Point Ellice Shoreline Restoration: Invasive jungle to urban paradise

Tucked away on Pleasant Street between Jutland and Rock Bay, wedged between necessary but unpleasant composting and steel recycling facilities, Point Ellice House sits quietly as a reminder of an earlier era. Satellite views show lots of green in an otherwise industrial area. Unfortunately, much of that green is (or was) ivy and other invasive plants.

View Larger Map

Point Ellice House is the oldest intact Victorian Style heritage home in Victoria. Starting in the 1860s, Magistrate and Gold Commissioner Peter O’Reilly hosted many of Victoria’s elite in the house’s welcoming interior and beautiful gardens. After the last surviving family member donated the property, restoration began on the house, followed more recently by restoration of the gardens, including the “wild garden” next to Gorge Waterway. The site is blessed with numerous large arbutus trees that are impressive not only for their size but their magnificent growth forms as well. They range in appearance from a perfectly shaped, very tall specimen, to one that is huge but half of its length is lying on the ground and is twisted in a way that defies imagination.

With project management and support from Jodi Watson of the Gorge Waterway Initiative, a dedicated group of volunteers (including UVic Environmental Studies students and June Pretzer from the Restoration of Natural Systems program) have removed more than 10 tonnes of debris and invasive plants from the site, revealing numerous interesting specimens and unique native plants, including special varieties. They are also beginning to replant the exposed ground with native vegetation. The restoration has also become somewhat of an archeological excavation as historical artifacts are exposed.

Victorians who offer to help with restoration projects are familiar with the “ivy pull”, in which invasive English ivy is aggressively removed from trees and the ground. There was plenty of ivy at Point Ellice, including some vines with stems as thick as tree trunks. However Jodi reports that periwinkle (AKA Vinca major or minor–see photos below), was more tenacious and keeps resurfacing. It’s one of those plants that seems innocuous enough. Some people think it’s okay to plant it in a confined area (for example, surrounded by concrete walkways and the foundation of a house); however, we have to rethink that after hearing about how difficult it is to remove if it escapes. It spreads both by roots, creating massive mats of rhizomes, and runners above ground–i.e., spreading and rooting. No doubt its pretty blue flowers create seeds that are also spread by the omnipresent winds of Victoria. In fact, we’ve spent years trying to remove a small patch from our garden, only to find that we seem to be encouraging it.

So before buying some ivy or periwinkle at the Garden Centre, think about where it might end up, possibly somewhere in one of Victoria’s rapidly disappearing natural places and consider a native plant instead, or at least something less invasive.

For more information about the Gorge Waterway, see the Capital Regional District’s site. By the way, you can also have afternoon tea at Point Ellice House.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.