How to Spot the Top Three Trees in BC

Ever walk through a forest in British Columbia and don’t know the trees? After reading this guide, ancient forest giants will be your best friends. Here’s a guide of the most common big BC trees that will help!

Douglas Fir

Douglas Firs can grow up to 70 meters tall and are found at low elevations. They have flat yellowish green needles that are 2 to 3 cm long.

Douglas Fir Tree Trunk

How to spot a Douglas Fir:

  1. There’s a story to help identify the Douglas Fir:

There was a mouse trying to get away from a small fire. So, the Douglas Fir said to the mouse: “hop in my cones and I will protect you.” If you look at the Douglas Fir cones you will see the back end of the mouse sticking out. It has two back feet and its tail.m2


  1. You can also identify the Douglas Fir by its thick, grooved bark.





Fun fir facts:

  • The Douglas Fir is technically not a true fir. Its cones point downwards while true firs’ cones point up.
  • Douglas Firs are somewhat fire resistant. Thanks to its thick bark, it can survive a small fire. Wild fires are a different story though

Western Hemlock   

Western Hemlocks can grow up to 60 meters tall and are found at low to middle elevations. They have short needles that are unequal in length from 5 to 20 millimeters long. They have small cones that are about 2 cm long.


Identifying a Western Hemlock:

There is also a story to help identify Western Hemlocks:

Long ago, a raven was handing out cones to all the trees. But the Western Hemlock didn’t want to wait so it budged to the front of the line. The raven didn’t like this, however, so it sent the Hemlock to the back of the line. So now the Western Hemlock bows its head in shame.


Interesting Facts:

  • The Western Hemlock is the most common forest tree in Alaska as well as the North Coast of British Columbia.
  • The Western Hemlock is used as medicine by most groups along the Northwest Coast.



Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedars can grow up to 60 meters tall and can be found at low to medium elevations. Their cones that are about 1 cm long and egg shaped. The Western Red Cedar has scale like leaves.


Identifying a Western Red Cedar:

You can identify the Western Red Cedar by its scale-like leaves. It can also be identified by its bark that is a reddish-brown colour and looks like it can be peeled off in strips.

m5           red-cedar-bark

Sweet Cedar Facts:

  • It’s said that if you stand with your back against a Western Red Cedar it will give you strength.
  • It is also widely used by the pacific northwest coastal First Nations people for canoes, baskets, masks, coffins, totem poles and much more!


By Meghan “Spike” Lang


Member at Large