Hollowed Cedars Often Still Living

This large, partially hollow cedar in Francis/King Park is still living
What do Pacific Rim National Park and Victoria area's Francis/King Regional Park have in common? Both are listed in Randy Stoltmann's Hiking Guide To The Big Trees of Southwest British Columbia. The Heritage Grove in Francis/King Park hosts some of the largest trees in the greater Victoria region. Mixed in among them, is a huge, hollowed out Western red-cedar.

Western red-cedar are long lived trees of the coastal forest that can grow to monumental proportions. Older cedars are prone to rotting in the center, a fact taken advantage of in the past by First Nation hunters looking for shelter in the forest. Sometimes fire was used to increase the hollow area.

Tree shows evidence of burning, possibly from a fire in the 1950s
Heartwood-dead, outer parts-living
(click image to enlarge)

The heartwood of a tree is composed of dead cells, and provides structural support. Although a hollow cedar may be more prone to falling, missing the center does not hinder the outer, living parts of the tree.

As long as the moss-covered living wood touches
the ground, this cedar can continue living

The hollow cedar here still has a coating of living bark and wood right down to the ground where roots spread out in all directions. This connection to the earth sustains the small still-growing crown at the top of the tree.

Sometimes old cedar trees with rotted heartwood can start on fire. One recent cedar fire near Sooke was deemed human caused, and probably smoldered for days before being noticed by a worker that heard crackling and smelled smoke.

Large hollow cedar fire near Sooke is extinguished by a firefighter.
Benjamin Yong photo

The hollow cedar has a living canopy high above
Western red-cedars are special trees in the coastal rain forest, and for me they most represent the watery environments they like to grow in. Their branches, bark, and roots all seem to reflect water in the wavy ways that they grow.

You can see the elements of the forest flowing through these amazing trees, considered sacred by many. Living up to thousands of years in exceptional cases, these trees are true survivors.

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