White spruce crowned tree of St. Albert
Dethrones Russian predecessor, the Scots pine
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
Symbols of St. Albert
City council Policy C-CC-09 lists the many official symbols of St. Albert. These include:
• The Chain of Office.
• The Coat of Arms, featuring the motto “In Omnibus Respice Finem” (“In everything you do look to the end”).
• The city flag, which is blue, white and red, to reflect the city’s francophone, anglophone and Métis heritage.
• The city logo and leaf icon.
• The white spruce, highbush cranberry, petunia and American elm, which are the official coniferous tree, shrub, flower and deciduous tree of St. Albert.
St. Albert now has a new official tree, and it’s the white spruce.
City council moved unanimously Tuesday to make the white spruce its official coniferous tree. It replaces the Scots pine.
The white spruce is native to St. Albert and an important part of the city’s history, said Coun. Malcolm Parker.
“Going way back into the past, they built homes out of that tree,” he said.
Retired forestry professor Peter Murphy, who was part of the group that called for the change, was glad to hear of council’s decision.
“Spruce has been so much a part of this community here, especially in the early part of the mission, that it was a natural thing to do it,” he said.
The saga of St. Albert’s official flora dates back to 1966, reads a report to council, when a committee recommended that the town adopt the Schubert chokecherry, Scots pine, highbush cranberry and petunia as its official deciduous tree, evergreen, shrub and flower. Town staff planted many of these floras in celebration of St. Albert’s centennial, but the town never formally adopted the recommendation.
Former city parks planner John Beedle pointed out the oversight around 2009, prompting the city to officially adopt the plants for its 150th anniversary in May 2011. On his advice, council held off on adopting the Schubert, as it was vulnerable to black knot disease.
The St. Albert Botanic Park Society (of which Murphy is a member) suggested the American elm as an alternative, which council accepted in September 2011. The society also recommended substituting the Scots pine with the white spruce, but council held off on doing so, as it wanted to consult the 1966 committee members first.
When the society wrote to Parker last Feb. 13 to explain its recommendation, Parker raised it in council again.
Murphy said he was surprised that the Scots had been nominated in the first place.
“It’s not a native species and I don’t personally find it attractive,” he said.
The Scots pine originates from Russia, Murphy said, and is known for the light grey bark that seems to peel or flake away from its trunk to reveal reddish, cedar-like wood. It is not found in any large numbers in the city.
Neither of the 1966 committee’s surviving members could recall why they picked the Scots, Murphy said, but he guessed it might have been a tribute to Georges Bugnet, a horticulturalist who lived in St. Albert, worked with Scots pine and invented the famous Thérèse Bugnet rose.
The white spruce is the biggest of the spruce trees and is known for its many short, pointy needles, Murphy said. These needles are four-sided, not flat like those of the fir tree, and you can roll them between your fingers.
White spruce once surrounded the city, Murphy said, and was used to build St. Albert’s first chapel. Large stands of it still remain by St. Albert Place and Ray Gibbon Drive.
The white spruce now joins the city’s list of official symbols, Parker said, and will continue to be planted at events such as Arbor Day.