Identifying Trees in Trout Lake Park

Identifying Trees in Trout Lake Park

Trip Report by Nina Shoroplova

Nature Vancouver members and a few others—all of us interested in trees—gathered at the south end of Trout Lake Park on October 23 to identify some trees. What a glorious fall day. 

We first looked at some of the trees at that south end: red maples, London plane trees, and a circle of young deciduous tree we couldn’t identify. We looked at the difference between a deodar cedar and a western redcedar growing beside each other. Cedrus deodara, deodar cedar, is a true cedar, being in the Cedrus genus, and is from the Himalayas. It was arrayed in pollen cones and the pollen itself was a sharp yellow colour. Its needles were gathered in groups along the branches. Thuja plicata, western redcedar, is not a cedar at all, being in the Thuja genus. Its name can be shortened to redcedar (one word), but to call it a cedar is very confusing! Redcedar is native to BC but challenged by the way our climate is changing. We admired the fractal patterns created by redcedar’s leaves, known as scales.

Then we looked at the unusual four-lobed leaves on tulip trees, Liriodendron tulipifera

These tall trees get their name from their flowers, which are large and showy, like all flowers in the magnolia family, Magnoliaceae. The leaves were turning yellow and falling. 

On the west side of the lake, we familiarized ourselves with an ash, Fraxinus latifolia, Oregon ash. Its species epithet of latifolia means “broad-leaved,” but it was almost leafless, many fallen ones resting among the tree’s above-ground roots. It was covered though with bunches of its single samara fruit, hanging like the keys on a hotelier of the past. 

Some trees have so many names that it can be hard to remember them all. Yellow-cedar is a case in point. As an amateur taxonomist, I am intrigued by the names of trees as I find they are often helpful for knowing more about the tree itself. Its earliest scientific name is Cupressus nootkaensis, its most recent scientific name is Callitropsis nootkaensis, but the scientific name by which it is best known is Chamaecyparis nootkatensis. This translates, even though it is not a cypress, as “a cypress growing down to the ground in Nootka,” referring to its drooping foliage. Chamaecyparis is often translated as falsecypress. That’s more helpful. A falsecypress from Nootka. Yellow-cedar’s other common names are Alaska-cedar, Nootka cypress, and Nootka falsecypress. 

We looked at a shrubby maple and discussed how to decide whether something is a tree or a shrub. We decided this one is a shrub, it being multi-stemmed at the ground. Given its double samaras and its compound leaves with three leaflets, we agreed it is an Acer negundo, commonly known as boxelder or Manitoba maple.

On the north side of the lake, we were able to get close to the seed and pollen cones of a coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, because one of its branches had twisted and fallen even while staying attached to the rest of the tree.

All Juglans species have compound leaves and edible fruit. A couple of butternut trees, Juglans cinerea, grow in the northwest corner of the park. The fruit have fallen; I’m sure the nuts were enjoyed by the park’s squirrels. Butternut’s leaves are incredibly long, up to 50 cm (20 in.), with from 11 to 19 leaflets; there will always be an uneven number of leaflets because of the terminal leaflet.

On the easterly walking path, we came across three dawn redwoods. Because they are young trees, we were able to get close to see needles and cones. These are deciduous conifers, which is most unusual as conifers are usually evergreen. The seed cones of giant sequoia (we looked closely at one on the south end of the park), coast redwood, and dawn redwood all hang down and have a similar barrel shape with superb scale markings.

This was a happy walk indeed. Thanks for joining, everyone.

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