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A gardener’s adage  is “right plant, right place” to ensure that plantings remain and thrive with the right amount of light, exposure and water. One of the more surprising Vancouver trees that survived for ninety years in Kerrisdale was a sequoia that somehow was planted in the 1930’s in the 2300 block of West 41st Avenue. Over the years development on the block was setback in order for the tree to flourish, which it did for many years.

Giant sequoias live in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State  and can grow to nine meters in diameter, and 76 meters high. The biggest Sequoia is known as General Sherman. It stands  a towering 84 meters tall with a 31 meter girth. It is the largest tree on earth by volume.

When the building occupied by Bill Chow Jewellers located at 2241 West 41st Avenue was constructed,  there was some allowance for increase building height due to the positioning of the sequoia.  I could not find the decades old City of Vancouver document which would have referenced that.

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Over the decades there have been all  kinds of efforts to maintain this tree, and in the final years it had care by an arborist. Sadly the tree became very stressed at its concreted over  location and  it was taken down in 2019. The huge trunk was carted away by flatbed truck to be milled for eventual reuse as benches in the Arbutus Greenway.

It was intended that the students at Magee Secondary would be making the benches this year, but that would have been delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

As Terry Clark with the Kerrisdale Business Association statedWe intend to affix a modest plaque on the benches to give reference to this once woody sentinel that was at the village’s heart for 90 or more years. It seemed appropriate to me that its heart would remained with the community that was heartbroken at its demise.”

In the interim, the wall behind the tree’s stump has been turned into a blackboard for chalked positive affirmations in the face of the Covid crisis.

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And there is news for sequoias too~with climate change, there has been a rethink of what to replace native tree forests with,  when faced with demise by pests (like the mountain pine beetle) or by fire.

In the YouTube video below forester Dirk Brinkman who has been planting trees for four decades  sees the sequoia as a new replacement tree in forests. Sequoias have not naturally lived in British Columbia for 10,000 years, but with climate change, this giant of the pre-glacial forest may be due for an emergence as a replanted species, replacing forest trees that can no longer survive with warmer, more temperate weather.

 

Images: dailyhive, sandyjames

Comments

  1. The final death toll for the sequoia came in 2018 when the tree was surrounded by a plastic-wood decking material, which did not allow any water to reach the ground. It was a sad ending for a beautiful tree.

  2. I planted a Giant Sequoia four years ago at my place in Shawnigan Lake, and it’s doing extremely well. OTOH we’ve lost two large cedars and one large Douglas Fir in recent years – just too dry. I’ve noted similar experiences in the vicinity – thriving Sequoias and stressed cedars.

  3. I’m sure its immediate environment played a role – just how big could it get there? But I’ve noticed an awful lot of dead and dying trees in the years following those drought summers we had a while back. A lot died off immediately but many more over the following few years after too much stress.

    Climate change? We’ve lost a lot more to wildfires as well. I hope there’s still time to turn this ship around.

  4. Wondering why the impervious pavement wasn’t replaced with a permeable surface that would be compatible with and sustain that magnificent tree?

    Perhaps Kerrisdale can find a place to book plant a successor…

  5. Stressed? Drought? I agree maybe somebody should have watered the tree. Ninety years is not a long life for a tree that lives for 3,000 years. Big commitment taking care of trees, big water bill too. No sign of rot in the trunk along the chainsaw cut that brought it down. Cut a life short, I say.

    It is hard for a human to imagine living for 3,000 years, hard for a human to understand what it is like to be a tree in its’ biome world with its’ history written in annual layers wrapping its’ ever expanding girth. Hard to appreciate the multitude of beings that found refuge in its’ branches and inside its’ bark coat and called it home, or stopped under its canopy on a rainy day (mostly humans and dogs).

    It’s gone. It’s a shock. Another institutional death. Emblematic of our general failure to appreciate the natural world that we are rapidly destroying. Benches? Really?

  6. Of course this tree was stressed. It was the wrong species for the urban environment, and was subjected to an inadequate development approach at its periphery. There was little thought given to the requirements of the root area, the primary criteria being space and depth. The best solution would have been to create a park around the tree decades ago, because it truly is a giant parkland species wholly inappropriate for tight streets.

    Inappropriate tree species and maintenance practices is an ongoing problem. The legacy will be the removal of too-large trees in tight urban sites in future, especially boulevard strips. Lifting sidewalks and broken curbs and retaining walls are everywhere. There is a 1.5 metre diameter Platanus in the boulevard just outside of my house and late one Friday night its roots plugged the ancient city sewer under the road. City Engineering earned their pay that evening and unblocked the line within 10 minutes with a mean-looking root eater attachment to their roto rooter. Eighty years ago the tree was likely misidentified as a maple (similar leaves) and was planted with hundreds of maples, the occasional plane towering above all the other trees.

    Urban trees should be planned early, along with the zoning. Small and medium-sized trees with special attention to the root zones are most able to adapt to imposed urban pressures and spaces. Most trees will take drought (dropping leaves early is a protective response during stress), but compounding that is the typical planting plan that does not allow for optimum and healthy soil conditions. A 1.2 m x 1.2 m continuous trench in a boulevard filled with quality growing medium, subsurface deep root vault structures, and in some cases structural soil (organic soil with uniform diameter broken rock to allow compaction and root growth in the spaces between the rocks) are the second best current practices for urban forest health. They afford a continuous underground volume of growing medium for the conjoined root masses and often have watering ports. Temporary automated irrigation is another important step tp assist in establishment. Vaulting is made from recycled plastic and can take the weight of paving and vehicles over top, making them ideal for plazas, downtown sidewalks and parking lots.

    The best practice is to plant trees in parks (especially large trees) while ensuring good soil health.

    Dirk Brinkman brought up the fascinating idea to use Sequoia and larch as replacements for the devastated pines in the Interior. I would add that the native Sequoiadendron sempervirens (Coast Redwood) of California is dying out due to climate change and could be planted as part of a refuge in coastal BC. Most of the varieties currently planted here are giganteum and are pretty ubiquitous as ornamental trees.

    In addition, any silvicultural effort to mitigate climate change MUST include a change in our provincial forestry management structure that has resulted in too many cases of extinction logging. Community forest trusts run by local municipalities with beefy Forestry Departments would be a good model to test, according to foresters like Ray Travers.

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