A version of this article appeared in the Westmount Independent – March 2, 2016
One of our favourite movies during the holiday season is “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – although produced in 1965 it has stood the test of time and become a season classic. In one scene, Charlie Brown hangs a single glass ornament on the spindly Christmas tree he brought home causing it to bend. He remarks: “I’ve killed it. Oh! Everything I touch gets ruined.”
I have often wondered if Westmount Park contains a pine tree, similar to the one depicted in the movie.
As luck may have it, during our many walks through the park, I have noticed a pine tree that very closely resembles the one depicted in the movie. With its tall and spindly shape, it can be easily overlooked in its location near the lagoon south of the clay tennis courts.
This particular tree is a Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) also known as: scrub pine, gray pine, Banksian pine, black pine, and in within Canada, princess pine or Hudson Bay pine. Interestingly, its scientific name honors Sir Joseph Banks – the British naturalist who also arranged Captain William Bligh’s expedition to Tahiti on the HMS Bounty – a voyage that ended with a mutiny.
Jack pines are native to the north-eastern states and across Canada – in fact, their northern latitude extends further than any other American pine.
They are easily identified by their long needles, in bundles of two, and their unique shape caused by a twist from base to tip. In addition, they are the sole pine species containing cones that twist at their tips. These cones can remain closed for many years. Normally, forest fires result in the opening of the cones causing the distribution of seeds on the ash bed.
Next time you pass by this lonely-looking pine, remember Linus Van Pelt’s description: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”