Nature buffs encircle an ancient red cedar tree.

Trees at their best as summer fades away

Green satin and rich copper. The colour and feel of arbutus bark, once experienced, can never be forgotten

Green satin and rich copper. The colour and feel of arbutus bark, once experienced, can never be forgotten.

Glide your hands over the silky green new bark, and marvel that Mother Nature produced such softness. Older bark, aged to a rich coppery orange, peels away like exquisite wallpaper.

Such beauty, and the beauty of all trees on Earth, should never be taken for granted.

As summer fades and autumn approaches, our native Pacific Northwest trees seem to call: “Come, notice us.”

Shorter days and cooler temperatures colour the leaves, creating a paintbox of hues, and soon, the trees will bare their bark for close-up inspection.

Vancouver Island trees provide enough texture and variety to fill many an autumn nature walk. Coniferous species present new cones in an array of shapes and sizes, while handfuls of berries ripen on fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.

Snack on a few wild Pacific crabapples – tiny yellow pomes less than 2 cm long. Check out the western juniper’s berry-like cones in bluish-black.

Admire the pendulous berries of mountain ash and arbutus … best left for the birds.

So great is their diversity that native trees, both coniferous and deciduous, constitute an essential part of most Pacific Northwest ecosystems, providing shelter and food for thousands of plants, wildlife and humankind.

Coniferous trees keep their needles (leaves) during the winter; the resinous needles have a wax coating to prevent water loss.

Deciduous trees normally lose their leaves in the fall, but a few (including the arbutus) retain their leaves all year round.

On a recent outing, a dozen nature buffs joined hands to encircle an oldgrowth western red cedar, a massive species that can live 1,000 years (only the giant sequoia is larger).

Western red cedar is the provincial tree of British Columbia.

Don’t miss out on the season’s spectacular arboreal colour displays, and supplement your tree-discovery forays with a new guidebook.

Hot off the press is Sechelt author Duane Sept’s newest take-along guide: “Trees of the Northwest” by Calypso Publishing. Delightful details of flowers, cones, fruit and bark offer fascinating reading, along with descriptions for 50 western species and 190 colour photos.

E-mail Christine at: wildernesswest@shaw.ca.

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