The Pender Islands Big Tree Registry is helping property owners connect with the forest

A new arrival to South Pender Island shares how the Big Tree Registry helped her get to know the habitats surrounding her new family home.

The Pender Islands Big Tree Registry has grown significantly over the past year. We now have over 100 trees registered. But this initiative is only possible because of the participation of passionate community members. We asked one property owner to share her experience with the Big Tree Registry. Read about it below.

We hadn’t finished unpacking our bags and boxes at our new place on South Pender Island when Shauna Doll, from Raincoast, contacted me. She’d heard from a mutual friend about the trees on our property and was wondering if she could come and take a look. She was in the midst of creating a directory of the biggest trees on the Pender Islands and hoped she might find a few here. I figured she would.

A month later, I still wasn’t familiar with every nook and cranny of the property, but I was glad Shauna had come. She was as excited by the dainty grand firs and the small but rare-to-Pender western hemlock we encountered, as she was by the immense Douglas-fir straddling our property line. At over 50 metres tall, it eclipses most of its neighbours. We meandered some more and came upon several other impressive trees but, with only an hour in the forest, the job was far from complete. I’m blessed to live on and steward 30 acres, where there’s much to discover.

Attuning my eyes

After Shauna’s visit, it was as though my eyes were more finely attuned to the tall beauties all around. A few weeks later, I was thrilled to happen upon “Big Tree Alley,” where a huge big-leaf maple reaches out to a large redcedar that, in turn, points to an imposing Douglas-fir. Several weeks later I found “Big Tree Avenue” that mirrors its namesake. In the other direction, I was much quicker to notice “Maple Glade.” Each time I pass it, I marvel at the magnificence of its many inhabitants; each one more twisted and mossy cloaked than the next. 

As a storyteller and student of folklore, I’m certain that one full moon night I’ll witness the faerie folk dancing there. I’m similarly drawn to explore “Oyster Lane”, where a once towering alder has fallen and is now host to an oyster mushroom dinner extravaganza come spring and fall. The cedar and fir trees lining the lane aren’t Pender behemoths, but they stand tall and regal as they most graciously guide me along the path. Closer to our house is a small stand of native trembling aspen that I’ve recently realised stands out as an anomaly in the landscape. 

Acquainting myself with the forest

My forays into the forest continue. The other day I scratched my head, wondering how I could have missed seeing two redcedars so large that when two of us together reach around each with arms outstretched, our hands don’t meet. Whether or not I come upon yet another Goliath doesn’t matter. I’m happy to get better acquainted with the ones I’ve found. And perhaps I’ll take a page from young researcher Meredith’s book, who came looking for mycorrhizal fungi along Big Tree Alley. She unearthed all kinds of the strands and nodules that make up a tree’s best friend. Come spring, perhaps my walks through the property will be “crawls” as I look for more fungal filaments. In the guise of minutia, they are probably the true leviathans of the forest.

Whether your property is big or small, there are no doubt gems to be found. Should Shauna call, I strongly recommend you take her up on her offer. Better yet, get in touch with her at shauna [at] raincoast [dot] org

Woman with a dog hugging a Coastal Douglas-fir tree.
Faye Mogensen hugging a big leaf maple tree.

About Faye Mogensen

Faye Mogensen discovered storytelling when working as a Park Interpreter in 1981. Ten years later she completed a Masters of Education focused on storytelling as a tool for environmental change. She continues to perform wherever listeners gather, sharing both traditional and personal stories. She loves to ferret out folktales that inspire generosity and hope, and focuses on personal stories of her exploits in nature, here and all around the world. Her book, Ancient Stories for Modern Times: 50 Wisdom Tales for All Ages was released in June 2016. Learn more at her website

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