Spaces – Greater Victoria Green Team

Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 7pm
Erica Van Dyk – Putting Environmental Studies into Practice

Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7pm
Lenny Ross – Education includes Native Plants at Strawberry Vale School

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 7pm
Eric Higgs – Novel Ecosystems and the Search for Appropriate Intervention

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7pm
Kristen & James Miskelly – Wetland and Meadow Restoration at Haliburton Community Organic Farm

Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 7pm
Aimee Pelletier – From Lawn to Lilies: Creating the Garry Oak Learning Meadow at Fort Rodd Hill

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 7pm
Louise Goulet – From Blah to Wow in 18 months:  Creating a Native Plant Garden

Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7pm
Tory Stevens – Landscapes that Adapt to Climate Change

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 7pm
Everett Peterson – Goward House Restoration

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 7pm
Brian Starzomski – Plant and Pollinator Communities in Alpine Zones of BC’s Coast Range and Central Coast Islands

Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 7pm
3 Member Presentations:
Betty Sherwood – Building My Pond
Jules Thomson – Alpine Natives at Athelney Pass, North of Pemberton
Janet Renouf – Government House Woodlands Restoration Project and the Garry Oak Ecosystem

Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7pm
Alysha Punnett – Permaculture

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 7pm
Todd Carnahan – Habitat Stewardship Success Stories with Habitat Acquisition Trust

Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 7pm
Ron Carter – Native trees in Our Locale: New, Young and Old

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Fiona Hamersley Chambers – Our Local Edible and Medicinal Plants

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Michael Cowan – Designing with Native Plants

Thursday, September 19, 2013
Elizabeth Elle & Julie Wray – The Bees Needs: Planting for Pollinators

Thursday, May 16, 2013
Agnes Lynn – Flora of the San Juan Ridge

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Maleea Acker – Gardens Aflame

Thursday, March 21, 2013
John Brears – Searching for Our Wildflower Treasure

Thursday, February 21, 2013
James Miskelly – Garry Oak Associated Wetlands

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Val Schaefer – Promoting Urban Restoration Through Restoration Walks

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Dave Polster – An Ecological Approach to Invasive Plant Management

Thursday, October 18, 2012
Patricia Johnston – A Native Plant Photo Journey

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Kem Luther – Second Spring: Mycorrhizal Mushrooms of Southern Vancouver Island

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Hans Roemer – Field trip — Native Grass Identification

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Two Projects that Encourage Native Habitat:
Sue Dugaro – A Master of Dwarf Mistletoe Control
Sylvia Samborski – Robin Lane Restoration Builds Community

Thursday, April 19, 2012
Terry Macintosh – Recent Trends in Botanical Field Research in BC

Thursday, March 15, 2012
Dave Polster – Natural Processes for the Restoration of Drastically Disturbed Sites

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Charles Knighton – The Royal BC Museum’s Native Plant Gardens, and Favourites for Your Garden

Thursday, January 19, 2012 (Cancelled for Snow)

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Fred Hook & Jennifer Lort – Botany BC: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Kitty Lloyd – Restoring Nature Along the Gorge Waterway

Thursday, September 15, 2011
Nathalie Dechaine – Pecha Kucha: How I Got Into Native Plants, and Planning Meeting

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Gordon Hutchings – Native Bees: Essential Pollinators For Our Future

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Three Short Presentations About Native Plants:
Jennie Sutton – Turning your Lawn into a Native Plant Garden
Todd Doherty – Restoring a Community Boulevard
Agnes Lynn – Local wildflowers

Thursday, March 17, 2011
John Bradley Williams – Ethnobotany of the Saanich Peninsula

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Nikki Wright – Eelgrass: A Coastal Habitat

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Hoke Holcomb – Restoration of a Douglas-fir Landscape

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Paul Spriggs – Native Plants for your Rock Garden

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Neville Winchester – Rainforest Canopies (local & global)

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Kem Luther – Moss Landscapes of Southern Vancouver Island

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Lise Townsend – Rain Gardens and Restoration of Natural Water Cycles

T­hursday, April 15, 2010
Andy MacKinnon – Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Thursday, March 18, 2010
Brenda Beckwith – Future: Re-storying of Camas Landscapes

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Geraldine Allen – Fawn Lilies – Their Evolution and Biogeography

Thursday, January 21, 2010
Abe Lloyd – Gardening with Nature (Aboriginal Plant Management, Wild Edible Gardens