The oak woodland in south-end Halifax

“The Oaks” is the estate at the south end of Robie Street in Halifax. It  includes a historic house, lawns and gardens and the surrounding mostly red-oak woodland. It was occupied by Premier Robert Stanfield for a lengthy period; he was an avid gardener. In 1968 The Oaks was sold to St. Mary’s University.

Photos by Ann-Li Huestis of plants in the oak woodland in 1992. Click on image for a larger version.

An oak woodland bordering the rail cut extends from The Oaks estate to the south end of Beaufort Avenue (see map below). It’s a popular spot for NS Wild Flora folk to view Witch Hazel, Lady Slipper orchids, and Indian Pipe, amongst other species.

Recently I was forwarded a photo of a plant taken in the area by a NS Wild Flora member…did I know what it was?

I am not the best person to ask for random ID of plants, but in this case I knew the area and many of the plants quite intimately.

The plant was Pachysandra, a groundcover planted by Stanfield along with May Apple and Solomen’s Seal in a shaded area close to the house. That groundcover was so well placed that it remains intact today, with no care for over 50 years! (Unfortunately the tree-sized rhododendron that graced the area 25+ years ago has passed on.)

May apple in shade garden established by Robert Stanfield, likely in 1950s. Photo on June 7, 2017

The request reminded me of a descriptive study of the Oak Woodland and its interface with the lawns and gardens conducted by Ann-Li Huestis in 1992. It was part of a larger research project on organic horticulture that I was involved in at the time. It’s a wonderful description with photos that I am sure NS Wild Flora folks would appreciate so I have posted it here. View An Ecological Description of the Woodland Flora at “The Oaks”

Of course a lot has changed since 1993, but visitors to the area will recognize many of the features and plants that Ann-Li describes.

Last year I created an iNaturalist Project for this area: “Urban Oak Woodland Halifax NS” Any observation in the identified area that is submitted to iNaturalist will show up on this project. Currently there are 90 observations/48 species reported by 21 observers.

Oak Woodland Map on iNaturalist May 7, 2020
Click on image for larger version

So if/when you visit this woodland and see any species (at any stage at any time of year) that catches your eye, please share it on iNaturalist!

– David P

Tip of the hat to Paris whose interest in the area stimulated this post


SMU has some plans for the area…

Also view Halifax Peninsula Rail Corridor, “The Oaks” Woodland and Marlborough Woods …belong in the Halifax Green Network

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