Seed cones from left to right – 1) White Pine, native, 7.5.inches long. 2a) White Spruce, native. 2b) Blue Spruce introduced. 3) Norway Spruce, introduced, 6 inches long, and 4) Ponderosa Pine., native. (From Ed McMackin)

Seed cones from left to right – 1) White Pine, native, 7.5.inches long. 2a) White Spruce, native. 2b) Blue Spruce introduced. 3) Norway Spruce, introduced, 6 inches long, and 4) Ponderosa Pine., native. (From Ed McMackin)

Out There: Tremendous Trees – Part 2

‘Native tree species grow where conditions of soil, moisture, and temperature are optimum’

By Ed McMackin, biologist by profession and naturalist by nature

In the Kootenay region, the main native conifers are spruce, pine, firs and Douglas Fir, which is not a true fir, hence the genus “Pseudotsuga”. People sometimes use names of plants and trees and so on, rather loosely. They might refer to a mixed-forest of conifers as a pine forest.

READ MORE: Out There: Tremendous Trees – Part 1

Spruce trees are quite familiar to many. They have very sharp needle-leaves, as well as stiff twigs and branches that don’t break very easily. Cone scales are thin and interestingly arranged. Spruce needle-leaves grow from all around the twig. The exposed needles of Blue Spruce are often the only ones that have the bluish cast. The inner, more shaded ones, are dark green. Spruce trees can grow to be a very stalwart tree with many branches, which makes them difficult to climb. I guess it is native to Colorado, hence the name, “Colorado Blue Spruce”.

Norway Spruce, similar in “texture”, can grow to be a very grand and tall tree. It is basically dark green in color, having cones with thin scales as opposed to most pines whose cone scales are thick and rough. Cones of Norway Spruce are generally longer than those of Blue Spruce, and much larger than our native spruce.

Native tree species grow where conditions of soil, moisture, and temperature are optimum. They will grow in slightly other situations but form and growth will be less than optimum, like some of the local Ailanthus trees, which have failed to produce flowers for a couple of years. Native species may not produce cones or seeds, or at least perhaps not as many if growing conditions are less than ideal.

The same goes for introduced plants and trees. They will grow best here when they are placed in situations that are very similar to their native habitat. Some species are brought in, not because they will grow just like they did in their native habitat, but for some special characteristic. For example, a Ginko tree may be grown for its very unusually shaped leaves, whether or not it produces fruit.

There are many good guides to tree identification. One I like is the National Wildlife Federation’s “Field Guide to Trees of North America”, 2008, Kershner Mathews, Nelson & Spellenberg. It is a very complete identification book, having both introduced and native species.

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