By Anne Draper

Take time to walk the maze of pathways in Beacon Hill Park and you will discover Mayor's Grove. In 1917 this area was used by the 5th Regiment (Bantams) to billet troops who later saw action during WWI and is today a Garry Oak Meadow located south of Quadra on Southgate Street and Arbutus Way entrance. This area received its name during a 1927 convention of Western Mayors held in Victoria. Ten trees were planted and numbered, led by Miss Helen MacKenzie of Government House, who planted a Douglas fir that now towers over thirty some trees of diverse shapes and sizes including oak, maple, beech, copperbeach, ash, linden and a historic hawthorne. The latter is an ailing thorny tree planted by the "Right Honourable Winston L.S. Churchill on Sept. 6, 1929" bearing an engraved stone plaque plus a wooden post numbered 12. A tree that has transformed itself for over eighty seasons from grey to green and in spring bears rose pink flowers on its thorny old branches. A courageous tree that lives even though a botanist will tell you it is not a healthy tree. Hawthorne is a deciduous member of the rose family. The common name for hawthorne comes from haw, which is an old English word for "hedge" and simply means "thorny hedge." After the British General Enclosures Act of 1845, hawthorne was used for "hedgerow" because of its thorny nature and quick growth angering peasants who could no longer enter the lands they previously roamed at will. The hawthorne is native to the Mediterranean region including North Africa and Central Asia and now grows in many areas of North America. It is a tree that changes rapidly due to hybridizing, which causes it to appear in more than a thousand different species. Diseases similar to attackers of roses with many unique pests that attack onlyroses affect the hawthorne. A hawthorne contains chemical compounds: sedative, anti-spasmodic, and diuretic and can be used with caution to treat high blood pressure. Flowers, leaf buds and seeds are edible. The wood is fine-grained and works well for delicate carvings and inlays with rootwood finer. The hawthorne is very evident in Britain as a "hedgerow fence" to keep cattle in and people out of private properties.

Winston Churchill on his first and only visit to Victoria where he spent three days and two nights arriving aboard the Canadian Pacific Railway Ship, Princess Marguerite, on the last stop in a month- long speaking tour of Canada, addressed 800 people at the Canadian Pacific Empress Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Canadian Club of Victoria branch of the National Council of Education. He was given a "tumultuous reception" that visibly moved him when the crowd sang "Rule Britannia" and "O Canada" when the meeting began. On Friday afternoon, September 6, 1929, after visiting Christ Church Cathedral on Quadra and Rockland, the Churchill party (son Randolph and brother Jack) drove a few blocks south on Quadra to Southgate and Arbutus Way where he planted a now "historic hawthorne tree." Upon his departure Churchill spoke to a cheering crowd, "Your green leaves and sturdy oaks and hearts as British as the oaks all remind me of the Mother Country." An annual gathering has been held in January the closest Sunday to Churchill's death in 1965 since Les Leyne (Times Colonist) began the tradition in 1999, together with The Winston Churchill Society of Vancouver Island volunteers devoted to ensuring the inspiration of this great statesman will motivate even greater leadership in the future. Members are currently in discussions with City of Victoria parks staff regarding the possibility of planting another commemorative tree near the original ailing hawthorne on the anniversary of its September 6, 1929, date. Will it be a young seedling planted by a Churchill descendant? Stay tuned! Contact for more information: The Churchill Foundation Vancouver Island 3943 Quadra St., PO Box 30125 RPO Reynolds, Victoria, BC V8X 5E1 (who focus on scholarships and trees) or email Churchill Victoria.com and cfvi@shaw.ca. Thanks to Mayo McDonough executive director Churchill Foundation Vancouver Island and Brooke Stark City of Victoria, arborist manager and staff for their contribution.

Trees are important to our existence. We know they produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide which helps to remove dangerous chemicals from the air, land and water. Leaves work to collect dust and other microscopic matter from the air, reducing levels of particulate matter that can damage our lungs. Trees help keep our waterways clean by stabilizing the soil and slowing water run-off. Trees are also good at removing toxic heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil, keeping dangerous elements from entering layers of rock deep underground. Without trees the world would be a much dirtier place. There are reasons to plant a tree in your community!