Descriptions of Gabriola's Tree Species

pic here Alder, Red; Alnus rubra

Red alder is a member of the Birch family. This relatively short lived tree is a pioneer species and often forms pure dense stands on disturbed soil. A casual observer may be forgiven for mistaking a stand of red alder with its light grey bark for birch. It is named for the red colour of its wood. The tree is able to extract nitrogen from the air due to bacteria which live in root nodules improving the surrounding soil for other plants.

 Arbutus; Arbutus menziesii

pic hereIn the Heath family, this broad-leafed evergreen has smooth papery red-orange bark, which peels off to reveal smooth greenish wood. Older trees develop hard brown bark near the base. In Canada, its distinctive profile is found only in BC and it is close to the northern limits of its range on Gabriola. Its presence is indicative of dry sites. It is frequently found in association with Douglas-fir and Garry oak.

pic here Aspen, Trembling; Populus tremuloides

This tall, fast growing deciduous tree has glossy green round leaves, dull beneath, becoming golden yellow in Fall. The bark is relatively smooth, colored greenish-white to gray, and is marked by thick black horizontal scars and prominent black knots. The species often propagates through its roots to form large groves based on a single rhizome. In early spring its flowers are catkins 4–6 centimetres long.

pic herepic here Cascara; Rhamnus purshiana

This member of the Buckthorn family is a small, attractive, shade tolerant tree whose laxative value was well known to early peoples as well as modern day medicine. The tree is easily recognized by the distinctive oval leaves which are prominently veined and up to 12 cm long.

pic hereCedar; Western Red; Thuja plicata   

Western redcedar is not a true cedar (Cedrus), but is in the Cypress family. It is one of the most important and beautiful trees on the island. However the species has been noticeably declining in recent years likely due to recent hot dry summers. This tree was basic to the culture and economy of the coastal First Nations, who used all parts of the tree.

Cedar, Yellow; Chamaecyparis nootkatensis

pic hereA medium-sized tree, up to 24 metres tall yellow cedar has a broad, grooved trunk that spreads out widely at the base. The crown is sharply cone-shaped, with branches that spread out and droop, and have small, loosely hanging branchlets. The fronds are less flat than the Western redcedar. Yellow cedar grows well on deep, slightly acidic, moist soil. It can be found in old-growth stands at low elevations, but is most commom at high elevations.

pic here pic hereCherry, Bitter; Prunus emarginata

This shrub or small tree is in the Rose family and often acts as a pioneer species on disturbed areas. It blooms early in the spring and provides a large crop of small bright red cherries whose bitter taste does not deter birds. Its bark is very distinctive, with hoirzontal "splits".

pic herepic here Cottonwood, Black; Populus trichocarpa

This deciduous tree is also sometimes called western balsam poplar or California poplar. It is the largest North American poplar. Its hard grey bark becomes deeply fissured in old trees. The leaves are 7–20 cm long with a glossy dark green upper side and glaucous light grey-green underside; larger leaves, up to 30 cm long, may be produced on stump sprouts and very vigorous young trees.

pic here pic hereCrabapple, Pacific; Malus fusca

This small tree (up to 12 metres), also called Western crab apple, is a member of the Rose family. It prefers moist areas. It has white or pinkish blossom flowers which are fragrant and produce small oval apples. The leaves often have distinctive irregular lobes, and colour nicely in the fall.

pic hereDogwood, Pacific; Cornus nauttallii

This attractive tree is in the Dogwood family. It is noticable in the spring with a show of white four petalled flowers. It is frequently affected with a virus which makes it difficult to grow in cultivated conditions.

pic hereDouglas-fir; Pseudotsuga menziesii

This tree is member of the Pine family and differs botanically from the true firs (Abies). Oddly the generic name means false hemlock. Growing up to 90 metres tall, it is an important member of one of our most threatened ecosystems—the Coastal Douglas-fir Forest Zone. It can live for a thousand years.

pic herepic here Fir, Grand; Abies grandis

The grand fir is in the Pine family. This stately tree with flat dark green needles is found growing in shady moist woods along with Western redcedar and Douglas-fir. It is often mistakenly called “Balsam” due to its close similarity to that species.


pic herepic hereHawthorne, Black; Crataegus douglasii

This small tree in the Rose family produces dark “little apples” loved by birds. It has formidable thorns ( up to 3 cm) which for early people had many uses ranging from fish hooks to tools for personal hygiene. (The more common cultivated European hawthorn has deeply lobed leaves.)

pic hereHemlock, Western; Tsuga heterophylla

This lovely tree (sometimes called Pacific Hemlock) is in the Pine family and reaches heights of 60 metres. It often has a characteristic drooping leader at the top of the tree. The yellow green needles have a feathery look and the seed cones are only about 2 cm long.


pic herepic hereJuniper, Rocky Mountain or Seaside;
Juniperus scopulorum or Juniperus maritima

Rocky Mountain Juniper is a species of juniper native to western North America. It grows at altitudes of 500–2,700 metres on dry soils, often together with other juniper species. Scopulorum means "of the mountains". A considerable number of young and old specimens previously included in J. scopulorumoccur grow close to sea level in the Puget Sound area near Anacortes and in southwestern British Columbia. These have recently been shown to be genetically distinct, and named as a new species: Juniperus maritima.

pic hereMaple, Bigleaf; Acer macrophyllum

This member of the Maple family is tall (up to 35 metres), grows rapidly, and can be as wide as it is high. It often appears on burned sites. The huge leaves turn yellow gold in the fall and make excellent compost. In Canada this maple is limited to southwestern BC.

Maple, Vine; Acer circinatum

pic hereVine maple is native from southwest BC to northern California, usually within 300km of the coast. It most commonly grows as a large shrub 5 to 8m tall, but it will occasionally form a small to medium-sized tree. It typically grows in the understory below much taller forest trees. Its leaves are smaller than the bigleaf maple and turn bright yellow to orange-red in fall.

pic herepic hereOak, Garry; Quercus garryana

A member of the Oak family, this is one of our most beautiful and important trees and is found mostly on the southeast part of Gabriola. The acorns were eaten by the early people after they soaked out the bitter tasting tannins. Grassy meadows often associated with this tree support stands of camas lilies also used as a food source by the Coast Salish people.

pic herePine, Shore; Pinus contorta

This member of the Pine family will reach 20 metres high. It is closely related to Lodgepole pine which is taller and straighter. The cones of the shore pine release the seeds upon maturity while seeds of Lodgepole often wait until fire opens the cones.

pic herePine, Western White; Pinus monticola

Also called silver pine and California mountian pine, the western white pine occurs in the mountains of the western United States and Canada. The tree extends down to sea level in many areas. It is large, regularly growing to 30–50 metres, often much higher. Its leaves ('needles') are in fascicles (bundles) of five, with a deciduous sheath. The needles are finely serrated, and 5–13cm long. The slender cones are 12-32 cm long and 3–4 centimetres broad (closed); the scales are thin and flexible.

pic hereWillow, Pacific; Salix lucida

Also called shining willow or whiplash willow, prefers wetland habitat. It is a deciduous large shrub or small tree growing to 4–11 m tall. The shoots are greenish-brown to grey-brown. The leaves are narrow(4–17 cm long and 1-3.5 cm broad), glossy dark green above, usually glaucous green below, hairless or thinly hairy. The flowers are yellow catkins 1–9 cm long, produced in late spring after the leaves emerge.

pic hereWillow, Scouler's; Salix scouleriana

This member of the willow family grows into a medium sized tree. Leaves are distinctive with a broad spatulate top tapering to a narrow base. The hairy catkins (pussy willows) appear before the leaves. It is one of several willows native to Gabriola.

pic herepic hereYew, Western or Pacific; Taxus brevifolia

This small tree is a member of the Yew family. Instead of typical cones that you might expect to find, its seed is enclosed in a fleshy red berry-like fruit (aril) which is eaten by birds but is poisonous to people. A drug called Taxol was derived from the bark and needles, which gave concern that the species would be decimated, but now the drug can be manufactured in the laboratory.





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