baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

©2017copyright christoph hase

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


The famous Banff National Park is huge (6641 km²) and belongs to the still larger contiguous Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Area (23,069 km²). These parks are renowned for their rugged mountainous landscapes but they also contain large pristine forests. In the Canadian Rockies Opens internal link in current windowPicea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce) of the southern Rocky Mountains and boreal Opens internal link in current windowP. glauca (white spruce) intergrade. Among other characteristics, this can be seen from the cone scales, which vary from rounded P. glauca type through slightly pointed to half-diamond shaped P. engelmannii type (see image 11 below). In Bow Valley near the town of Banff at an elevation of 1380-1400 metres, the predominant Picea species is P. glauca but approaching 1500m and beyond, the preponderance of (trees with) P. engelmannii characteristics increases, with intermediate forms also occurring. The most common tree species in Bow Valley are Picea and Opens internal link in current windowPinus contorta var. latifolia (lodgepole pine). At higher elevations also Opens internal link in current windowAbies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir) is a main part of the canopy. Picea and P. contorta often form similar patches of dense forest. The traditional view has been that P. contorta regenerates after wildfires but in the long run is replaced by Picea. This is not supported by the age distribution of these forests, which indicates that both species regenerate mainly after wildfires1. Species diversity is low and most tree species are easy to identify. Average annual precipitation in the town of Banff is 511 mm and average annual temperature 1.8°C.

Camping outside the designated areas is allowed in certain more remote areas. Off-trail walking is easy on level terrain but the park is mountainous and there are plenty of steep slopes.




1       Johnson, E. A. & Miyanishi, K. (1991): Fire and Population Dynamics of Lodgepole Pine and Engelmann Spruce Forests in the Southern Canadian Rockies. In Nakagoshi, N. & Golley F. B. (eds.): Coniferous forest ecology from an international perspective. SPB Academic Publishing.


Official site:


Picea engelmannii × glauca forest. Also Pinus contorta var. latifolia (lodgepole pine), left and right. Elev. 1530 m.
Moraine Lake at 1890 m, bottom. Foreground from the left: two Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce) and Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir).
Picea glauca (white spruce).
Pinus contorta var. latifolia (lodgepole pine).
Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir).
Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen).
Populus balsamifera (balsam poplar).
Salix bebbiana (beaked willow).
Betula occidentalis (water birch).
Dry slope dominated by Pinus contorta var. latifolia (lodgepole pine). Foreground: P. contorta, left; Picea engelmannii × glauca, right. Elev. 1600 m.
Cones of low elevation Picea glauca (white spruce, left), high elevation Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce, right) and intermediate (centre).