|Giant roots holding an old growth Douglas-fir as it slumps|
into the sea on Billings Spit, Sooke Harbour
The misty coastal forest is the place to see monumental trees. As awesome as these giants are, we are only seeing 3/4 of the total tree, and even less of the total forest life. There is a lot going on under our feet as our gaze is lifted skyward.
Roots can compose 25% or more of the total biomass of a tree. Scientists have found that up to 66% of a Douglas-fir forest's total biomass is out of sight underground.
|Trees on Port Renfrew beach showing root remnants|
Early settlers on Vancouver Island used bonfires and dynamite to extract the massive stumps and roots when clearing the big trees of the primal forest.
"Well into the 20th century 'stumping powder' (low-grade dynamite) was used to blow a stump apart, so that the fragments could be removed more easily. Someone wishing to remove a stump tunneled under it, inserted enough powder to break it apart (preferably without damaging the arable soil), lit a fuse and got out of the way. If the detonation didn't come, it was best to avoid the area for a day or so, as many a stump-wrangler lost life or limb to a belated blast." - source
|This Western red cedar's roots look a lot like octopus tentacles|
|Tree roots exposed by the flowing waters of Sooke River|
Roots are fragile structures that can't handle rough treatment. Soil compaction restricts water and oxygen uptake, and can be caused by heavy foot traffic over the tree's root zone. It is best to avoid, if possible, walking or driving over a tree's roots.
|Small protective fence surrounding the Harris Creek Spruce, Port Renfrew|
|Heaven Tree boardwalk, Carmanah/Walbran Park|
Next time you are out in the forest, pause to consider all the activity that is occurring under your feet. Notice the places roots make their presence known, such as along hiking trails through the forest, and in areas that have been eroded, leaving roots exposed.
The 'feet' of the giants can be as fascinating as their more glamorous and obvious parts.