Protecting and enhancing the natural values of Salt Spring Island and its surrounding waters


Rare Ecosystems

Rare Ecosystems2016-12-13T10:35:58+00:00

Rare Ecosystems of Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring is home to 34 rare ecosystems. A rare ecosystem is a designation given to a type of plant groupings. When certain plants grow close together, they foster different habitat for other rare species. Therefore these plant groupings are internationally recognized as special and worth protecting. This information booklet was put together by Ryan Batten for the Salt Spring Conservancy.

Photo by Ryan Batten

American Glasswort and Sea-milkwort

Estuary Marsh [Red-Listed] With the exception of eelgrass, this plant community occurs at the lowest elevation band in estuaries where there is tidal flooding. The only other plants tough enough to share this salty environment,

Lyngbye’s Sedge and Herbaceous Vegetation

Estuary Marsh [Red-Listed] This sedge dominated association grows where there are fluctuations in brackish water on tidal flats and channel margins. Lyngbye’s sedge often occurs in dense pure stands, although some sites have Pacific silverweed, seacoast

Seashore Saltgrass and Herbaceous Plants

Estuary Marsh [Blue-Listed] This rare estuary marshland is dominated by seashore saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) with few other plants tolerant of the salinity from frequent tidal floodings. It occurs on Salt Spring Island in shallow lagoons and

Dune Wildrye and Beach Pea

Beach [Red-Listed] Although this is one of the rarest plant associations found on Salt Spring Island (there is less than four hundred square meters), it is also one of the easiest to observe as it occurs

Macoun’s Meadow-foam and Montia

Vernal Pools & Seeps [Red-Listed] Coastal bluff and outcrop seepages form rare openings within our coastal Douglas-fir forests. When they are occupied by Macoun’s meadow-foam, montia, tiny mousetail, and various native clovers, they become even more

Wallace’s Selaginella and Reindeer Lichens

Rock Outcrop[Red-Listed] A sparsely vegetated community dominated by mosses and lichens, primarily maritime reindeer (Cladonia portentosa) and restricted to rock outcrops along the coast. It occurs on Salt Spring at Ruckle Park and upland sites

Roemer’s Fescue and Junegrass

Grassland [Red-Listed] This rare plant association first described from the Sooke Hills, consists of two native perennial bunchgrasses: Roemer’s fescue and junegrass. Other characteristic species of these hot, south-facing slopes include Lemmon’s needlegrass, short-stemmed sedge, death

Arbutus and Hairy Manzanita

Dry Broadleaf Forest [Red-Listed] This ridge-crest community is characterized by dense thickets of manzanita with scattered arbutus, lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir. Its tendency to occur at scenic viewpoints means it often has to compete with real estate

Garry Oak and Arbutus

Dry Broadleaf Forest [Red-Listed] Among the three Garry oak associations classified by the province, this one often occurs along the edges and ridges of oak stands along the transition to Douglas-fir forest. Excellent examples are found on

Garry Oak and California Brome

Dry Broadleaf Forest [Red-Listed] This rare oak community grows on slopes where there are typically deeper soils and the trees are able to reach impressive stature. California brome is found at some of these sites but the

Garry Oak and Oceanspray

Dry Broadleaf Forest [Red-Listed] Some of the best examples of this scrub oak community are found on Salt Spring Island at Mt. Maxwell. They form dense thickets in steep rocky gullies where there is almost no soil.

Douglas-fir and Arbutus

Dry Coniferous Forest [Red-Listed] Few other associations define where we live better than the mix of Douglas-fir and arbutus trees that fringe our coastline and upland slopes. The ratio of each species seems to depend on a combination

Douglas-fir and Dull Oregon-grape

Dry Coniferous Forest [Red-Listed] This Douglas-fir dominated community usually forms at upland sites when the forest canopy begins to shade out most of the salal that usually occupies the understory. Both grand fir and western hemlock are usually

Douglas-fir, Lodgepole Pine and Grey Rock-moss

Dry Coniferous Forest [Red-Listed] Like the arbutus and manzanita association with which it occurs, this community also favours ridge-crests and hilltops where there are expansive views. It’s rare on Salt Spring Island occurring mostly at the summits of

Douglas-fir, Western Hemlock and Salal

Dry Coniferous Forest [Blue-Listed] This densely forested community usually grows along middle slopes and represents the direction that most ecological succession in our area is moving towards. It occurs at many places on Salt Spring Island but there

Douglas-fir and Alaska Onion-grass

Dry Coniferous Forest [Red-Listed] An uncommon association that begins to form in open Douglas-fir forests, often in areas where there are Garry oaks nearby. Alaska oniongrass occurs in small patches in the openings along with long-stoloned sedge, occasional

Douglas-fir and Sword Fern

Dry Coniferous Forest [Blue-Listed] While salal dominates the understory in most Douglas-fir forests, on sites where there are more nutrients and moisture available, it becomes replaced with sword fern. Along the edges there may also be grand fir,

Grand Fir and Dull Oregon-grape

Mesic Coniferous Forest [Red-Listed] This rare forested community usually occurs in small patches on slopes where there are deep nutrient rich soils and has a mostly shaded understory often completely covered with dull Oregon-grape. Douglas-fir, cedar and western