From left - Rev. Sulin Milne, rector of St Peter’s, Karen Cummins and Bill Henderson of Nature Comox Valley pose for a photo with the newly-planted Garry oak tree. Photo supplied

From left - Rev. Sulin Milne, rector of St Peter’s, Karen Cummins and Bill Henderson of Nature Comox Valley pose for a photo with the newly-planted Garry oak tree. Photo supplied

Young Garry oak planted at St. Peter’s church gardens as a sign of resiliency

By Tony Reynolds

Special to The Record

St Peter’s Anglican Church, Comox, and Garry oaks have one thing in common – longevity. A Garry oak can live 300 years. St Peter’s on Church Street in Comox celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

To mark this occasion, Bill Henderson and Karen Cummins, two members of Nature Comox Valley, a not-for-profit society dedicated to conserving these unique trees, planted a Garry oak in the church garden next to the giant stump of an ancient maple.

The six-year-old tree was a gift from Henderson, a retired architect and a member of the parish.

The similarity doesn’t end with longevity. The society’s motto is “to know nature and to keep nature worth knowing.” St Peter’s is “To know God the Father as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ…and to make Him known..”

Pandemic restrictions permitting, St. Peter’s will host a “Home-Coming Celebration” on Sept. 12 to celebrate its 130th anniversary for the hundreds of families throughout the Valley whose lives have been touched at some point by this sanctuary in the heart of the town.

The Garry oak was an important part of food production for Indigenous nations on Vancouver Island.

Their root systems nurture a fungal network in humus soils conducive to growing Camas lilies and native rhizomes that were cultivated by the Komox First Nation in the ancient Garry oaks meadowlands across the Comox Valley.

The Camas lily bulbs, along with the acorns from the Garry oaks, were harvested as a vital food source for thousands of years by the Southern Coastal Salish First Nations.

Intentional burning was practised to control invasive species so Garry oak forests flourished. But early British settlers did not understand the inter-species relationships and over time the island lost 90 per cent of its Garry oaks.

Today, and for decades to come, a Garry oak will grow in the garden of St Peter’s, a tribute to the resilience of the church and a token of the reconciliation being sought between Indigenous and settler peoples of this island.

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