Pacific Forestry Centre grounds and greenhouse keeper Erich Moerman stands with a freshly planted 14-year-old Douglas fir

A tree grows in Saanich

Pacific Forestry Centre opens its doors during National Tree Day; new walking trail opened to public use

Erich Moerman loves his trees.

So when the grounds and greenhouse keeper planted a 14-year-old Douglas fir on Wednesday at the Pacific Forestry Centre, he was beaming.

“It should reach about 90 feet tall, not that we’ll ever be around to see it,” Moerman said on Wednesday during celebrations for National Tree Day at the centre on Burnside Road West.

The Douglas fir isn’t just any tree: it’s one of seven saplings Moerman has nurtured from seeds he ordered from U.K.-based Chiltern Seeds the same year he started working at the centre.

The bluish tint to the tree is part of Chiltern’s selective breeding process, he said.

“This little fella’s the only one left of seven that I started at home. It’s been in a pot all its life and it’s survived despite being subjected to draught, being blown over by wind (it spent quite a few years in a blustery Metchosin yard), and yet it planted with healthy roots,” Moerman said proudly.

(Photo inset: University of Victoria biology co-up student and insectary assistant Eleanor Stewart displays a variety of insects harmful to trees at the Pacific Forestry Centre. The centre, which monitors such insects year-round as part of its mandate, hosted an open house Wednesday to celebrate National Tree Day.)

The Douglas fir’s namesake is commonly mistaken as being connected to James Douglas, but it was first officially identified by visiting Scottish botanist David Douglas in 1824. He included the common Western species with hundreds of species he took back to the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday, the Pacific Forestry Centre relaunched the property’s David Douglas Trail, which was built in 1999. Employees led participants on guilded nature walks through the trail.

“The trail winds through all 18 acres and the Colquitz River, and the public are welcome to use it,” said Brad Stennes, director policy, planning and operations at the centre. “We hope more will now that we’ve cleaned it up.”

The trail is now outfitted with “stations” along the route, with each including signage that detail the area’s ecosystem and trees, Stennes added.

reporter@saanichnews.com