The biggest trees in Canada? Look in British Columbia

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The larger trees in Ontario are pale compared to the larger trees on the west coast of Canada.

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This does not mean that Ontario has small trees. Bragging rights for Ontario’s tallest, reaching 47 meters, go to a white pine in the town of Arnprior, just west of Ottawa.

Closer to home in Arkona, a willow weighs 7.32 meters in circumference or diameter, slightly thinner than a larger Nova Scotia willow.

In North York, a northern red oak believed to be around 300 years old is rooted at the center of a dispute with the city. In 2018, the owners agreed to sell the house and the land it sits on to the city so that everyone can enjoy the important tree. But the deal was not reached due to slow fundraising efforts. The owner now wants to renegotiate. This is understandable.

To see the tallest trees in Canada, you have to drive to Vancouver Island. The most visited tall trees are in Cathedral Grove, about an hour’s drive west of Nanaimo. A popular rest stop, Cathedral Grove has ample parking, short, well-traveled walking trails, and is wheelchair friendly. Trees, especially Douglas-fir, are estimated to be 800 years old.

Closer to vacation hotspots of Tofino and Ucluelet, the Ancient Cedar Loop and Giant Cedar Trail are home to western red cedars, eastern hemlock, Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce. Many have birth certificates nearly 1,000 years old, four meters or more in circumference, and nearly 100 meters high.

It’s no wonder Vancouver Island is home to the tallest trees in Canada. Cooler summers, warmer winters, and abundant and reliable rainfall create perfect growing conditions.

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The challenge facing Canada’s tallest trees is the wind. Tree lovers don’t need to remember the December 2006 windstorm that razed 14 hectares of forest in Vancouver’s precious Stanley Park. Where the wind didn’t knock the trees down, it cut many more in half.

Where size doesn’t matter, also on the west coast, near Ucluelet, are some of the smallest trees in Canada. The short, stroller-friendly Shorepine Bog Trail, part of Pacific Rim National Park, has swampy, spongy soil with unusually low pH or acidity levels. The trail is a boardwalk that floats above the bog, designed to protect the ecosystem below. The shore pines here, one of the few trees that can tolerate acidity, may be hundreds of years old, but only a few feet tall.


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