|Francis/King's Grand Fir Trail on a winter day|
The genus Abies includes 48 or more species of firs. Grand fir are the tallest species, and some of the loftiest can be found on Vancouver Island. Historically these trees grew to 90 meters (295 ft) (Tudge, 2006), with trunks up to 2-4 meters (6-12 ft) in diameter. They are the shortest-lived of all the conifers in the coastal rain forest, living for 'only' about 250 years, and up to 500 years in extreme cases.
What the Grand fir lacks in longevity it makes up for in rapid growth. In some settings, such as open areas along rivers, it is the fastest growing tree in the forest (1.2m/4ft per yr). Grand fir like all the other firs, grows in a classic conic 'Christmas tree' shape. They have thin, grey plate-like bark when older, and are climax trees in the forest.
|Grand fir in the Upper Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve|
|Grand fir foilage smells like|
citrus when crushed
Although none of the Abies grandis along Francis/King Park's Grand Fir Trail are record breakers, there are still some impressive neck-straining specimens.
A route along this beautiful, fern-covered hike takes the tree enthusiast through a rain forest setting that feels far from civilization. It is green and grey, rainy and dripping, misty and wonderful. This is a special zone that contains some of the biggest trees in the region.
The best way to start the hike is to carefully cross Munn Road and descend into the impressive Heritage Grove. Here there are 500 year old massive Douglas-firs, one that tops 75 meters (245 ft), and another with an arm-stretching 9.5 meter (31 ft) circumference.
|Ancient Douglas-fir along the trail with debris pile building up around it|
Watch for the grey-barked Grand fir trees as you hike. They are mostly smaller than the larger Douglas-fir that they share the forest with, although a couple are massive. Douglas-fir bark is much more deeply furrowed, and is darker in colour.
Along with the old growth trees you will also experience the variety of life that is part of this forest ecosystem. Here you can discover Pacific tree frogs, Garter snakes, Great Horned Owls, Steller's Jays and Winter Wrens, as well as plants such as Shooting star and White fawn lily, Indian plum, Oregon grape, and Salal. Other trees in this forest include Big leaf maple, Garry oak, Arbutus, Red alder, and Western red-cedar.
|This Grand fir in Francis/King Regional Park is, well, rather grand|
To get to Francis/King Park follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the Helmcken Road exit. Turn left on Burnside Road West, then right on Prospect Lake Road. Turn left on Munn Road, which leads to the park entrance on the right. Allow approximately 20 minutes driving time from Victoria.
The park has parking, wheelchair accessible Elsie King Trail, toilets, Nature House, picnic tables, and giant trees. Enjoy.
|There is plenty of hiking to do in the park - Heritage Grove has the biggest Douglas-fir|
while Grand Fir Trail passes by some of the tallest, largest Grand Fir.