Ancient Wonders

Ancient trees are becoming popular in B.C. local botanical gardens.

Old-growth forests are common in British Columbia’s natural rainforests, but ancient trees are becoming increasingly popular in local botanical gardens.

No, they’re not literally ancient trees, but they are rare plants that date back to prehistoric eras.

The Butchart Gardens have some of Canada’s best examples of ancient trees, including the genus Cathaya argyrophylla, known only as a fossil until a living plant was discovered in China in the 1950s. Butchart also has outdoor specimens of Wollemi nobilis, or the wollemi pine, and Metasequoia glyptostrobides, or the dawn redwood.


One of Vancouver’s largest botanical gardens, VanDusen is also home to a collection of dawn redwoods. Similar to the genus Cathaya, the dawn redwood was considered extinct until live trees were found in China in 1944.


The Prehistoric Plant Tour at the University of British Columbia’s Botanical Garden features some early species of plants, including its new wollemi pine, lovingly referred to by staff as “Little Billy,” and one of Canada’s largest specimens at approximately 3.5 m (11.5 ft).