Ruth Barry and Jerry Van receive the CVN gift bag for the winning submission in the 2022 Comox Valley Nature Tree of the Year contest. Photo by Kerri Scott

Ruth Barry and Jerry Van receive the CVN gift bag for the winning submission in the 2022 Comox Valley Nature Tree of the Year contest. Photo by Kerri Scott

Comox Valley Nature’s 2022 Tree of the Year unveiled

By Kerri Scott

Special to the Record

The winner of the annual Comox Valley Nature Society “Tree of the Year” has been chosen by public vote.

The contest was inspired by European tradition. Now in its fifth year, it fosters a strong connection with nature by highlighting local trees that Comox Valley residents cherish.

This year’s winning tree, nominated by Ruth Barry, is a Garry oak, located at 3015 Glacier Rd., in Courtenay. Ruth Barry and her husband, Jerry Van have lived on the property for 12 years. They designed and built their home around the magnificent Garry oak tree.

“It is significant to us because we bought this property because of this tree,” said Barry. “The house foundations start only beyond the root system, and the windows were designed to capture views of the foliage to create the feeling of being in its branches.”

Considered to be the largest, northern-most Garry oak on Vancouver Island, it is estimated that the tree is 400 years old. It reaches an impressive 21 metres high, and the diameter of its trunk at breast height is a whopping 120 centimetres.

Healthy and growing, this tree appears to be the mother tree of two other younger Garry oaks on the property. In its lifetime, this mother tree has been witness to centuries of change in the Comox Valley. Originally tended to by the local Indigenous people, this tree grew before the first European settlers arrived in this area.

When Barry and Van purchased the property, there was a 63-year-old farmhouse where their home currently stands. In the 1960s, BC Hydro took measures to guard against potential limb failure on the power lines that run beside the tree. They placed several metal bands between two stems that are now encased within the tree. Nearby nesting eagles, black squirrels, as well as Barry and her family have been found spending time in this tree’s grand expanse of branches.

As a child, Barry would often climb trees as high as she could and read a book. Her love of nature was inspired by her intrepid mother, Denise Nadler. In the last few years of her life, her mother stumbled under the tree and lay on the grass, quietly gazing with joy up into its gnarled branches. On this occasion, Barry joined her and shared stories inspired by The Faraway Tree tales by Enid Blyton. It is written “all kinds of queer folk live in the trunk of the Faraway Tree.” Her mother’s ashes are scattered at its base.

As Barry and her husband pack to move to England, they confidently hand the care of this Garry oak to the new owners of the property, who promise to be “good custodians of the trees, the land and the animals.” “This magnificent oak is guarded by the spirit of the eagle,” said Barry.

She dedicates this year’s award to her late mother.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Tree of the Year Award. For more information go to https://comoxvalleynaturalist.bc.ca/.

Comox ValleyNature

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