Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: NunatukSurprisingly often in Whistler's forests you will find a tree growing on an old fallen tree or out of a decaying tree stump. Decaying logs and stumps in the forest actually give new trees some interesting survival advantages. Though a tree stump or log appears to be an inhospitable place for a new tree to grow, the opposite is actually true for a bunch of not so obvious reasons. Known a nurse log or nurse stump the fallen or cut down and removed tree opens some of the forest canopy and allows more sunlight in.

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On the forest floor there is a lot of competition to get sun exposure and an elevated tree stump is a considerable advantage over the crowded forest floor.  Also, a fallen or cut down tree transforms, with the help of microbes, fungus and insects, into a tremendously fertile soil which retains moisture extremely well.  A tree lucky enough to grow on a nurse stump will almost certainly have more sunlight, less competition, and better soil to grow in than its ground level neighbours. One of the most convenient places in Whistler to see a nurse stump is in Florence Peterson Park behind the Whistler Library. Many huge and decaying tree stumps cut a century ago can be found in the dark little forest, and almost all of them have one or more trees growing out of them. Though this little forest in Florence Peterson Park is wonderfully thriving with trees everywhere, it is surprisingly dark.  Even on a sunny day, the sun is almost completely blocked by the tree canopy above.  Even with the big trees cut down decades ago and the big pond in the middle of the park, the sun only gets through to the ground in a few places.  It is no wonder this little forest is home to such interesting displays of survival ingenuity.

Nurse Stump in Whistler Village

Nurse Stump Florence Peterson Park

Florence Peterson Park

Whistler Public Library

Spectacular Nurse Log in Tofino

The trees you find in Tofino and Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island are hard to beat for examples of nurse logs. This amazing nurse log pictured below is found on the trail to Schooner Cove in Pacific Rim National Park.

Nurse Log Schooner Cove in Tofino

Tofino is home to some incredibly enormous trees. This monster western redcedar pictured below possibly started its life nearly a thousand years ago on a nurse log which would partly account for the cavernous base and sprawling roots. western redcedars have a strong and wonderful aroma that comes from a natural preservative in their outer sapwood that prevents decay. This preservative contributes to their wonderful longevity. The lack of this preservative deep within the trunks also partly explains why old western redcedars are hollow at their base. Some remarkably beautiful and old western redcedars found in Clayoquot Sound near Tofino are so enormous and hollow at their base that several people can fit inside. This huge western redcedar shown below is located near Tofino at Kennedy Lake and is a good example of this.

Western Redcedar at Kennedy Lake

More Interesting Trees in Whistler

Looking around Florence Peterson Park you will spot another interesting tree feature called a gemel, or more formally an inosculation. Inosculation is the technical name for two or more trees that have fused together into a single bizarre looking tree. They are colloquially known as gemels, a name derived from the Latin word gemellus which means "a pair" or "twin". Gemels are a natural phenomenon where trees of the same species grow close enough to rub against each other. Gradually the bark where the two trees contact each other wears away and exposes the cambium. Once you start noticing gemels, you find them everywhere in Whistler. This beautifully symmetrical one is found along the Valley Trail between Lorimer Road and Rainbow Park.  Wonderfully bizarre and so well defined that you can't help but circle around it and marvel at how strangely beautiful and evidently common gemels are.

Gemel on the Valley Trail

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