Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: GemelInosculation 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.

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

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Cambium is the main growth tissue of trees, and prolonged contact between trees can cause them to fuse together. Separate trees can fuse together to become a gemel via tree trunks, between branches, or even connecting roots. In Whistler you can find wonderful examples of gemels in many areas. In Florence Peterson Park behind Whistler Library and Whistler Museum you will find a beautiful little forest. Huge western redcedars were cut down here long before Whistler was a resort town and the small community was called Alta Lake. Logging was the primary industry back then and that is why you see so many very old tree stumps while walking in Whistler Village and out in the wilderness hiking trails around Whistler. The little forest in Florence Peterson Park has several of these huge, old tree stumps with pretty large trees growing out of them. One of these huge tree stumps in the park near Splitz Grill is home to an interesting gemel, three western redcedar fused together. Their close proximity in the confined space of the large western redcedar stump has merged them together at the base. This cluster of three trees is not the best example of a gemel because if you don’t look closely it just appears to be three 50 year old cedars growing close together. It is, however an impressive example of another interesting phenomenon of forest growth, a nurse stump.  A nurse stump is a tree stump that has a new tree growing out of it.  Though a tree stump 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.  First, the fallen or cut down and removed tree opens some of the forest canopy and allows more sunlight in.

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.  With such an advantageous place to grow, it is little wonder that three trees have successfully flourished here for several decades.

Gemel at Whistler Library

Florence Peterson Park Gemels

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. Just a few metres away from the three tree, nurse log gemel/inosculation, you will spot two more gemels. Walking towards the library you will see a marvellous old tree that has fused together at its base and separates about 6 feet from the ground. This gemel is quite large, well over a metre around, and its enormous roots spread powerfully into the ground. A few metres from this tree you will spot another excellent example of a gemel/inosculation. This time a big cedar, maybe 40 years old has fused with a younger cedar about half its size and age.

Gemel at Whistler Library

Nurse Stumps in Florence Peterson Park

This little forest is packed with wonderfully mesmerizing trees. Possibly the most extraordinary tree is found consuming the nurse stump it is growing out of. Its huge roots have plowed through the ancient cedar stump like an anaconda crashing through a fence.  The nurse stump is slowly being obliterated by the new tree that grows within it and through it.  It is so strange that you can’t help but circle the mangled stump and marvel at these thick tentacles searching for water.

Nurse Stump Whistler Library

Florence Peterson Park is a secluded little oasis in Whistler Village with several lounge chairs surrounding a small pond at the centre of these extraordinary trees.  Main Street is a horseshoe shaped street that surrounds the park on three sides, but the library, museum, Summit Lodge and Splitz Grill shield you from the street noise.  A grassy, always sunny field slopes from the forest up to the wonderfully modern library and the museum is painted with a mural by Kups, a local artist with has several murals in Whistler.  Nearby at the Whistler Skate Park and along the Valley Trail as well as at two of Whistler’s more surreal places to hike, Parkhurst Ghost Town and Whistler Train Wreck.

Florence Peterson Park

Whistler Library

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 in Whistler

Books About Whistler Trees

Plants of the Whistler RegionYew Tree: A Thousand WhispersPlants of the Whistler Region is an excellent book that includes great pictures and descriptions of most trees you will find in Whistler. Small enough to fit in your pocket and comprehensive enough to identify most things you will encounter growing in the forests of Whistler. Along with conifer trees and broadleaf trees the book has chapters on flowers, berries, ferns and shrubs. You can find Plants of the Whistler Region on Amazon, the Whistler Library and at Armchair Books in Whistler Village. The author Collin Varner has a wonderful series of Plants of.. books on various regions beyond Whistler.  Plants of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Plants of the Gulf and San Juan Islands and Southern Vancouver Island, and Plants of the West Coast Trail.  Another great book that takes a specific look at a wonderful tree found in Whistler is The Yew Tree: A Thousand Whispers by Hal Hartzell.  About as comprehensive as a book on yew trees can be.  Culture, history, modern uses and specific to Whistler and Part 4 of the book specifically deals with the Pacific Yew.  From an extensive look at Native Americans use of the Pacific Yew to a more recent examination of this amazing tree.  If you have any interest in this extraordinary tree you will find it hard to put this wonderful book down.

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Whistler and Garibaldi Park Hiking Gear Rental

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerAlexander Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyAncient Cedars  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerBlack Tusk  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerBlackcomb Mountain  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerBrandywine Falls  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrandywine Meadows  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrew Lake  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerCallaghan Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerCheakamus Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyCheakamus River  Whistler Hiking Trail HardCirque Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyFlank Trail  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Park  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerHelm Creek  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyJane Lakes  Joffre Lakes Hike in Whistler in SeptemberJoffre Lakes  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyKeyhole Hot Springs  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyLogger’s Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyMadeley Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyMeager Hot Springs Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerNairn Falls  Whistler Hiking Trail HardNewt Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerPanorama Ridge  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyParkhurst Ghost Town  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyRainbow Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRainbow Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyRing Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRusset Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasySea to Sky Trail  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSkookumchuck Hot Springs  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSloquet Hot Springs  Sproatt East  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerSproatt West  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerTaylor Meadows  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyTrain Wreck  Hiking Trail Hard - Whistler TrailsWedgemount Lake  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerWhistler Mountain

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