Here is a
to the BEC map of the district.
Since 1975, the BC Ministry of Forests has been systematically developing an ecosystem
classification of the forest and range lands of the province. This classification is
based, with some modifications, on the biogeoclimatic system developed in the 1960s
and 1970s by Dr. V.J. Krajina and his students a t the University of British
Columbia. The system incorporates primarily climate, soil, and vegetation data. The
resulting biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) provides a framework for resource
management, as well as for scientific research.
Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) is a system that groups similar segments
of the landscape (ecosystems) into categories of a hierarchical classification system. An
ecosystem is the product of a complex environment. For the purposes of BEC, an ecosystem
is defined as a particular plant community and its associated topography, soil, and
climate. While boundaries between ecosystems in the landscape can be abrupt, they more
often tend to be gradual.
Climate is the most important factor influencing the development of forest ecosystems.
The Douglas-fir forests of interior regions reflect a much warmer, drier climate than the
moist red cedar-hemlock forests on the west coast, or the snowy mountain hemlock forests at
high elevations. Within each of these climatic areas, ecosystems vary because of
differences in topography and soil. Rocky ridges are relatively drier than lower slopes
and valley bottoms.
Vegetation is important when developing the ecological classification because it is
readily visible, and it reflects the environment, biology, and history of a site.
Coastal Western Hemlock Zone
Douglas-fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii
The Douglas-fir can be found up to 860m (2800') on the coast. Young trees form a broad,
sloping pyramid with straight or drooping lower branches while old trees develop heavy,
crooked limbs with an irregular top. The bark is deeply fissured in reddish-brown ridges.
Quickly identify the Douglas-fir by its protruding, triple-pronged bracts on the cones. It
can exceed 60m (200') in height and 1.8m (6') in diameter.
Western Hemlock - Tsuga heterophylla
The Western hemlock is most easily identified by its drooping tip. It grows 30m to 45m
(100' - 150'). The needles are flat, flexible, rounded at the tip and spread into two
rows along the branch. Its bark is reddish to grey-brown, thick and deeply furrowed into
broad, scaly ridges. Natives of southeast Alaska used to make coarse bread from the inner
Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata
A giant on the west coast, it often grows over 45m (150') high and 1.8m (6') in
diameter. Branchlets hang like fronds from the main boughs and have scaly, blunt leaves
pressed in pairs tightly to the twig. The bark is thin and stringy, and can be pulled off
in long strips. The reddish wood is fragrant and splits easily.
Mountain Hemlock Zone
Whitebark Pine - Pinus albicaulis
This crooked tree is the true indicator of tree line in the Coast Mountains. It is
recognized by the bundles of five needles crowded at the ends of its flexible branches.
These branches allow the tree to withstand heavy snow and ice loads. The bark of this
primitive pine is smooth and whitish gray, becoming scaly with age. It can be found on
dry, rocky slopes in the subalpine to timberline.
Subalpine Fir - Abies lasiocarpa
At the lower elevations of its range, this common fir can reach heights of 15m to 30m
(50' - 100'), but it becomes shrubby as it approaches treeline. Its long, spire-like
profile allows it to easily shed the heavy Coast Mountain snowfalls. The needles are
crowded, bluish green, with white rows of stomata on both sides.
Mountain Hemlock - Tsuga mertensiana
Found at elevations beyond 790m (2600') and up to timberline. The dark green needles
grow around the twigs and give a tufted appearance. Like the Western hemlock, the tip of
the tree droops. The dark brown bark has flat scaly ridges and deep furrows. The needles
are about 1" to 2" long, flat and blunt, and have two fine white lines underneath.
Yellow Cedar - Chamaecyparis nootkatensis
A shaggy tree usually less than 25m (80') high. It tapers to the top and the limbs
sweep out and down with fern-like fronds hanging from them. The bark on older trees is a
distinctive dirty white from a distance. The scaly overlapping leaves are prickly when
stroked against the grain, unlike the red cedar. The soft wood is light yellow in colour
with a pungent fragrance.
Coastal Mountain-Heather Alpine Zone
Western Anemone - Anemone occidentalis
This is one of the first plants to show after the snow melts, but quickly turns to
seed. The thick stems are hairy and the flower is waxy white with yellow stamens in the
centre. As it turns to seed, a white woolly head develops which earns this flower the
nicknames, "tow-headed baby" or "mouse on a stick".
Sitka Valerian - Valeriana sitchensis
This flower blooms throughout the summer. It is 0.4m to 0.6m (16" - 24") high
with a dense head of small white or pinkish flowers, and opposing stems of 3
to 7 leaflets.
Natives ate the thick root stock to treat stomach ailments.
Meadow Spirea - Luetkea pectinata
This plant's nickname "partridge foot", refers to the fringed leaves shaped
like birds' feet that grow close to the ground. It is found in damp, open places in the
subalpine and alpine. This small, erect plant (2" to 4") grows in groups and has small,
White Moss Heather - Cassiope mertensiana
A common ground cover plant that grows in clumps. The small white flowers are
bell-shaped. The twigs are covered with small, overlapping scales.
Red Heather - Phyllodoce empetriformis
A common low-matted plant that is topped with red, bell-shaped flowers. Unlike White
Heather, the leaves on the twigs are separate and needle-like.
Indian Paintbrush - Castilleja miniata
This flower may be up to 0.6m (2') high with narrow, sharp-pointed leaves. The red
leaf-like bracts cover up the tiny greenish flowers and give the overall bright red
Indian Hellebore - Veratrum viride
This tall plant (1m to 1.5m/39" to 59") has large, heavily ribbed leaves. Look closely for
the small flowers which are an unusual yellowish-green colour and form thin branching
spikes. This plant is extremely poisonous.
Cinquefoil - Potentilla
Easily confused with buttercups, distinguish by checking for notched flower petals
which are not shiny, and green sepals showing between each petal. The name derives from
French, meaning five leaves.
Lupine - Lupinus arcticus
These purple flowers cluster in long spikes. The bright green leaves are long and
arranged like spokes on a wheel. Drops of moisture collect at the base of the leaves to
provide extra moisture to the plant.
White Rhododendron - Rhododendron albiflorum
This erect, slender branched shrub grows 1m to 2.5m (3' to 7') tall. The oblong leaves have
rusty hairs on the upper surface, and cluster along the branch, especially at the tip. The
leaves turn bronze in the fall. The flowers are white to creamy, large and cup-shaped.
They grow in clusters of two to four.
Black Huckleberry - Vaccinium membranaceum
Absolutely delicious! The shrubs are densely branched and grow up to 1.5m (4') tall
with finely toothed, lance-shaped leaves. The flowers are creamy-pink to yellow-pink and
produce purplish or reddish-black berries.
Kinnikinnick - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
An evergreen shrub with long, flexible rooting branches that often forms mats. The
oval- to spoon-shaped leathery leaves alternate on the branch. It produces small,
pinkish-white flowers which turn into bright red berries. Edible but bland with large
Interior Douglas-fir Transitional Zone
Interior Douglas-fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca
The interior variety of Douglas-fir is distinguished by its bluish-green needles and
its shorter cones, which are less than 8 cm long. In the dry parts of the region,
Douglas-firs thick bark and tall, clear bole help protect it from fires. It is
widespread and common on a wide variety of sites at low to mid elevations; restricted to
dry, warm aspects at sub alpine elevations.
Lodgepole Pine - Pinus contorta var. latifolia
Lodgepole pine is distinguished from all other pines in the region by its needles,
which are borne in bundles of two. It is abundant where forest fires have been common.
Although mature lodgepole pine has thin bark and is easily killed by fire, many of its
seeds are sealed shut by a resin that must be melted before the seeds are released.
Consequently, initial densities of lodgepole pine as high as 100,000 trees per hectare are
not unusual. Lodgepole pine is widespread and common from low elevations to treeline on a
wide variety of soils and drainage conditions.
Trees, Shrubs & Flowers to Know in B.C. C.P. Lyons, 1991.
Plants of Coastal British Columbia Pojar & MacKinnon (ed.), 1994.
Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia Parish, Coupe & Lloyd (ed.),
Ecosystems of British Columbia Meidinger & Pojar (ed.), 1991.