Magnolia tree in front of the principal’s house at Keefer and Princess. Photo by Pamela Murray.
Cover photo of golden Ginkgo tree by Joan Tayler
Zine Layout: Madison Reid
Thanks to all the conversation participants for your questions, suggestions and comments!
Images: Valerie Arntzen, David Gowman, Pamela Murray, Esther Rausenberg, Hugh Tayler, Joan Tayler, Amy Walker Words: Rithikha Rajamohan, C.J. Stockdale, Mendel Skulsky, David Tracey, Amy Walker
Table of Contents What Can We Give Trees?.................................. 4 Leaf Scavenger Hunt........................................... 6 Tree Map of Strathcona..................................... 8 Small Gods.............................................................. 10 Oncle Höonki’s Fabulous Horn Shop............ 12 A Wildly Inspired Call Of The Wood.............. 14 Pine Needle Basket.............................................. 16 Beware Hornbeam’s Deadly Friend.............. 18 Our Place In The Trees....................................... 20 Tree Media.............................................................. 22 Almost Magical Trees......................................... 24 How to Water Street Trees............................... 25 What Is A Tree?...................................................... 26
by Amy Walker
clothing and other useful items; not to mention - they are made out of wood! …and we LOVE making all kinds of structures, from furniture and musical instruments to buildings and boats out of their strong and resonant, wonderful wood! Trees have given us so much and we have taken much more than we needed. What can we give them in return?
Human life has always been interconnected with trees. Four million years ago our ancestors lived in trees, all Earth’s people have religious and cultural stories about trees. Yet there is so much we do not know about them, and too often we take trees for granted and fail to appreciate our reliance on them. From our perspective, trees are great providers. They exhale oxygen, which we breathe; provide cooling shade; shelter and habitat; air purification and noise mitigation, they grow fruits; nuts; spices; saps; as well as needles and leaves which we like to eat and use as medicines. We turn their fibres into paper, baskets,
ONLY 150 YEARS AGO, A RAINFOREST OCCUPIED THE LAND WE NOW CALL VANCOUVER.
Extractivist economies count trees as objects to be turned into monetary value and seldom consider the needs of trees and what we should be offering in exchange. Our treatment of trees ranges from reverent to violent and doesn’t dwell often in the vicinity of equality. With tree bodies we have built civilizations, empires and fortunes. Perhaps,
Shadow of Red Oak photo by Valerie Arntzen
What Can We Give Trees?
ACCORDING TO THE CITY OF VANCOUVER’S OPEN DATA PORTAL, THE CITY’S STREET TREE COUNT IS OVER 151,000; THERE ARE 2,691 STREET TREES IN STRATHCONA (BETWEEN CLARK DRIVE AND MAIN STREET, FROM THE WATERFRONT TO GREAT NORTHERN WAY).
as Potawatami citizen, scientist and writer, Robin Wall Kimmerer discusses in her work, it is time for us to consider our responsibilities to the trees and act in a way that gives back to them. Only in the last few decades have scientists begun to understand how trees communicate and share resources with each other. Forest ecologist and author of Finding the Mother Tree, Suzanne Simard used radioactive gases to track the trading of carbon for nutrients between different tree species through mycelial networks. She and others have learned that trees are healthier in collective and family groups, much like we are. Again, trees contributing to our wealth: showing us the value of care and interconnectedness. Only 150 years ago, a rainforest occupied the land we now call Vancouver. This forest was populated by massive Douglas Fir, Cedar and Hemlock as well as others of 40 to 50 species native to this region. Imagine our little neighbourhood, not very long ago, covered in 100-metre high giants whose canopies welcomed ravens, eagles, herons and songbirds while the forest floor was a home to deer, bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, and seasonally, on the shoreline, a Coast Salish peoples’ village site called Kumkumlay. Perhaps we still can connect to the land through the stories of the Host Nations, the Musqueam, Squamish and TsleilWaututh peoples and through a few surviving very large trees that remain dotted around the Lower Mainland:
TODAY, OUR CITY IS SUPPORTED BY A DIVERSE ‘URBAN FOREST’ MADE UP OF HUNDREDS OF TREE SPECIES INTRODUCED FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE. YOU CAN LOOK UP INDIVIDUAL STREET TREES INCLUDING THE SPECIES, DATE PLANTED AND SIZE (DATA IS ENTERED SPORADICALLY AND MAY BE A FEW YEARS OLD). THIS RESOURCE SHOWS MOST OF THE ON-STREET TREES IN THE CARE OF THE VANCOUVER PARK BOARD, WHILE THE GREATER PART OF THE URBAN FOREST IS ACTUALLY FOUND ON PRIVATE LAND. www.opendata.vancouver.ca/ explore/dataset/street-trees
Magnolias photo by Esther Rausenberg
Welcome to the “Neighbourwood”
Leaf Scavenger Hunt Head out when the trees are leafing and see how many of these varieties you can find. Use the map on the following page to help your search - and mark on the map where you found your “specimens.”
Thornless Honey Locust
Atlas Cedar 7
Street Trees in Strathcona AY ILW
s Red Maple
Aristocrat Pear Scotch Pine
Scotch Pine PENDER
Pin Oak Hornbeam
e Plane Tre G ORE
Strathcona School KEEFER
s Red Maple
The street trees in our neighbourhood often comprise a diverse mixture of species on every street. Where there are clusters of similar species on blocks, we’ve added them here. To identify more trees along our streets, look them up on the City of Vancouver Open Data Portal. All these trees are the responsibility of the Vancouver Park Board.
ay Maple Be
h ec CORDOVA
Seymour School GEORGIA
Capozzi Park Kwanzan Cherry
Strathcona Park 9
Under grey asphalt roads
by Rithikha Rajamohan
Between yellow monoculture fields
At the base of preoccupied, racing minds
They say it started with a bang
A sound by no means large
And Seconds, Years, and Eons go by
Inconsequential to gods and ginkos alike
In its minuteness
A new ring expands and thickens
An all encompassing sound
A branch snakes towards the sky
That pulsated through the air
Something stirs from deep within the ground
A quiet darkness, cracked open As blind tendrils emerge
A sound that guided lost roots
And Existence is a guest
Dice fall slowly from immense hands
Welcomed in with open arms
And gave new shoots courage
The Gracious Host The familiar face
But somewhere machines hummed
With a gentle smile
And blades cut
Only to discover
That wooden gods and green spirits
Who live among dogs and giant firs
In the end
There are smaller gods
Are as real as the smoke in our lungs
Who crave the sun on their skin
Water in our homes
Who require forgiveness like air
And scorched earth under burning feet
As real as the sorrows and joys
Many small hands make light work
That move up through xylem
A key is found
And sun that moves down phloem
A knob turns
As real as Cedar spirits
A door pushed open once again
And great Moksgm’ol who roam
They say it started with a bang
Many small choices are made
But tell me, how does it end?
A crack widens
What is the question to find?
A scale tilts
The answer to question?
And things become a little greener
Monkey Puzzle tree on 800 block of Keefer Street.
Mister Fire-Man, aka David Gowman, barrels out of a door marked “PIRATES” and welcomes me in for a coffee. Everywhere inside are small to medium-sized sticks and logs; a variety of rustic-looking hand-made tools; brightly coloured posters, art and photographs; a family of graceful, funky, curving, hand-carved and painted horns; and a floor covered in wood chips. We’re at the MacLean Park Fieldhouse (at the corner of Heatley and Keefer), where Gowman animates the space and mentors locals in carving, flint-knapping, tool and instrument-making. Fuhorns (“Fu” meaning “Fu (character) (福), meaning “buddha”, “prosperity”, “fortune”, “good luck”, “blessing”, or “happiness” in Chinese, but also to reference Kung-fu, a discipline made by hand) are a particular style, developed by Gowman, and made from the hollowed limbs of Paulownia or empress trees cultivated within a few kilometres of this spot.
Oncle Höonki’s Fabulous Horn Shop by Amy Walker
DAVID’S MAIN MUSE AND MATERIAL, THE EMPRESS TREE (PAULOWNIA TOMENTOSA) IS ALSO KNOWN AS PRINCESS TREE. NATIVE TO EASTERN AND CENTRAL CHINA, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ANTARCTICA, THIS DECIDUOUS TREE HAS BEEN CULTIVATED IN EVERY CONTINENT OF THE WORLD AND IS CONSIDERED INVASIVE IN SOME.
“That’s the heart of my ethos: to make locally-designed instruments from locally-grown and sustainable trees and use them to make culture right here, in this place.” In pre-pandemic times, Gowman hosted weekly “Lawn Time” gatherings where neighbours carved wooden spoons and other implements and enjoyed potluck community dinners. He and other band members also play these horns in The Legion of Flying Monkeys, a 5-piece band. As gatherings return in 2022, David looks forward to a return to concerts in and out of town.
FEATURING LARGE, FRAGRANT CLUSTERS OF LIGHT-PURPLE BLOSSOMS IN SPRING, THE TREE TAKES ITS NAME FROM ANNA PAVLOVNA OF RUSSIA, AND HAS A LIFE SPAN BETWEEN 60 TO 120 YEARS. Find him on Facebook: Oncle Höonki’s Fabulous Hornshop 12
Photo illustration by David Gowman
A Wildly Inspired Call of the Wood by Amy Walker
Fu-Horns are the inspiration for Treesong, a musical group centred around these one-ofa-kind works of art. Prominent Vancouver jazz and new-music composer / performer, Brad Muirhead leads six to eight musicians in original works composed for the instruments’ eccentricities. Treesong comprises top-level professional brass players and percussionists from Vancouver’s jazz, classical, newmusic communities. Gowman met Muirhead at Jazz Fest in 2012:
Fuhorn, and away he went. The guy’s chops are spectacular! From there he came out to play with the Monkeys a few times, and then he always said, ‘Someday I’m going to write music for your horns.’ He came out, started measuring the notes on available horns and started making music.” Since Treesong first performed in 2018, they’ve played a dozen or so shows with regular appearances at the Still Moon Arts Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival every September. Future performances are pending and we hope that Treesong may be able to visit MacLean Park sometime in 2022.
“He had a display of his own interactive musical sculpture next to the stage where the Legion of Flying Monkeys was playing and he became a fan and immediately jumped in on a jam with us. We hooked him up with a spare
See and listen to Treesong in action at vimeo.com/658059371
Pine Needle Basket
Coil basketry is an ancient craft tradition found all over the world, and pine needle baskets of Turtle Island (aka North America) have been dated back to 8 to 9,000 years ago. If you like precise handwork, you might enjoy making a coiled pine needle basket or tray. Always be careful when gathering plant materials, not to take too much - as the trees also need to re-absorb some of the nutrients from their fallen needles.
MATERIALS 13cm or longer pine needles that have fallen off the tree Waterproof dish Scissors Embroidery needle Needle-nosed pliers Strong upholstery or Waxed cotton thread 16
Soak needles in hot water for 1/2 hour then wrap in a damp cloth while using.
Pull off the sticky casing at the base of the pine needles and form a bundle of needles approx. 1cm diameter and tie at the centre.
Wrap thread around 3cm of needles and bend and tie into a u-shape.
Cut off needle ends.
Continue wrapping thread around remaining side of needles and form into a coil.
Fasten the coil with stitches.
Once the coil is wrapped 2 or 3 times around, stop wrapping entirely with thread and instead space the wraps / stitches out every cm or so. There are many different techniques for wrapping and stitching coiled baskets, so look online for more inspiration!
Keep adding needles to the bundle, 1 or 2 at a time, to maintain the thickness of the coil.
Build out to desired circumference and then reposition the coil to form a “curb” and begin wrapping and stitching upwards.
10. When the desired size has been achieved, or you run out of material, secure the remaining ends with a stitch and a knot and trim off the ends.
Beware Hornbeam’s Deadly Friend
by Mendel Skulski
Wander through Strathcona gardens & past the mushroom logs, and you might notice a sign — red with danger like a poison toad. “WARNING: DEATH CAPS” it reads in several languages. These silverygreen capped mushrooms (Amanita phalloides — deadly to humans and dogs alike) have been popping up with increasing frequency along Strathcona streets for the past decade. If you were to take a hike through the North shore mountains, however, you would find none. In Vancouver, this mushroom is an exclusively urban sighting. Death caps may only be found near the Hornbeam tree (Carpinus betulus), as the fungus is intimately intertwined with its roots. In a symbiosis known as a mycorrhizal relationship (Latin for fungus-root), fine fungal filaments (mycelium) extend into the soil to gather water and nutrients for the tree, which offers the sugars of photosynthesis in exchange.
like yourself or some of your neighbours, it is an immigrant: new to our city. It travelled, unknown and unbidden, as a stowaway on those Hornbeam roots as the trees made their way from Europe to BC (by way of California). In the 1950s, those Hornbeams were propagated in the tree nurseries of Mission, and then distributed en masse to line the streets of Vancouver. Decades later, as their roots matured, the mushrooms revealed their presence. This mushroom bears real risk to anyone who eats one. If one is found where children or dogs may roam, dispose of it in the municipal compost (which reaches temperatures high enough to deactivate the spores), and wash your hands with soap and water. But although this mushroom is no good to eat, it is a dutiful partner to the trees of our streets.
The reason the death cap is not yet found in the wild is that, perhaps
Mendel is an amateur mycologist and professional podcaster who lives on Princess Street, which is lined with hornbeams. www.futureecologies.net 19
Snake Tree photo by Pamela Murray
by C.J. Stockdale
When I was a kid we used to move around a lot. The first thing I’d do when we found a new place to live was to find a local tree and start building a fort with the kids in the neighbourhood. Sitting in a tree, making a bunch of new friends and coming up with ideas to defend our new territory. No tree fort was ever truly finished. There were always new things to try. Over time I learned to create more complicated designs starting from simple platforms and leantos to multi-level, multi-tree obstacle courses to prevent take-overs. There were skirmishes between different groups of neighbourhood kids but no one was ever hurt on purpose. If somebody had an accident everybody would stop and help the hurt kids get home or wherever they felt safest. Tree forts brought the neighbourhood kids together with a single purpose. It was a great way to learn how to organise a project. Some kids were good at finding things to add, others were good at building things. There were some who were great at defending the fort and others who were good at helping in other ways. Everybody could find something to do to make the fort better. If somebody didn’t feel safe at home they knew that there was a place nearby that they could go and that all the rest of the kids would know where they were. There was comfort in knowing that there was a place that was just ours. 21
IN THE VIDEO FOR DOJA CAT’S SONG, WOMAN, SHE PLAYS A MAGICAL BEING WHO MERGES WITH A TREE.
Tree Media BOOKS
Vancouver Tree Book David Tracey / 2016 A pocket-sized guide, helpful for identifying many of the trees found in Vancouver. Contains 11 tree tour maps.
The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature Peter Wohlleben / 2021
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest Suzanne Simard / 2021
The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate Peter Wohlleben / 2016 22
How Trees Talk to Each Other TED Talk by Suzanne Simard where she outlines the story of learning about the so-called “wood wide web” or mycellium / fungi connecting trees in co-operative networks. ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_ to_each_other
Celebrating Old Growth Webinar Yale Forest School Robin Wall Kimmerer, Robert Macfarlane and David Haskell discuss the personhood of trees, root communities, and how humans might cultivate our own canopy. vimeo.com/609985407
Inside the Fight to Save an Ancient Forest Overview, PBS Terra The ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest are home to giant trees and complex systems which science is just beginning to understand, but these forests are at risk of being destroyed. youtube.com/watch?v=mRd8_Tu7YDs
Radiolab From Tree to Shining Tree This fun-to-listen-to podcast is built around the work of Suzanne Simard. wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/ from-tree-to-shining-tree
The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast orchardpeople.com/podcasts/
Trees a Crowd with David Oakes Uprooting the secrets and stories beneath the 56(ish) trees native to the British Isles. treesacrowd.fm/ 23
Almost Magical Trees Tulip Tree
LINDEN TREE These trees have a reputation for being messy. Their tiny blossoms drip sap and fill the air with a scent very much like honey. Aphids drink their sap and secrete a sticky “honeydew” that drops Linden Flowers onto everything below. Sticky car? You may be parked under a linden tree. In the summer their branches form a leafy green tent. Our linden groves can be found along Hawks street between Prior and Union and Georgia and Keefer.
This tree is a member of the magnolia family. It is a North American native with the beautiful Latin name of Liriodendron tulipifera. In our neighbourhood you will find these trees on the north side of McLean Park and along the mini park walkway at the north-east corner of Union and Gore St. Tulip Tree
ATLAS CEDAR On the south side of the school yard between Heatley and Princess there are some old world cedar trees. We all know our native cedars that actually belong to the cypress family but these atlas cedars are true cedars with varieties in north Africa and the middle east. They are very similar to the tree shown on the Lebanese flag. Atlas Cedar
24 Linden Flow ers
How To Water Street Trees David Tracey, Author of the Vancouver Tree Book gave a talk in January to kick off our Strathcona Conversations series about Trees. One of the questions asked of him was the best way to water street trees in the neighborhood. “For young trees, imagine them being like young children, less able to fend for themselves. They have much smaller root structures to absorb whatever moisture may be down there. The first year you plant a tree it’s critical those fine roots don’t dry out completely. Usually watering deeply once or twice a week is enough, but it all depends on circumstances (soil type, temperatures, wind, etc). For older trees maybe once a week is enough.
our mouths are. Their mouths, in a sense, are underground. They really drink from their roots. So you need to stand there for a while with your hose and let the water soak into the ground over the roots. I would say stay longer than you think because it takes longer, on a dry day, for the soil to really absorb all that water to a saturation point. If you’re wondering when to stop, dig a finger into the soil about 2 inches / 5 cm and feel whether it’s moist. If not, keep watering, because that soil is where the roots are spreading and it can still use more moisture.”
When you water, it’s important to realize trees don’t drink with their leaves. Their mouths are not where 25
What is a Tree? Though no scientific definition exists to separate trees and shrubs, a useful definition for a tree is a woody plant having one upright, perennial stem (trunk) at least three inches in diameter at a point 4-1/2 feet above the ground, a definitely formed crown of foliage, and a mature height of at least 13 feet. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines can be classified as deciduous (loses its leaves seasonally) or evergreen (retains its leaves throughout the year).
plant’s stem, whether the trunk of a tree or a twig on a shrub, you would first encounter bark, phloem, then cambium, and finally wood or xylem. Bark is the outer covering on the trunk, twigs, and woody roots. The outer bark we are familiar with is a layer of dead corky cells protecting the rest of the stem. The inner bark, or phloem, is a live spongy layer just inside the outer bark that moves sugars and other substances from the leaves to the stem, roots, and other places where they are needed. Inner bark eventually grows out to form part of the outer bark. New bark is constantly being made on the inside and pushed out.
Trees, shrubs, and vines all have one thing that separates them from the rest of the plant world: a woody stem that lives for many years. In a woody
Just inside the bark, but outside the wood, is a single layer of cells called the cambium. This layer repeatedly divides, first in then out, to form all of the new wood and bark. As woody plants grow in diameter a new layer of wood or growth ring is produced each year by the cambium. Wood, or xylem, makes up everything inside the cambium and is made of fibres for strength and hollow tubes of different sizes. These tubes are like straws that conduct water from the roots to the leaves.
JEWISH TREE NEW YEAR
TU BISHVAT IS A JEWISH HOLIDAY OCCURRING ON THE 15TH DAY OF THE HEBREW MONTH OF SHEVAT (IN 2023, TU BISHVAT BEGINS AT SUNSET ON 5 FEBRUARY AND ENDS IN THE EVENING OF 6 FEBRUARY). IN ISRAEL, THE DAY IS CELEBRATED AS AN ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS DAY, AND TREES ARE PLANTED IN CELEBRATION.
Extracted from “What is a Tree?” by Michael Kuhns, forestry.usu.edu 26
About Strathcona Conversations Strathcona Conversations is all about neighbours coming together in creativity and discussion.
We make photos and art, write and share observations while learning about each other and our neighbourhood. This project is supported through volunteer time contributed by neighbours, as well as a grant from the City of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Matching Fund received through the Strathcona Community Centre Association.
If you are a Strathcona resident and want to get creative with neighbours, reach out and say hello! Send an email to email@example.com or join our “Strathcona Conversations” group on Facebook.