The Golden Spruce. Kiidk'yaas,by name, because it was an unique character and deserved a name of its own. A Sitka Spruce tree, Picea sitchensis 'Aurea', it grew on the banks of the Yakoun River in Haida Gwaii archipelago, British columbia. It had a rare genetic mutation causing its needles to be golden in colour. The mutation causes the chlorophyll to break down when exposed to much sunlight. The 250 days of cloud cover a year that typify the rainforest region of the Queen Charlottes was just what was needed to allow this tree to grow. The only one of its kind, it was considered sacred by the Haida Gwaii nation -- in their myths it is often portrayed as a human transformed into a tree, a tree that will stand as long as the Haida Nation survives. Sitka spruce in general are sort of willy-nilly messy, ragged. But this Golden Spruce was very tidy, very contained, with a peculiarly perfect conical shape. Its needles were all about two-thirds the normal length. The tree's needles grew more densely. It was 165 feet and 300 years old.
John Vaillant has written a book about this tree, and the logger turned environmentalist turned something else who, in 1997, cut it down. It is a book you should read. Can the damage our civilization exacts on the natural world be justified?
So it is with some excitement that I went to meet a relative of the Golden Spruce that lives in the Township of Lake of Bays. Given as a retirement gift to Peter Kourtz, it was cloned from two Sitka spruce trees at the Petawawa National Forest Research Centre, and is called a Petawawa Sunburst tree. (and is more tolerant of sunlight, it would seem -- since Muskoka gets far far fewer than 250 days of cloud cover.
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