2/02/2012

Saving An Ancient Crofton Arbutus

Can this ancient Crofton Arbutus get some much-deserved lovin'?
I always answer emails regarding VIBT with hope, anticipating information and photos of big trees around Vancouver Island. I was not disappointed when I opened an email sent by a tree enthusiast from Crofton, 75km (45 miles) up the east coast from Victoria.

Inside was a message from Charronne, who expressed concern for the well being of this massive, ancient Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) growing on the coast by the Crofton ferry terminal. Along with the information were several photos highlighting the beauty of this imperilled tree literally living on the edge.

Beautiful branching pattern
How long has this unique tree battled the ocean in this exposed location? How much longer can it hang in there? And how can it be protected from the pavement and development that now surrounds it?

Hoping that we may elicit a response from the tree community, Charronne agreed to letting me share the email, as well as the attached photos of this amazing Vancouver Island big tree.

"I am writing from Crofton.
There is a massive arbutus tree by the waterfront here. Unlike the usual bent and twisted trunks, this old tree looks more like an oak or maple tree that might be found on some of the great British estates. 
I have never seen an arbutus with such thick trunk and compact form. It is possible that the 2 trunks might have been separate trees at one point, and have since grown together, or it could have been one that split when it was young. Even the bark is a little different in appearance from the average.

It would be wonderful to find someone who could estimate an age for this tree.

I also frequently wonder if this is what all arbutus trees may have looked like before logging changed the forest growth patterns.

My immediate concern is that it hangs at the edge of the embankment to the waterfront by the boat launch and ferry terminal in Crofton, with roots now protruding into the air on one side. Heavy rains, and storm surges at high tide, could in a few years undercut the tree and topple it. People picking at the bark doesn't help either."

Arbutus trees only live in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone, the smallest of 14 eco-zones in BC. They are found in low elevations along southeastern Vancouver Island, from Bowser to the Victoria area, the Gulf Islands south of Cortes Island, and a narrow strip along the Sunshine Coast near Halfmoon Bay. Like the Crofton Arbutus shown here, all Arbutus are in danger.


Arbutus are delicately rooted trees that do not endure disturbance well. In addition to development, Arbutus are endangered by fire protection strategies (usually fire keeps Douglas-fir from taking over the rocky, coastal exposures where Arbutus like to grow), and attack by fungi (Arbutus is host to more than 21 varieties of fungi, and usually larger, older trees are most susceptible to infection).

If you are able to help age the Crofton Arbutus (they can live up to 500 years), or if you have any information that would help protect this beautiful heritage tree, please contact us (info on the side bar).

Tree enthusiasts everywhere would be grateful. Thanks to Charronne for bringing this beautiful tree to our attention, and for the great photographs.

I need your help!

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