Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Nesika Decks the Halls with Oregon Grape

A group photo of a grade school class with their wreaths.
Madame Vachon’s class created invasive-free holiday décor with plants found in the Cariboo.

Published December 22, 2021

Deck the halls with Oregon Grape, fa la la la la la la. Students learned a new version of this popular carol while creating invasive-free holiday décor at École Nesika Elementary.

English holly (Hedera helix), the plant the song is written about, is actually invasive in BC. While its evergreen leaves and bright red berries look festive and have traditionally been part of holiday arrangements, holly can quickly and easily take over natural spaces. Plus, its berries are poisonous to people and pets.

Instead of including holly and other invasives in holiday décor, Nesika students made their own festive accessories using plants native to the area. The Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) brought in boughs of cedar, juniper, fir, spruce, pine and other decorative native species. After learning about invasives, students used the plants native to the area to make centerpieces and holiday trimmings to take home.

“I knew the students would make beautiful decorations, but they were beyond my expectations. Everyone thought that it was so neat they could use plants from the environment to make holiday items for their loved ones” says Camille Sangarapillai, ISCBC Outreach Coordinator.

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) was one of the native plants students used. It’s a great alternative to invasive holly because it looks similar but won’t harm the environment. Students quickly learned a new version to ‘Deck the Halls’ replacing holly by singing about the native plants they were using.

“They were interested in the different textures, colours and even smells of all the plants.  Teachers are doing a fantastic job fostering their students’ interest in their natural environment.”

This activity was possible through funding from the Cariboo Regional District dedicated to invasive species education and outreach.

Interested in how can you avoid invasives during the holiday season? Be Plantwise! Keep them out of the compost and dispose of invasive plant parts properly at your local transfer station. Learn more at

For media information, please contact:  

Jennie McCaffrey
Learning & Communications Director
Invasive Species Council of British Columbia 

About the Invasive Species of BC: ISCBC is dedicated to keeping our landscapes and communities free of invasive species. It provides a coordinated, province-wide approach to reducing the impact of invasive species in BC. The ISCBC unites efforts across the province and collaborates with a variety of partners to develop unique solutions for the wide variety of ecosystems across BC.