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Which tree is which in BC?!

British Columbia is famous for its awe-inspiring forests and biodiversity. In BC alone there are over 49 native species of trees! Our forests are part of highly diverse ecosystems and they play an important role in species diversity, nutrient cycles, carbon storage and various other ecological processes. For people they provide a space for fun and adventure, and there is a lot of research highlighting the benefit of nature for our emotional and physical wellbeing and spiritual values. They have important economic and cultural value and are intrinsic parts of Indigenous and other cultures.

Identifying which tree is which in BC's forests and their unique identifying features is not always obvious. Here is a guide to help recognize some of our beloved beauties, just a few of the endless varieties in these forest sanctuaries.

For more stats visit BC Tomorrow’s forestry blog, and for more information on BC’s Old Growth Forests visit Nature Trust BC.

Western Red Cedar can be identified by its reddish-brown bark that grows in long narrow strips that can easily be torn from the tree. The bark of this tree is interesting because it is resistant to moisture and decay (a useful factor in the damp forest climates). The leaves are flat and fan-like and overlap. When they are crushed they emit a strong cedar aroma. This tree is also known as The Tree of Life in regards to its importance in some Indigenous cultures and it can grow up to 60 meters high.

Yellow Cedar can be identified by its gray stringy bark and its dark bluish-green scaly leaves that form into a sharp point. They are four-sided rather than flat and when the leaves are crushed they can emit an unpleasant smell like mildew. The Yellow Cedar has many uses as it is durable and has great longevity. Like the Red Cedar it has natural extractives which make it decay resistant. In contrast to the Red Cedar it is a smaller tree and only grows up to 24 meters.

Douglas Fir can be identified by thick and deeply furrowed bark. Its needles are flat with a pointed tip but not prickly to the touch. The needles are bright yellowish-green with a single groove down the center and when they are crushed they exude a strong resinous aroma reminiscent of citrus fruit. The tree is one of the evergreen species in BC’s forest and can grow up to 85 meters on the coast.

Western Hemlock can be identified by reddish-brown bark and its flat and glossy needles that are soft and unequal in length. They are yellow to dark green on top with a whitish underbelly and when crushed they smell similar to grapefruit. Western Hemlock is special because it can grow in the shade and therefore provides an important source of food for local wildlife. When it is mature it can reach 30-50 meters.

Lodgepole Pine can be identified by its orangey-brown bark that forms in thin scales. Some even say that if the bark is chewed it can relieve a sore throat and has some medicinal properties. Its needles are yellow to green in color and grow in long sharp bundles. When crushed they emit a strong pine smell that can also be found in the sap of the trees. When mature it can grow to a height of 30 meters.

If you want to help protect local diversity you can find more information at CanadaHelps.Org.


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