Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that not all evergreen trees are conifers and not all deciduous trees are broad leafed trees?
When we think of evergreen trees, especially here on Vancouver Island, we generally think of needled trees such as Douglas fir, Grand fir, pines and cedars. Did you know that there are quite a few different genuses of needled trees that are deciduous?
Although none of these are native to Vancouver Island, they can be grown here. Two genus of note are Larix (Larch) and Metasequoia (Dawn redwood). We have the latter growing at the Chinese Memorial Garden on Stewart Avenue and had Larix at Maffeo Sutton Park prior to the major renovations. That being said, I have seen them in other areas of Nanaimo.
A third genus of deciduous conifer is Taxodium distichum (Baldcypress), but this is essentially a southern species. In its native habitat, bald cypress grows in swamps and other wet areas and can withstand prolonged flooding. It is being used in the eastern United States, in places such as Michigan. As the tree is rated for USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 10, it could be grown here, but I haven’t seen any.
When it comes to broadleaved evergreens, there are several species of broadleaved trees that are evergreen. One species, Arbutus menziesii is native to Vancouver Island. Other ones that grow here are Rhododendron, Quercus ilex (Holly oak), palms and in some instances eucalyptus. The latter grows best near the tempering effects of the ocean, but even then, if we have extended periods of cold weather plus desiccating winds, eucalyptus will not survive.
There is also one other broad-leafed evergreen that should be mentioned that thrives here. Ilex aquifolium (English holly), which was introduced more than a century ago, is on our invasive species list. Holly displaces native species. The berries act as a food source for birds that disperse the seeds with their droppings.
Learn more about these troublesome species in our Invasive Plants Section. Watch for events happening throughout the month of May during Invasive Plant Awareness Month.
Alan Kemp is the Urban Forestry Coordinator and has been in that position since September of 2006. Prior to that he was the Horticulture Foreman for the City Parks Department. Alan has worked full time for the City since 1986, but originally started with the City in 1976. Alan graduated from UBC in 1980 and also has a diploma in Horticulture from the University of Guelph.