Forest Education

Types of Trees

The Creston Region is home to two major Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem (BEC) Zones – the low-mid elevation Interior Cedar-Hemlock (ICH) zone, as well as the high elevation Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (ESSF) zone. With Creston residing within British Columbia’s Interior “Wet Belt”, these two zones provide Creston with high tree species diversity – also known as the “Kootenay Mix”. This creates highly resilient forests that are well adapted to a variety of conditions. While these two zones are very distinct from one another, there is often strong overlap within what are known as “transition areas” which host a mix of species from both zones. These transitional areas further enhance the diversity of Creston’s forests.  

Interior Cedar Hemlock

The ICH zone of the Creston Valley resides typically at  low-mid elevations, and host forests that are generally more moist than forests seen outside of the Kootenays. This occurs due to the region’s historical late snow-melt dates, short growing seasons, and temperate climate. One may find the following trees: Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Black Cottonwood, Lodgepole Pine, Paper Birch, Western Hemlock, Western Larch, Lodgepole Pine, Western White Pine, Grand Fir, or Western Red Cedar. Drier portions of the ICH typically are dominated by Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Western Larch, while wetter portions (such as around a creek or gully) will be dominated by shade-tolerant species such as Western Hemlock, Grand Fir, or Western Red Cedar. 


A lower elevation stand within the Interior Cedar Hemlock zone. The lower elevation stands are often comprised of Western Larch, Interior Douglas Fir, and Ponderosa Pine. The warmer and drier climate creates open stands that are dominated by a low intensity high frequency fire regime. These tree species are well suited to these conditions due to their thick bark and resinous cones. Wetter spots (such as around a creek) within this region may also see some Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and Grand Fir.  

A relatively higher elevation stand within the Interior Cedar Hemlock zone. The higher elevation host cooler temperatures, allowing shade tolerant species such as Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar to dominate the canopy. From Creston, this would typically be at about mid elevations, almost near where one may see a transition into the Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir zone. These stands may also be found near creeks at low-mid elevations where moisture content is higher and temperatures are cooler due to downstream winds. 

Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir

The ESSF zone may be found within the subalpine-alpine regions of our valley. This region boasts very short growing seasons and long winters. Due to the high amounts of snow this region typically receives, the trees that make up the forest are typically Subalpine Fir and Engelmann Spruce. These two trees are specially adapted to survive harsh winters. This includes conical crown shapes and wax-coated needles to easily shed snow and reduce moisture loss.

A lower elevation stand within the Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir zone. These stands consist of a wider variety of tree species than higher elevation stands within the same zone due to the warmer temperatures relative to a higher, more exposed site. The tree species composition may include Subalpine Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, Interior Douglas Fir, and Grand Fir. The stand pictured above may also be closer to what the transitional area between the Interior Cedar Hemlock and Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir zones may look like. 

A relatively higher elevation stand within the Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir zone. These higher elevations provide poor growing sites for trees, and such trees are very slow growing. Taller trees such as those pictured may actually be much older than they appear. Soils are generally very rocky, and slopes are subject to high winds creating high amounts of erosion. At these higher elevations, the trees are much more exposed, thus also receiving a large amount of snow cover. This forest will typically be dominated by Subalpine Fir and Engelmann Spruce.