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5 things you (probably) don't know about trees in Vancouver

Trees have played, and still do play, a central role in Vancouver.
From left to right: People posing with Stanley Park's Hollow Tree, the stump house, and the first tree planted in the Stanley Park Shakespeare Garden.

The City of Vancouver owes its standing, in a very real way, to trees.

It was the lumber industry that built the city in its earliest days, and still is a part of today's economy. They're more than just an economic driver, though, as they play a huge variety of roles, from local First Nations culture, to urban beautification, to keeping the city healthy.

Given this, there are lots of tree facts in this city, from the tree that Queen Elizabeth II planted to Canada's first civic arboretum to the fact there's a map of over 151,000 trees in the city (not including Stanley Park).

Here are just five.

1. Vancouver has a garden of trees mentioned by William Shakespeare

Stanely Park has many, many hidden gems, and an arboretum of trees mentioned in Shakespeare's play is one of them.

The perfect garden for the natural conservationist/literature nerd, it's also a bit of a historical site, as the first tree dedicated to Shakespeare in the park was planted in 1916.

In 1936 it was made official, when Vancouver was celebrating its Golden Jubilee; it was even opened by Canada's governor general at the time.

The arboretum includes red oak, fir, beech, and a tree of heaven; in all there are about 45 trees. If you're looking for it, it's near the rose garden.

2. The tallest tree in Metro Vancouver was taller than the tallest tree in the world now

Before the lumber industry arrived in Vancouver, the city's forest may have been home to some of the tallest trees to have ever existed.

However, between the burgeoning industry 140 years ago and the Great Fire, most ancient giants are gone, including those that would have been among the tallest.

One tree that was recorded is simply known as the Lynn Valley Tree (one guess where it came from). It was measured at 126.5 m, or about 415 feet.

For comparison, the tallest tree now (a sequoia in California called Hyperion) is about 116 meters.

Some speculate taller trees existed here and were cut down without being measured.

3. The largest maple leaves are found around Metro Vancouver and southern B.C.

Thanks to the leaf on the flag, the maple tree has come to represent Canada worldwide.

To many it represents Eastern Canada, as the leaf that inspired the symbol was the sugar maple.

But if you want to find the maples with the big leaves, head west.

The biggest maple leaf found in Canada according to Guinness World Records was discovered in Richmond in 2010 by a family. That big leaf was measured at 53 cm wide and 52.2 cm long.

For those who don't rely on a beer company to make things official (actually Guinness World Records is now owned by B.C.'s own Jim Pattison Group) the largest maple leaf was found in Victoria, apparently, and measured 60.9 cm by 72 cm.

4. One of Vancouver's earliest tourist attractions was the Hollow Tree

The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park is still an attraction but is more often passed by these days.

However, it could be considered Vancouver's first tourist attraction. People have been posing for photos with it since the 1890s, and it's not clear when exactly it became a sight to go see.

And it was popular; the Vancouver Archives have more than 100 photos of people posing with it over 100 years ago.

The tree itself is a dead Western red cedar, it lived to be between 600 and 800 years old. When it died the trunk ended up hollowed out and became a natural shelter.

In 2006 it was badly damaged in the big windstorm that hit the city, and measures were taken to save it; it's now got a metal skeleton of sorts holding it up.

5. There was once a three-room house made out of an old stump

It sounds (and looks) like something the Grimm brothers would have written about, but in fact a small house did exist in Vancouver's Riley Park neighbourhood that was made out of a massive tree.

While the term "treehouse" conjures up images of something in the branches, this was in the stump, on the ground. It was located around 4230 Prince Edward St.

Thanks to Ronan for the suggestion. If you have ideas for a "5 things you (probably) don't know about Vancouver" email me at