Queen Elizabeth Park, a rolling forested hill reaching up to the highest point within city limits, is Vancouver’s second most visited park. With beautiful gardens, Vancouver’s only tropical conservatory, and diverse activities ranging from rockclimbing and ziplining to golf and baseball, it’s a great place to get outside. The park also contains a mature arboretum —a botanical collection of living trees— where you’ll find a mix of native and non-native tree species spread across much of the 52 ha park. With some mature specimens planted as early as the 1950‘s, the Park’s tall greenery catch your eye from a distance and the park is listed as a city heritage landscape. Many trees are labeled by species, which is uncommon in Vancouver parks, and provides opportunity to help you master local tree species id.
In April 2016, I surveyed the park to determine the size, species and location of notable trees. I first used Google Earth canopy filters to identify candidate tallest trees, then ground measured them with a hypsometer. The tallest trees are mostly our impressive native conifers, but there is one exceptional non-native identified below.
The tallest tree is a Douglas-fir along the north east slope of the park just above Midloathian Avenue at the intersection with Clancy Loranger Way. I identified this tree using a Google Earth Canopy Filter method at 47m tall (figure 1). However, my ground measure proved it is in fact higher at 49.5m — it’s the tallest tree I know within Vancouver City limits, outside of Stanley Park.
Other notable Douglas-firs are found on the parks forested north slopes. The most impressive is at the top and is easily visible over the quarry gardens. This tree is 47.7 m tall and 139cm dbh. Further below this tree is an open grassy corridor. From there, go East to see a beautiful Big leaf maple or west to a mature amabilis fir —a species native to the higher elevations along the north shore mountains, but that is uncommon in the city.
The third tallest tree in the park (and probably the largest overall) is, in fact, a non-native specimen, a wonderfully tall giant sequoia. Find this tree directly beside (on the south side) the parkway with a wide and tapering trunk 172cm thick. It’s 44.4 m tall. Just behind it there are 2 more giant sequoias, and if you look carefully (and you know what you are looking for) to the east is a nice specimen of its cousin the coast redwood. While many large diameter giant sequoias are around Vancouver, this one growing in dense forest appears among the tallest.
Other large trees include a group of black cottonwoods growing along Ontario St. near West 33rd. I estimate using Google Earth that the tallest of these is 38m. Black cottonwoods (Populus tichocarpa) are one of the tallest growing deciduous trees of North America, suggested by Carder (2005) to have once exceeded 65m in height, and this is one of the most convenient and impressive groves in Vancouver to get a sense of the species skyward growth.
Black cottonwoods can be remarkably large. We have this big one at Queen Elizabeth, one at Stanley Park above Lumberman’s Arch, and a few others around. Meanwhile, immense black cottonwoods can be found further up the Fraser Valley, such as the champion specimens listed on the BC Big Tree Registry.
I’ve really only begun to start scoping out the largest non-native tree varieties in Queen Elizabeth Park, or elsewhere. Below is a relatively large diameter yew. I’m not sure what species but if it’s a European yew then perhaps it will live for thousands of years like some incredible trees in Europe. I’d like to add that section in the future, so let me know if you have suggestions of notably large non-native specimens.
Carder, A. C. “Giant trees of western America and the world.” (2005).
Thanks to Flora Hugon for a fun date measure trees with me.