Cambie Heritage Boulevard
A Vancouver's Legacy,
A Treasury of Trees


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In the Pacific Northwest from the Willamette River to Puget Sound to Georgia Straits, on the city streets and public spaces from Portland, Seattle-Tacoma to Victoria and Vancouver, there is a treasury of temperate shade, flowering and ornamental trees that surpass in species, variety and quantity most if not all other regions of North America. Most people would say it's our cool wet and gentle climate while others, our cultural inheritance of the 'English disease' Whatever the reasons, there is now, as we begin the twenty first century, a rich legacy of trees lining our streets and enhancing our parks that continue to provide a living heritage. They will bring to our urban environment seasonal beauty and a healthy atmosphere well into the twenty first century and beyond.

One of the finest example of this living urban forest of shade and ornamental trees is the Cambie Heritage Boulevard in the City of Vancouver, a three km long street extending across the midriff of the city with treed verges and a 10 m wide median arboretum. Vancouver, on the east shore of Georgia Strait, is British Columbia's largest city and Canada' s most important Pacific port, and once lay at the heart of the coastal rainforest. The city still has vestiges of the man modified Douglas-fir, hemlock, western red cedar forest bordering parts of the city: There are forests like Point Grey foreshore and Pacific Spirit Park in the west, Burnaby's Central Park in the east and the world renowned Stanley Park forest to the north.

However, the reputation as one of the world's most beautiful cities is gained not from these bits of remnant rain forest but from the strong garden culture and tradition of the English and their love of ornamental flowering and foliage trees that have been planted and tended on our streets, avenues, parks and gardens since Vancouver was founded in 1886. Cambie Street with its attachment to Queen Elizabeth Park's quarry display garden and crowning arboretum exemplify an urban tree and landscape heritage unique to Vancouver. Vancouver has 3,200 km of streets. Sixty-five percent them are treed with over one quarter of a million trees on 2000 km of streets. Paul Montpellier the City's chief arboriculturist estimates these trees have a replacement value of half a billion Canadian dollars, a thousand fold increase in value that these trees produced over the last 20 years.

The forty five block long Cambie Street with median and verges has just over a 1000 trees. These that add up to a replacement value of 4 million dollars Canadian. When you combine this with the 1500 trees in the arboretum in Queen Elizabeth Park that extends onto the Cambie Boulevard median, the financial value of this living urban amenity forest easily becomes 10 million dollars. This monetary amount in no way represents the real value of the urban forest landscape in terms of helping to maintain a healthy environment and providing the enhancement of form, colour and texture that each individual tree and grouping brings to the beauty of this garden landscape.

Cambie street and Queen Elizabeth arboretum have become unique and special in many ways not the least of which is how they came to be a part of the fabric of Vancouver. In the early 1920s the developing city occupied only the north half of the Burrard Peninsula with the municipalities of South Vancouver occupying the Eastern part of the south half. It extended to the North Arm of the Fraser River with Point Grey municipality taking up the southwest part of the peninsula. Point Grey bordered the University Endowment Lands and the University of British Columbia campus at the end of the peninsula.

In 1926 the St. Louis, Missouri, consulting firm of Harland Bartholomew & Associates City Planners, Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects was engaged to prepare a plan that included the city, South Vancouver and Point Grey. Amalgamation of the three occurred three years later. The plan for the city prepared by the Bartholomew firm incorporated many if not all the principles of the English Garden City combined with those ideals in the US City Beautiful movement. One element in particular of these combined concepts was for the major streets to have a wide garden boulevard or landscaped median and tree lined sidewalks on the outer edges of the roadways on each side. It combines elements of a greenbelt, a park and a garden all in one.

The Bartholomew Plan called for a framework of these grand and elegant streets as part of the North-South and East-West street grid pattern on the 110 km² peninsula. While a few of these planned streets were not built, those that were, like the east to west 4.2 km King Edward or 25th Avenue, the north to south Boundary Road with median of 100 Canadian Maples and the jewel of them all, Cambie Boulevard that formed a South entry to the City' centre and would create a ribbon of green across the peninsula. These gave the city a legacy to be found nowhere else to this extent in any North America city and continues to provide efficient and pleasant travel amid a landscape environment of visual beauty and quality throughout the year.

The ornamental trees that are now 50 to 75 years old and make up the Cambie Heritage Boulevard with those in Queen Elizabeth Park arboretum include the VIP and Royals planted trees. They are almost all the vision and work of one man, W. C. (Bill) Livingston, Superintendent of Parks for Vancouver. Beginning in 1938, when he first started as Park's Foreman with Vancouver Parks Board and for the next 36 years William (Bill) Livingston was responsible for creating, building and managing the physical park system in the city. He oversaw the development of more than thirty of Vancouver's Parks, beaches, recreation grounds, playing fields, display gardens and treed streets and boulevards. He died in 1990 leaving us, in Vancouver and British Columbia a great legacy of parks and recreation places. Cambie Heritage Boulevard and Queen Elizabeth garden and arboretum were his special creations.

In 1989 it came to the attention of those who lived in the residential areas adjoining the Cambie Boulevard that it was being considered as the route for an overhead rapid transit sky train to connect the Fraser River delta two island community, now the city of Richmond, with the Vancouver International Airport, to the existing Expo skytrain line. This overhead line was built in 1985 for Expo '86. It linked Downtown Vancouver with the city of New Westminster over top of a disused interurban tramline right- of - way connecting the two city's downtown areas though the middle of the City of Burnaby. While Sky Train is an efficient but very expensive capital cost transit system, the visual impact of the overhead structure required to carry the tracks and vehicles completely overwhelms all around it particularly the residential landscape and especially those of Vancouver's existing 'garden city' single family homes, townhouse and three and four story apartment buildings. These neighbourhoods are the essence that makes Vancouver a beautiful, human scaled and liveable city like no other.

Save Cambie Rally
Heritage Plaque
Tree Planting

Led by Ethel Karmel, an artist who had lived most of her life in the Cambie area, a group of Vancouver citizens held a series of rallies in protest of the idea of an overhead skytrain through and over top of the treed Cambie median. They reasoned there could be no greater defacement of this landscape though the very centre of the city could be imagined than to shade destroy completely, maturing trees, landscape and skyline. Their rallying cry became 'No Skytrain on Cambie'. The group gathered signatures of over 6000 citizens in support of Cambie Street becoming a Heritage Landscape. In 1993 their presentation to Vancouver City Council and Mayor Gordon Campbell, now Provincial Premier, was successful and Cambie Street boulevard was proclaimed as the first Heritage Landscape in the city.

In 1994 the group formed the Cambie Heritage Boulevard Society and Ethel Karmel was elected President. The Society's express purpose is to provide stewardship and guardianship of this ' Treasury of Trees' in order that they will stand as a living monument, a reminder of our city's heritage and will continue to provide year round beauty, remain an attractive treed entry to the city and help with maintaining a healthy balance for the environment to the end of the 21st Century and well beyond.

The Treasury of Trees that go to create this urban street and park landscape consist of trees that originate from some of the countries and continents from which many of Vancouver's residents have emigrated from: China, Japan, Korea, India, Western Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and of course eastern and western North America While in arboricultural and dendrological terms there are 77 species of trees represented in the arboretum and along Cambie boulevard as well as many horticultural clones and cultivars of these tree species.

Cherry tree blossomsPerhaps the most spectacularly floriferous trees are the Japanese flowering cherries. Prunus serrulata 'Pink Perfection'and P. yedonsis, the Yoshino cherry are the names for these late flowering wide spreading branched trees. Repeated groups of these on the median are the theme flowering tree for the Cambie heritage boulevard along with very horizontal branching double-white 'Shirofugen' and the vase shaped ice-cream pink 'Kwanzan'. A grove of the equally floriferous, early flowering open vase shaped branching roundheaded Japanese cherry is called. P. yedonsis 'Akebono' the Daybreak cherry that edges the north slope of the Queen Elizabeth Park arboretum. In late March and early April this pink cloud of pink daybreak cherry can be seen directly in front as you drive southbound up Cambie street between 37th Avenue and Marine Drive. These cherries are perhaps some of the very best of Vancouver's 26 varieties of Chinese, Japanese and Korean Oriental cherries grown along the streets and in parks in the city. The days are cloudy and the temperature is cool so the cherry blossoms fade little and last through several weeks Like the people from these Asian countries they like it and prosper here in Vancouver.

BigtreeThe magnificence of living plants is represented on the Cambie Heritage by the 'Giant Redwood' or 'Bigtree', Sequoiadendron giganteum. from the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. When they were planted in 1938 it began the tree legacy for Cambie. This eight block long median combines the 'Bigtrees or Giant Sequoias with the rare golden yellow leaved selection of the English elm, called. Ulmus procera ' Vanhoutei'. Van Houte was the Belgian nurseryman who selected this slow growing colourful round headed tree with the golden leaves some time in the latter part of the 19th century. The bright gold leaves of this elm contrast with the perfect cones of dark blue green foliage of the 'Bigtrees'. Planted in the 1936 by parks gardener, Robert Guthrie, deceased, these friendly giants are guardians at the entrance Vancouver's downtown and are now approaching 200 ft (60m) in height, almost matching the height of the new residential towers being built in the downtown.

In the Cambie median nearby to the Bigtrees is a single specimen of a tree that is equally magnificent and makes up for a smaller stature by the graceful sweep, spread and weep of its branches. It is the Deodara cedar from the India-Nepal Himalayas: Cedrus deodara. The species epithet translates from Hindi as beautiful tree. which indeed this evergreen is, and perhaps also ranks as the most graceful of all the conifers. Both Deodara cedar and the stiffer Blue Atlas Cedar C. altlantica glauca, from North Africa's Atlas mountains grow and look so well in Vancouver, most people believe they are natives.

In the adjoining Queen Elizabeth park arboretum, equally magnificent but more picturesque than graceful, are the native Douglas-firs scattered around with the other conifers. There is also a large stand of the coastal variety of this Pacific Northwest timber tree that Archibald Menzies the Surgeon Botanist with Captain Vancouver found here over 200 years ago. David Douglas introduced this conifer as an ornamental to the gardens and parks of England and Scotland thirty years after Menzies used it to make the 'Spruce beer' that kept Capt Vancouver's ship's crews free of scurvy throughout their three years in these waters. This home grown grove of Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii in the Queen Elizabeth arboretum was planted in 1938 to commemorate an organization of boys called Junior Forest Wardens,.whose role was to learn and practice forest fire protection. A few years later most of the older boys went off to fight in World War II and the corps set up protect our coastal forests and who wore red shirts and green forage caps was disbanded.

Cambie boulevard and the arboretum is unique in using two westcoast conifers, the Falsecypress' as ornamentals, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis and many varieties of Lawson's 'cypress. C. lawsoniana . They are scattered in threes all along the central median and in groves in the arboretum. Nootka Falsecypress (Yellow Cedar or Alaska Cedar are the forestry names), on the Cambie Median is as far as is known is the first use of this widely distributed Pacific Northwest native, with the most distinct ammonia fragrance, in an urban street setting. Not quite as elegant as Deodara cedar and slower growing they add with the 'Aurea' form of Western Arborvitae (Western redcedar is the timber name), Thuya plicata present year round, great mounds of golden green colour and repetition along the median.

Lawson's 'cypress varieties grace the Cambie median and the well drained slopes of the arboretum. This conifer is native to a 200 mile long strip of coastal mountain area in southern Oregon and Northern California. Seed sent by David Douglas to his friend James Lawson in Scotland quickly found its way into the Lawson family nursery. Genetically unstable many juvenile foliage seedlings were introduced as a separate species called Retinospera . The many forms, colours and shapes were raised by the Lawson nursery and others in England, there are some 150 named varieties. Most rapidly outgrew this dwarf conifer size and juvenile foliage, some to grow into graceful 30 to40 meter high trees. There are several on the Cambie median that are tall and extremely narrow with golden foliage and others with glaucus (bluish) foliage. Each tree has a wide spreading petticoat of juvenile foliage at ground level. They are the variety C. lawsoniana "Stewarti', and C. lawsoniana 'glauca', the Golden and Blue Lawson's ' cypress. In the arboretum a grove of C. lawsoniana 'Fletcheri', makes a lovely group on the grassed slope, viewed from below. We in Vancouver rarely if ever water our public park and school lawn areas, this includes the Cambie Street and King Edward medians. To a large extent this lack of summer watering prevents the demise of these conifers from the phytophera fungus that kills the tree's cambian. It is triggered when these trees receive summer watering; the Hinoki Falsecypress C. obtusa varieties are not affected. This Japanese species' aurea variety is alternated with the dogwoods along several blocks of Cambie Heritage Boulevard.

Cambie Heritage Boulevard's best kept secret and legacy are these dogwoods. Most North American authorities recommend against using dogwoods as street trees especially when grown on standards as these thin barked edge of the forest trees usually need to have their trunks shaded. This is not the case along Cambie Heritage boulevard however. There are three species of Cornus, along with a variegated leaved and two pink flowered forms as well as a hybrid of two of the dogwood species. They are all planted in blocks along Cambie street not in the centre median but along the roadsides between street and sidewalks. Prominent along several blocks is the variegated leaved Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii 'Goldspot' . Goldspot dogwood with splotches of gold on the leaves was found growing in the wild and introduced by the Pioneer coastal British Columbia nurseryman and rosarian Henry M. Eddie.

The Pacific Dogwood, Cornus. nuttallii, British Columbia's provincial flower is also planted along Cambie. Most years they and 'Goldspot' flower twice:, a big show in spring completely clothing the trees in white, sometimes before the leaves and with a lesser amount of bloom again in August-September .The 6 large white bracts surround a 'raspberry' of seeds. that turn red and decorate the summer green, pink and rust fall leaves. The 'red raspberries' of seeds and the rich mahogany of autumn leaves and the pointed glistening white bracts of selected forms of the Korean Dogwood, C. kousa out performs the native dogwoods, but does not compete in time, as they follow on with their floral display in April and May along the street. The eastern US. dogwood C .florida and a selection named Cherokee Princess with pink floral bracts are also featured on the Cambie street roadsides.

In 1986 to honour the first hundred years of Vancouver as a city, a tree was selected to officially honour Vancouver's centennial. It is the hybrid dogwood, bred and introduced by the afore mentioned local nurseryman H .M. Eddie. It is a cross between the Pacific dogwood and C. florida ,with the name 'Eddie's White Wonder' ; and indeed it is, and comely too. Since 1990 there have been plantings of 'Eddie's White Wonder' along streets, on School grounds in the city and in particular on Cambie Heritage Boulevard's roadsides and median It is more floriferous, consistently covered with blossom, with larger white floral bracts than the Pacific Dogwood. The tree has a stronger constitution, with hybrid vigour and a richer more brilliant fall colour: 'Eddies White Wonder' dogwood is ideally suited to Vancouver's climate.

At 33rd Avenue, Cambie south bound takes a wide curve to sweep up and around the edge of the park's arboretum. As one turns off Cambie at the crest and waits at the gap in the median before crossing to enter into Queen Elizabeth Park's lower road and arboretum drive, there is on the rise ahead, a grove of fine needled conifers These are the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glypstostroboides, named first from the fossil of it and before it was found in 1946, 'alive and well' in a 40 by 100 km area in Northwestern Hupeh province in Central China.. Seedlings were subsequently introduced by the University of California Botanical Gardens and the Arnold arboretum to arboretums, botanical gardens and parks departments around the world. It became the most widely distributed tree in the twentieth century. Metasequoia have clean bright- green new needles in spring that turn a rich milk chocolate brown in late November. This tree is beginning to achieve majestic proportions in the arboretum and along several streets in the city. Again Vancouver has led the way in using this tree to enhance an urban street. The Dawn Redwoods on Kerr street and in the Queen Elizabeth arboretum are now 50 years old.

The Majesty of trees at the South end of Cambie Heritage Boulevard is taken by a little known, or rarely used ornamentally, of the North American white oaks, Quercus macrocarpa. Its native range extends into Canada's southern Manitoba areas of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and up into the boreal forest area between lake Winnipeg and lake Winnipegosis.

In David Douglas' 1823 monograph on the 26 North American Oaks, prepared after his trip to the Eastern US and Upper Canada, for Joseph Sabine, RHS Secretary, Douglas quotes Pursh: "The clusters of its (Q. macrocarpa) large acorns with their mossy fringed cups, and the beauty of its deeply lobed leaves, give this tree a singularly graceful aspect." No one seems to have commented on it since. Their majestic nature after only 40 years shows promise of surpassing the largest in the wild, said to grow in the Allegheny mountains of eastern United States. Another best kept secret of the arboretum in the grove bordering the Cambie Heritage Boulevard are the species of oaks planted there. The oaks were the favourite tree of the late Vancouver Parks Superintendent Bill Livingston who created the park and arboretum . It is hoped that this grove can be named in his honour and dedicated to his memory.

The front lawn conifer of the suburban garden in Canada's colder climate areas has traditionally been selected from the more glaucous forms of the Colorado Blue Spruce, Picea pungens glauca. Almost always misnamed as Koster's Blue Spruce, that is a blue needled semi-weeping grafted form from Europe. Although there are some fine spruce in the Queen Elizabeth Park arboretum the Colorado blue spruce does not do well in Vancouver's calm and benign climate that favours a insect feeding on the new needles to give the tree an unkempt appearance. Several successive annual attacks will kill the tree. Vancouver is a pesticide free city and while there is one or two blue Spruce on the median there is another species of spruce there that is not attacked. This species of spruce now all along the median is the more graceful of the spruces, the Serbian , Picea omorika.; they are the newest addition. To accompany this conifer the arborists at the Vancouver Parks Department have added the pure white floriferous Kobus Magnolia, Magnolia kobus, the Japanese Snowbell, Styrax japonica and the Paperback Maple, Acer griseum. These garden scaled comely trees have stepped into the public realm of the median to give a front garden continuum to Cambie Heritage Boulevard signing it as the entry to garden city Vancouver.

A Tree Treasury: Cambie Heritage Boulevard

Acer campestre, ‘Queen Elizabeth’ Field Maple

Acer circinatum, Vine Maple

Acer freemanii, ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ Freeman Mple

Acer griseum, Paperbark Maple

Acer rubrum,’Karpick’ Upright Red Maple

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple, Can. Flag Maple

Betula pendula, European weeping Birch

Castanea sativa, Sweet or Spanish Chestnut

Cedrus atlantica, Atlas Cedar

Cedrus atlantica glauca, Blue Atlas Cedar

Cedrus atlantica libani, Cedar of Lebanon

Cedrus deodara, Himalayan Cedar

Celtis occidentalis, Western Hackberry

Carpinus betulus ‘fastigiata’, Upright Hornbeam

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis Nootka Cypress

Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana glauca, Blue Lawson’s

Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana, ‘Stewarti’

Chamaecyparis obtusa aurea, Golden Hinoki Cypress

Cornus alternifolia argentea, Pagoda Dogwood

Cornus controversa, Giant Dogwood

Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’

Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Princess’

Cornus Kousa ‘Chinensis’, Korean Dogwood

Cornus mas, Cornelian Dogwood

Cornus nuttalli, Pacific Dogwood, BC’s Flower

Cornus nuttalli ‘Goldspot’ Dogwood

Cornus X ‘Eddies White Wonder’ Dogwood

Vancouver’s Centennial Tree’

Cratageus oxycantha fastigiata, Upright Hawthorne

Crataegus X ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ Hawthorne

Cratageus Lavellai, Lavell Hawthorne

Fagus crenata, Japanese Beech

Fagus sylvatica asplenifolia, Maidenhair Beech

Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawykii’ Dawyck Beech

Fagus sylvatica fasitigiata, Pyramidal Beech

Fagus sylvatica roseo-marginata, Rosedged Beech

Fagus sylvatica rotundifolia, Roundleaf Beech

Fagus sylvatica zlatia, Goldenleaf Beech

Fagus sylvatica atropunicea, Copper Beech

Forsythia Intermedia, ‘Lynwood Gold’ forsythia

Geditsia triacanthos, inermis, Sunburst Locust

Juniperus communis, Common Juniper

Larix X eurolepsis, Hybrid Larch

Liquidamber stryaciflua, Sweetgum

Magnolia kobus, Kobus Magnolia

Malus zumi ‘Calicarpa’ Redbud Crabapple

Metasequoia glyptostrodoides, Dawn Redwood

Picea pungens glauca, Colorado Blue Spruce

Picea ormorika, Serbian Spruce

Pinus nigra, Austrian Pine

Pinus ponderosa, Ponderosa Pine

Pinus sylvestris, Scotch Pine

Platanus acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’ London Plane

Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardi nigra’ Purple Plum

Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ Oriental Cherry

Prunus serrulata, ‘Pink Perfection’ O. Cherry

Prunus serrulata, ‘shirofugan’ Oriental Cherry

Prunus serrulata, ‘shirotae’ Oriental Cherry

Prunus serrulata ‘Takasago’ Oriental Cherry

Prunus serrulata ‘Ukon’ Oriental Cherry

Prunus yedonsis,Yoshino Cherry

Prunus yedonsis, ‘Akebono’ Daybreak Cherry

Pyrus calleryana, ‘Chanticleer’ Pear

Quercus macrocarpa, Bur Oak

Quercus X ‘turneri’, Turner Evergreen Oak

Sequoiadendron giganteum, Giant Redwood, Bigtree

Sophora japonica, Chinese Scholar Tree

Sorbus aria lutescens, European whitebeam

Sorbus aucuparia, Rowantree

Styrax japonica, Japanese Snowbell

Styrax Obassia, Bigleaf Snowbell

Syringa reticulata, Tree Lilac

Taxodium distichum, Bald Cypress

Thuja plicata aurea, Golden Arborvitae

Thuya plicata, Western Arborvitae

Tilia X euchlora ‘Redmond’, Redmond Lime

Ulmus procera ‘Van Houtei’,Golden English Elm

This information is in the Vancouver Archives.


copyright © 2002-2006 Cambie Boulevard Heritage Society, Vancouver, B.C. Canada