Did you know that 40% of the land in the District of Mission is part of the community forest Tree Farm Licence 26? That’s a lot of trees, but do you know what kinds of trees make up the community forest? This week we will show you how to see the forest for the trees, in other words, if a tree falls in the forest – what kind was it?
Our climate supports a variety of species of trees. With our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Mission is located in coastal temperate rainforest, experiencing 186 days of rain or 176cm annually. This rainfall and generally mild climate allows many trees to thrive.
The most predominant species you will find in the forest and around our neighbourhoods is the western hemlock. Hemlock can grow up to 60m tall and has short flat needles that are of random lengths. They can grow and thrive in the shade, and produce small cones in abundance. They are easily identified by their noticeably drooping top or leader. Mountain hemlock is found in the subalpine, is shorter but similar looking to western hemlock. They are prone to dwarf mistletoe disease and are generally not long living.
Douglas-fir is a easily recognized by its long even length needles and its top leader is usually stiff and upright, with each branch having a pointed bud at its end at the end of the growing season. These trees grow up to 70m tall and can live for hundreds of years. Douglas-fir will grow best on warm open sites and does not tolerate shade, so typically regenerates after fires or clearcut logging. It develops a very thick bark which protects it from surface fires. Its cones are large and have three-fork papery scales surrounding it.
Western red cedar are found throughout Mission. Rather than needles, they have flat scale like leaves that overlap each other like shingles that look like a flat braid. Branches spread and droop and then turn upward at the ends like a “J”. The bark is flat and stringy and peels in long strips. As well, the cones are very small. Yellow cedar is similar, but grows less abundantly in our higher elevations on wetter sites.
Other evergreen species that scatter our forests less abundantly are sitka spruce, amabalis fir, grand fir, subalpine fir, western white pine, and even pacific yew. Go for a hike in the community forest and see how many species you are able to identify!
Left to Right: Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar