Pagoda Honours Contributions Of The Mighty Douglas-fir

Big Tree Pagoda in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria
We may have descended from the trees millions of years ago, but we still go to bed every night in homes built out of trees. In every way, shape, and form trees make our lives possible. Wood can be used to meet an amazing variety of human needs.

I thought of this while strolling around Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill park and coming upon what I call the Big Tree Pagoda. It has been fashioned from a large Douglas-fir log set on end, and has cedar shake roof providing shelter for the circular bench below.

Douglas-fir pillar surrounded by a place to sit

Douglas-fir has been the premier tree since logging first began on Vancouver Island in the 1800s. It grows straight and tall, and is one of the fastest growing trees in the coastal forest.

On older trees, there are no branches for a major portion of the lower trunk. This makes for a great volume of straight, strong, knot-free lumber. More lumber than any other tree in North America.

The dense wood is hard, stiff and durable. It has traditionally been available in large dimensions, making it useful for large structural projects. Besides shady pagodas, it has been used for a huge range of purposes, including pilings for piers, train trestles and bridges, ships masts, and framing.

Logs and finished products have been shipped around the world from the coastal forest for 150 years. San Francisco's piers were built (more than once due to fire) with BC Douglas-fir pilings.

Today, the large 125-plus meter (410 ft) trees, rather than being common, are increasingly difficult to find. Over 90% of coastal Douglas-fir forests have been logged, and in places the big trees continue to fall.

New research suggests these trees could have grown to a mind-numbing, dizzying height of between 130 m (430 ft) and 145 m (476 ft).

Douglas-fir - beautiful tree, beautiful wood

The mighty Douglas-fir, a tree that has contributed so much, has qualities that doomed the species - it was too useful, not to mention profitable. What could have been an endless source of good wood has been squandered for ignorance and short term gain.
Ancient Douglas-fir giants, and old growth forests are almost extinct.

We should see them and save them while we can.

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