baumzaehlen - Primeval Forests & Their Trees

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Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, British Columbia, Canada - Flores Island

Flores Island (160 km2) lies off the west coast of Vancouver Island in Clayoquot Sound. It can be reached from Tofino by a water-taxi called “Ahousat Pride”. The largest tracts of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island are found in Clayoquot Sound1. After prolonged legal battles over their fate, 6474 km2 have been permanently placed off limits to future logging2 though only fragments have been awarded official protected status. 41 km2 of Flores Island form part of the Flores Island Marine Provincial Park. The designation of the biosphere reserve (3499 km2) was purely symbolic and did not result in any additional protected areas3.


The only hiking trail on the island is called “Walk the Wild Side”. It runs along the sandy beaches of the southern side of the island except where interrupted by cliffs, when it turns inland through forest. Walking off-trail in the forest is extremely difficult. As a result of frequent storms sweeping in from the Pacific, wind blow is common, opening up the canopy and promoting the formation of a high dense shrub layer. The mild (average annual temperature approx. 9°C) wet (annual precipitation approx. 3300 mm) climate contributes to the latter. In addition fallen tree trunks lie scattered over the forest floor, and they are BIG. Precipitation is very high from late autumn to early spring; summers are drier (rainfall from June to August approx. 300 mm).


The region belongs to the temperate rainforest zone of the Pacific Northwest, with massive conifers. Near the beaches the forests are dominated by Opens internal link in current windowPicea sitchensis (Sitka spruce). Between the beaches and the P. sitchensis forest there is often a narrow Opens internal link in current windowAlnus rubra (red alder) strip. Both species tolerate salty ocean spray4, 5. Further inland the main tree species are Opens internal link in current windowTsuga heterophylla (western hemlock), Opens internal link in current windowAbies amabilis (Pacific silver fir), Picea sitchensis and Opens internal link in current windowThuja plicata (western redcedar). Alnus rubra grows along the rivers. The diversity of the tree flora is rather modest, but particularly Picea sitchensis and Thuja plicata reach immense proportions. Most species are easy to identify.


Note: If you are seeking wilderness silence, this is not the best place in holiday periods. Scenic flights throughout the day from Tofino are very noisy!




1       Ancient Forest Alliance.

2       Eifert, L. 2000: Field Guide to Old-Growth Forests. Sasquatch Books.

3       DellaSala, D. A. et al. (2011): Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the Pacific Coast of North America. In DellaSala, D. A. (ed.): Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World. Island Press.

4       Hibbs, D. E., De Bell, D. S. & Tarrant, R. F. (eds.) 1994: The biology and management of red alder. Oregon State University.

5       Griffith, R. S. 1992: Opens external link in new windowPicea sitchensis. In: Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Official site:


Abies amabilis (Pacific silver fir) - Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock) - Thuja plicata (western redcedar) forest.
Coastal forest, with Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce) dominant.
Narrow Alnus rubra (red alder) strip between beach and Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce) forest.
Thuja plicata (western redcedar), both with epiphytic Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock) on their left.
Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce), with 2 small Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock).
Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce). Background Abies amabilis (Pacific silver fir). On forest floor Polystichum munitum (western swordfern).
Abies amabilis (Pacific silver fir) grove, with one large Picea sitchensis ((Sitka spruce) highlighted in background.
Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock).
Pinus contorta var. contorta (shore pine).
Alnus rubra (red alder).
Malus fusca (Pacific crabapple).
Crataegus douglasii (black hawthorn) on the coast.
Some trees of low altitudes.