Identify Trees


The information found on the Tree Identification page is from the government of British Columbia publication called the Tree Book: Learning to Recognize Trees of British Columbia. This book states that there are about 40 trees native to the province.

However, the  Electronic Atlas of The Flora of British Columbia states: "there are more than fifty species of native trees, and several subspecies and varieties, found in British Columbia. In addition, there are several naturalized species (cultivated species that are spreading in the wild)."

Of the 50+ species of native trees that grow in BC, 40 are listed in the Tree Book. Of those 40, about half grow on Vancouver Island.

The biggest tree species is Western red cedar, followed by Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce. Sizeable Grand fir, Bigleaf maple, and Garry oak can be found on the island.

The Tree Book is an excellent free resource that contains interesting, basic tree information:

"For each tree, you will find key identifying features such as bark, fruit or cones, and needles or leaves, along with photographs and descriptions. Be sure to check the distribution map to find out if the tree grows in your area. 
The Biogeoclimatic map of British Columbia provides more information and maps for specific zones. 
There is also information on the kind of environment in which each tree species likes to grow, the other trees and plants that usually grow with it, and some of the animals that consider it part of their habitat. 
We have provided some information about present and past uses for each tree. At the end of the book, you will find some naturalists' notes to help you answer questions such as, What is an Ecosystem? Why do trees grow where they do? and Do ecosystems always stay the same?"

The Tree Book is available online and for download on the website found here.

I have included a few of the main tree species from the Tree Book that grow in the forests of Vancouver Island. Trees species are listed alphabetically by common names.

Note: click on the pages below to see a larger version.

  • Amabalis fir
  • Arbutus
  • Black Cottonwood
  • Douglas-fir
  • Mountain hemlock
  • Sitka spruce
  • Western hemlock
  • Western red-cedar

Amabalis fir


Black Cottonwood

Douglas fir

Mountain hemlock

Sitka spruce

Western hemlock

Wester red cedar


  1. Anonymous27/3/16

    Hi. I saw a few evergreen trees in Francis King Park this Saturday that were tall, slender but had widely curving or coiling branches, almost as if the branches were coming alive and wrapping around the trunk (the stuff of kids' nightmares!). Any idea what these trees are? I have photos I can send you if helpful.

    1. Red cedar often grow branches as you described.

  2. hello. There are some massive evergreens in Goldstream Campground that looked to me more like Spruce than Douglas Fir. The bark was scalier, and the trunks flared at the base. I went to my library to look for a book that identifies trees by their trunks but was not lucky.. any suggestions? thx

    1. Were the branches resembling Spruce? Or perhaps Cedar?

  3. Sounds like western hemlock

  4. Do white birch trees grow in victoria and where can they be found...

    1. White birch are water-loving trees. Since Victoria has such dry summers, these trees don't grow here. They grow in the Vancouver area, and much of BC.

  5. Our neighbour hacked down a beautiful red cedar... it is early September. If I gather a cone or two...could I grow a new tree? Would it be best to winter the cone in my fridge...leave it in nature so it could somehow get pollinated? or what? I'd really love to have a new one grow .thankyou.

    1. I have never grown a cedar tree from seed. If I did, I would try just planting it in some soil, keeping it moist, and seeing what happens. Good luck.

  6. Where can I find a mainly Hemlock Forest on Southern Vancouver Island?

    1. You can find hemlock forests on the west coast of Vancouver Island at low to middle elevations. Other trees associated with hemlock are western red cedar, sitka spruce, and big leaf maple.

      As far as I know, large pure stands of Hemlock are not that common, even though they are the dominant tree in this zone.

      On the south island I would go to the French Beach/China Beach area, Juan de Fuca Trail, and Port Renfrew.

  7. I want to convert our 2 acre hay field to a mixed forest -- maple, fir, alder, maybe a few arbutus and garry oak. Any pointers?

    1. That sounds like an awesome project. How you would go about it depends a lot on where your 2 acres is, and what its exposure is like. Without knowing details, it is hard to say the best way to proceed.

      You might try calling a local arborist, or someone is forestry. Good luck with your new forest.

  8. Are there any hardwood burls in British Columbia

  9. Anonymous10/4/20

    16 at last count


Leave a comment - no trees are harmed in doing so! Comments moderated for spam.

Related Posts

Related Posts with Thumbnails