Chilliwack’s urban forest brightens our streets in spring and provides welcome shade in summer. Trees are home to all kinds of birds and small mammals and are critical for the survival of many species. In addition, trees sequester (store) carbon in their trunks and branches by consuming carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through the miracle of photosynthesis.
There are two magnificent trees in downtown Chilliwack on the corner of Wellington Avenue and College Street. They flank the Cyrus Centre, a bungalow-styled brick building built in 1949, which was originally Chilliwack’s Public Library, and they have been anchoring that part of town for about 140 years!
One is a huge Oak, likely English Oak (Quercus robur) or possibly White Oak (Quercus alba) (Murray, 2004). We will be able to confirm the species when the leaves emerge soon. English Oak leaves have 3 to 6 lobes and unique ear-like lobes at the leaf base. White Oak leaves have 7 to 9 gently rounded lobes. This tree is 27 metres tall and has a diameter greater than 1.5 metres!
The other is a Tulip Tree (Liriodendrum tulipifera), named for its tulip-like flowers. It is even larger than the oak, standing more than 30 metres tall and a diameter of 1.73 metres! It is quietly ruling over the property line next to Cooke’s Presbyterian church and currently has a chain link fence surrounding it. You can’t mistake the leaves which look like maple leaves with the tip removed. The flowers emerge when the tree is in full leaf and are positioned at the top of the tree so it may be difficult to see them on such a large specimen. In late fall, the leaves turn a rich yellow, bringing a warm glow to gloomy streets.
Did you know that Chilliwack does not have a tree protection bylaw? Even giants like these can be removed by landowners without any requirements for a permit or even an assessment by a qualified professional. (Most municipalities in the Fraser Valley require an assessment or permit to remove trees with diameters of only 10 centimetres.)
There are many important trees in Chilliwack. They may be significant because they are very old, or unusual, or large, or all the above! Over the next few months, Heritage Chilliwack will be featuring some important trees in our community. Is there a particular tree that you think should be protected because of its size or appearance? Please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Matthew Cook and Tristan Evans of Chilliwack Archives for providing photos of the Chilliwack Library. Thank you, also, to Kyle MacGregor, of Urban Environment Ltd., who recently measured these giants.
Works Cited: Murray, S. M. (2004). Our Sylvan Heritage. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited.