A new discovery this weekend! We have giant sequoia trees in Vancouver. Who knew! I’d love to say I happened upon it myself, but I have to admit I had some help. In a midst of a cleaning frenzy, I came across the book, 111 Places In Vancouver That You Must Not Miss by Dave Doroghy and Graeme Menzies. My husband and I needed a good rainy Sunday destination of interest, so off we went on a journey to discover #90 – The Secret Climbing Tree on the historic “botanical boulevard” close to Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue.
The book reveals the general vicinity of the tree, but not the exact location. I love this book! We have had lots of fun learning about many familiar and many, not at all familiar, destinations in the city we both grew up in. Both of us are very familiar with this particular intersection in Vancouver. However, for the first time, we noticed that not only are there lots of big trees, but not all of them are the huge fir trees and cedars that we expect in Vancouver.
Having spent the summer surrounded and newly interested in the trees by our family cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I paid close attention to the leaves, bark, and cones. I was amazed to discover that giant sequoia trees not only survive 7500 feet above sea level in an alpine climate, but also in the temperate rainforest of Vancouver, British Columbia. Giant sequoia and giant redwoods are both members of the Sequoia family, although there are similarities with cedar trees.
Sequoia trees can live up to 3,000 years. The biggest tree in the world is a Giant Sequoia named General Sherman, located not far from Fresno, California in the Sequoia National Forest. It is 84 metres (274 feet) tall and has a 31 metre (102 foot) circumference and weights 1.2 million kilograms (2.7 million pounds). It is estimated to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old. In 1944, Smokey the Bear became the poster child of fire suppression, the forest management strategy of choice. This fall, fire fighters were wrapping giant trees in aluminun foil in The Sequoia National Forest to save the massive trees from the lightning fire started on September 9th. Interestingly, fire suppression is a big threat to giant sequoias. Fire is required to remove the undergrowth, reduce competition from other trees, add nutrients to the soil and release the seeds from their cones. However, fires are becoming increasingly intense due to drought and climate change, which results in greater risk of destroying the species. Appropriate forest management strategies have become a very public debate.
The Secret Climbing tree in Vancouver is big, with a tree circumference of over 5 ½ metres (18 feet). It is one of Vancouver’s oldest trees. It is most easily identified by the reddish bark that shreds in your fingers, prickly leaves, and small cones shaped like small eggs, with diamond shapes. It lacks the rounded scale-like leaves of the cedar that look like they have been ironed flat. I was an adventurous child and love physical challenges. I have climbed spent lots of time outside and climbed many trees. As an educator, I have taught students to identify common trees as it pertained to the curriculum. Yet, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really closely observed and considered the trees around me. It is fascinating. It opens up another interesting world. It leads to other questions, not only about the trees, but also the stories about how they got here and how they factor into our lives. I highly recommend it. Who knows where it will take you.
Check out the article by Emma Hall and Clint Robertson, Out On A Limb For Heritage at heritagevancouver.org for more interesting trees to discover in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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