Phillips Road Big Trees, Sooke

The tiny vehicle gives scale to this tall line of trees marching down Phillips Rd in Sooke.
The column consists of older Douglas fir and Sitka spruce.

Only eight years ago when I first moved to Sooke, upper Phillips Road (which runs along the west side of the Sooke River) was still like an entrance to the old forest. Here were some of the largest trees remaining within the municipal boundary.

At that time two massive Douglas fir elders stood on either side of the road creating a narrow bottle neck that I knew would need to go some day when development came farther up the road.

The centuries old trees were so close on either side of the pavement that they had large scars on their bark from multiple contacts with vehicles trying to squeeze through.

There has been development in this area since the earliest days of European settlement, but it was mostly limited to small farms along the Sooke River.

I was happy when these trees were spared during roadway upgrading in this developing area.
The empty field in the foreground is now a thriving community garden.
Now the Sunriver neighbourhood has added hundreds of new homes and the treescape has been dramatically and permanently altered. Eventually the two large trees guarding the entrance to the old forest on upper Phillips Rd. became impediments to development, and were taken down. The stumps were pulled and an upgraded roadway was put in.

Other spectacular trees survived the on-going transformation of this part of Sooke, including the tall row of trees across Phillips Rd. from the community garden. There are others to be found here and there along the Sooke River that runs along the eastern edge of this new neighbourhood.


Hemp Can Save Trees

It is unnecessary to cut ancient trees for pulp and paper when a crop of hemp
could produce four times as much fibre in a single season.


"Emily Carr: Deep Forest" At Vancouver Art Gallery

A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth, Emily Carr, 1932-35.

This weekend is a celebration of Emily Carr's 142nd birthday. The local artist was born in Victoria on December 13th, 1871.

Emily Carr was a friend of Vancouver Island's forests. Throughout her life she sought to plumb their mossy green depths to hopefully some day say she really knew this magnificent ecosystem.

Her paintings document her quest to learn as much from the Victoria area's big trees as she could, then depict that in her images.

“This perhaps is the way to find that thing I long for: go into the woods alone and look at the earth crowded in growth, new and old bursting from their strong roots hidden in the silent, live ground, each seed according to its own kind expanding, bursting, pushing its way upward towards the light and air, each one knowing what to do, each one demanding its own rights on the earth. Feel this growth, the surging upwards, this expansion, the pulsing life, all working with the same idea…life, life, life…”
From "Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr." 

Soon you will be able to experience Carr's vision in a new exhibit of her work. "Emily Carr: Deep Forest" at the Vancouver Art Gallery will exhibit over 40 paintings starting December 21, 2013.

Most of the paintings are scenes within 25 km of Carr's home near Victoria, and were completed in the 1930s.

Scorned as Timber Beloved of the Sky, Emily Carr, 1935.

After a trip to view the exhibit, one can get first hand exposure to some of the same forests that the artist enjoyed on the south island. While vastly altered, the green fuse still drives growth and the trees still pulse with life.

"I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton's relics are to the English. 
Only a few more years and they will be gone forever into silent nothingness and I would gather my collection together before they are forever past."

One can visit the forest here and be surrounded by the power of nature that so gripped Emily Carr. The natural power of trees that kept her mesmerized is still to be found.

But how long before a trip to the trees yields a vast "silent nothingness"?


Magical Mossy Maples

It's the season of the Moss in the Pacific rain forest

Rolling stones gather no moss, but trees sure do. Now is the best time to see the display of aerial gardens in the Pacific rain forest. These epiphytic plants  hang from the trunks and branches of trees in a display that may only be rivalled by the Fangorn Forest itself.

Especially cloaked in the temperate rain forest are the Big leaf maples.

The climate is mild enough that there are plants growing year round here. Some species thrive in the mild winter temperatures. Included in this category would be a wide variety of mosses and some ferns.

Moss-dripped trees are reminiscent of Tolkien's Fangorn Forest.

During summer droughts moss goes into stasis until relieved by fall rains. Then through the slide
toward the shortest day of the year the moss gains a robust, puffy green that is best enjoyed this time of year.

Big leaf maple also has an association with the epiphytic licorice fern.

The association between moss and the maple trees is mutually beneficial for both. Nature is expert at ensuring such win-win interactions between species.

The moss gets a scaffolding on which to grow and thrive. These "air plants" are able to absorb water and nutrients from the atmosphere, rain, and bits of forest debris. What does the tree derive from this symbiotic relationship?

The Big leaf maple has the ability to grow "canopy roots" from the tops of their branches up into the rafts of moss, thus gaining water and nutrients from them.

Just like in Tolkien's Middle Earth forest, there is magic at work in this world's Pacific rain forest.


And The Wind Said

"And the wind said,
May you be as strong as the Douglas fir,
yet as flexible as the cedar.
May you stand as tall as the Redwood,
live gracefully as the willow,
and may you always bear fruit
all your days on this Earth."