Winter in the Beauforts

20190105_121503There is nothing so vital and grounding to me as the turning of the seasons and shifting of the days from dark to light. I thrive on the little details erupting into being at each time of year and how they fade from one season to the next. At the moment I am reveling in being out in the deep snow in the stunning Beaufort Mountains, the icy crest of Vancouver Island. Paradise Meadows is where our family celebrates our alpine spirit, and the whole of Strathcona Provincial Park is our back yard. We are indeed the fortunate ones.

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Flaking and nearly corrugated bark catching individual snowflakes

On a recent snowshoe trek to Battleship Lake, marvelously solo for once, I was able to take the time to wonder at the myriad scaled forms of ice and snow.

One thing I noticed were the different strategies that the conifers have to deal with snow load, and how they have adapted to these intense conditions.

The three trees shown below have very different needle and branch structures which enables them to cope with snow in different ways.

FAR LEFT, the Yellow Cedar has drooping pendulous branches, and arranges most of the scaled flat needles on vertical planes, shedding snow easily with minimal accumulation.

CENTER, the Western White Pine has long, narrow, thin needles which individually slough off the snow, with branches more horizontal that the cedar.

FAR RIGHT, the Mountain Hemlock has delicate whorls of short needles and an intricate lacy structure which catches the snow like a net. The whole tree is thus weighted down and seems to accumulate the most snow of the three. The species is one of my very favorites, and in the snow each bending branch reminded me of a Victorian noblewoman, holding out her hand for an icy kiss.

In garden design snow load is one of the factors that needs to be taken into account so I was not surprised to find myself thinking of relevant applications for my observations.

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The prevailing winds are obvious here… the south east side of the trees are lumpy and encrusted with gravity defying snow caps.

 

 

 

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