Yakoun River spruce is the biggest in BC

  • Sep. 16, 2009 12:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-A gigantic Sitka spruce near the Yakoun River has tied with a Vancouver Island spruce to take the title of the largest of that species in the province. The tree measures 13.6 metres (45 feet) in circumference or 4.3 metres in diameter (14 feet). It is 68.7 metres high and has an average crown spread of 21 metres. As per the Forest Service’s Big Tree Registry, which uses a point system to bring all the dimensions together, the tree earns 778 points, exactly the same as the existing champion. Mike Carlson, a tree geneticist with the Forest Service, was on vacation on the islands this summer and went looking for the big spruce after reading about it in Northword Magazine three years ago. He’s been coming to the islands every summer for the last 20 years and said the first time he tried to find the massive tree it eluded him, even though he was nearby. This summer he found it. In the meantime, he found eight other massive trees in the area and says four of them will also make the top 10 list. He figures the trees are definitely more than 500 years old, but notes that the Forest Service does not have an increment bore big enough to determine the exact age. Mr. Carlson was very excited to find these huge trees and wants to make sure they are never cut down. He said he’s ready to nominate the area as an ecological reserve if they aren’t already adequately protected. He says he will register the trees into the registry and while doing so will name them too. The trees will be named after his grandchildren, but the biggest one will be named for his granddaughter Anika-Sage and Dick Bellis, a local guide who often takes people to see the tree (the tree’s name will be the Anika-Sage/D.Bellis Giant). Mr. Bellis routinely tells people it’s the biggest tree they’ll ever see, so he was pleased to hear the tree is now recognized as such. He was also pleased to hear the huge tree will be named for him and he expects the inclusion of the tree on the registry will be good for business. The other giant is in the Walbran Valley on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The registry, which aims to record the 10 largest of each species in the province, has one other massive Haida Gwaii tree, a red alder at Skedans, which is listed as a Canadian champion. Andy MacKinnon, research ecologist for the Coast Forest Region, looks after the registry and was on the islands in 2007 when he found another alder at Ikeda that he said ranks third on the list. He also noted that there were not many Haida Gwaii trees on the list and he challenged locals to get out and measure some of the massive specimens on the islands. Mr. Carlson was also intrigued to see a huge spruce stump on Moresby Island. There is a sign put there by Crown Zellerbach saying the tree was cut in 1959 by Frank Landry. Mr. Carlson measured this stump and found that it was 16 feet in diameter. The Yakoun tree is 14 feet, so it could have been the biggest spruce in the province. “There may still be a bigger one out there,” he said.

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