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The Pacific Northwest is home to a stunning array of tree species, both hardwood and softwood, and some of the biggest trees in the world.

A lot of the giants can be found here, did you know that we have the world’s largest crab apple tree? Not many people do. We also have the biggest yellow cedar (cypress) tree on earth – in the Big Tree Creek area of Sayward. Vancouver Island’s west coast’s Carmanah Walbran region boasts the world’s tallest Sitka spruce. Canada’s biggest red cedars grow in the Cheewhat Lake area, and the lands around Red Creek are home to the world’s largest douglas fir tree.

Yellow Cedar Tree, Vancouver Island, BC
Yellow Cedar Tree, Vancouver Island, BC., Photo By Bud Logan

I have seen some of these big trees and can tell you, that when you stand beside one of them, you know beyond a doubt that the world still has giants living in it.  When l was a boy, the coast was mostly covered by a splendid, vast rain forest of gigantic trees. Even though we have logged a large portion of this remarkable woodland, there are still large, thriving tracts of forest left.

We have a number of large, and impressive tracts of forest in the Pacific Northwest, the great bear rain forest is one of them and if we can keep the government of the day away, we might just be able to keep from being logged.

Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island has many big trees that can be accessed. My favorite entryway is by crossing Buttle Lake from the Auger Point day-use site. You’ll find the trailhead at the outflow of Philips Creek, that takes you up to Marble Meadows. About halfway up, you’ll come onto a very large bench of land – there are the giants! The trees here are at least 20 meters apart, yet the canopy is luxurious, leafy & thick. The undergrowth is surprisingly sparse as if you’ve stepped back in time to before man first walked here. I always enjoy this spot!

The Sayward Valley’s White River Park is another wonderful wilderness area, where elk, deer & black bears are commonly seen. There is some incredible fishing along the river that runs through it. There is a great trail that heads down to the river, and goes through some giant douglas firs, red cedars & spruce trees – a sight to behold!  Cathedral Grove forest, on the Port Alberni road, offers easier, and more direct access. With its many trails and beautiful trees, it’s a marvelous place to explore.

Harris Creek Spruce Tree, Vancouver Island, BC
Harris Creek Spruce Tree, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
If you are driving between Port Renfrew from Lake Cowichan, you must stop at the Harris Creek Spruce Tree. It’s not very often that one can find a tree of this size located within a few meters of a paved and easily accessed road.

This tree was leftover from logging that was done here in the late 1890s, it makes me wonder why this particular tree was left standing. There could be many reasons why perhaps it was just missed or maybe the loggers themselves left it out of respect, we may never know why, but we can rejoice in the fact that it is still here. This tree is over 80 meters tall and stands over all other trees in the area.

The Sitka spruce is a coastal tree, they can not be found further than 80 km from the ocean. They can grow right to the water’s edge as they can deal with and seem to relish in the salt spray. These spruce grow best in the lowlands along with the many inlets of the coast, it’s the weather here with the winter winds and the mists that make them grow so well.

Harris Creek Spruce Tree, Vancouver Island, BC
Harris Creek Spruce Tree, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
There is a fence built around this giant to protect its roots from human damage, please respect this. The trail is short, wheelchair accessible, and it takes you right to the creek where this old one is growing.

The trail is about 20 km east of Port Renfrew on the paved Harris Creek Main. It will be found on the right side of the road 8 km past Lizard Lake while heading toward Lake Cowichan and is marked by a small sign. This tree is one of our coastal wonders and should be seen if you are in the area.

Sequoia Tree, Vancouver Island, BC
Sequoia Tree, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
The giant Sequoia Tree is one of the world’s largest tree species. They have a fibrous, reddish-brown trunk that is much larger at the base and tapers to the top. When they are young, they have a conical shape to the branches that reach right to the base. When the trees get to be giants, they will have very thick trunks that have no branches for more than 3/4 of the height of the tree.

The Giant Sequoia Tree can reach up to 75 meters in height and diameters of more than 7 meters. These trees are quite rare and are one of the oldest trees on earth, they can live for upwards of 3200 years. They grow in the temperate forests of the pacific coast. There are many sequoia trees in the Pacific Northwest including the outer islands.

Red Cedar Tree, Vancouver Island, BC
Red Cedar Tree, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
The western red cedar is a large tree, up to 60 meters tall when mature, with long drooping branches and a trunk that often spreads out widely at the base. The needles are in 4 rows overlapping and arranged in flat sprays, looking like shingles.

The bark is brownish-grey and tearing off in long strips on mature trees. The cones are oval-shaped and 1 cm longs. These cedar trees have a very pleasant aroma.

It grows at low to mid-elevations along the pacific coast and all of Vancouver Island. The red cedar grows best in moist to wet soils, with lots of nutrients. It is tolerant of shade and can live for more than 1000 years. The red cedar frequently grows alongside western hemlock and douglas fir. On the north coast, it also grows with Amabile’s fir and spruces.

The western red cedar has great spiritual significance to the coastal people who used all parts of the tree. All parts of cedar are useful, I like the smell of them. You can place a few small branches in a box or drawer that is used to store clothing, and they will always smell fresh.

Giant Red Cedar, Vancouver Island, BC
Giant Red Cedar, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
The Salish people called the Cedar Long Life-Giver and referred to the tree as Mother.  The first people used the wood to build their longhouses, ocean-going canoes, for clothing,  baskets, rope, medicine and the list goes on.

Cedar bark is gathered by peeling it from trees, you can do a cut in the trunk and peel up,  strips can be as long as 10 meters.   Please only take a small strip from any tree, thus allowing the tree to continue to grow. The bark can be used to make clothing, baskets, ropes, and many other products.

First people used cedar as medicine to treat many illnesses.  Worked very well to treat rheumatism. The leaves were infused to make cough medicine, the infusing worked well as a treatment for tuberculosis and fevers.

Broad Leaf Maple, Vancouver Island, BC
Broad Leaf Maple, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan
Found along the western coast of British Columbia and on all of Vancouver Island, the broadleaf maple trees grow along with other trees such as douglas fir, western hemlock, red alder, black cottonwood, and western red cedar.

It is the largest and fastest-growing maple in western Canada. It grows up to 30 m in height. These trees can live to be 250 years old.

Clusters of flowers are arranged along a single, hairy, up to 15 cm long stem. The flowers appear before the leaves are fully formed. They are small, up to 10 mm across, and fragrant. The very large leaves are shiny and dark green in color. In the autumn, the leaves turn bright orange or yellow color. The seed case of this maple is covered with fine hair. Clusters of these little seed cases hang from the tree until early autumn when they reach maturity. The wings spread apart at a slight angle and are up to 40 mm in length. When they fall from the tree, they twirl like a helicopter and can land a long way from the tree.

Broad Leaf Maple Tree Leaf, Photo By Robert Logan
Broad Leaf Maple Tree Leaf, Photo By Robert Logan
The bark holds moisture well, and it is not unusual for the trunk of a mature broadleaf maple to become home to a community of mosses, ferns, and other plants along with insects, birds, and small animals.

This tree is important to British Columbia as the supply of hardwood is limited on the west coast. Wood is used in the production of musical instruments, furniture, paneling. It is light brown in color and moderately hard. They can be very majestic. They are very beautiful to see.

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2 thoughts on “Trees”

  1. Hi, I just thought I would mention that the image of a Broad Leafed Maple leaf by Robert Logan is actually a Devil’s Club leaf. Happy Hiking!

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