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The Arbutus Tree

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

Arbutus is the only native broadleaf evergreen tree in Canada, growing up to 30 meters tall. Having grown up in central Canada, I had never seen an Arbutus Tree until I moved out west to British Columbia. Looking back now, almost 30 years, it took me a few minutes before I could recall when I first noticed these peculiar trees. It was while rock climbing along the shores of West Vancouver at a park called Lighthouse Park.

The park is a short distance from the city and a popular destination for rock climbers. The rocky cliffs along the water make for great climbing, but also a great spot for the Arbutus to grow.

Arbutus Tree in the Sun
Arbutus in the Sun

Years later now I live in an area that is filled with Arbutus trees. In fact I have one that grows over my house that is thought to be close to 200 hundred years old. I am amazed at the angles at which they can grow, leaning as much as 15 to 20 degrees. Our house was built around the Arbutus and it is as though the tree is apart of the house, or at least part of it's personality for sure.

Arbutus Tree on dark storm clouds
Awaiting the Storm

Young Arbutus shedding it's bark
Peel & Reveal

Living beside an Arbutus tree means lots and lots of yard clean ups. The Arbutus sheds it's leaves in the late Spring, which can make it feel like autumn around the yard at times. Then they shed their thin bark in the summer, you can hear it drying and falling off on really hot summer days. As the bark falls off you can see the younger greenish bark underneath. The new bark is super smooth and will slowly turn a lovely cinnamon red before you know it. Lastly it flowers and then has small red berries in the Autumn that the local birds truly enjoy snaking on.

A Growing Arbutus shedding it's bark
A Growing Arbutus

Another characteristic of the Arbutus tree that I never get tired of photography is the quirky way they grow, and they way they age. The tree will have lost all it's leaves and look at all appearances as though it is dead, but yet it still stands and it is normal to see new growth at the bottom of an old tree.

An old Arbutus tree standing tall with clouds in the background
Arbutus Standing Tall

The silhouette of an Arbutus is unmistakable to me now and the fascination I have with them grows every time I walk amongst them.

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