Did you know that OOS was previously a sugar bush? It is amazing to appreciate that several trees standing today pre-existed our houses. Some trees are more than 150 years old! They have witnessed and survived so much. They are living history.
Along Colonel By Drive, we were shown a huge Bitternut Hickory that towers over the road behind the retirement home on Aylmer Avenue. On the slope are several large hemlocks with their beautiful cones that can be found in abundance on the ground, especially in the spring. Also present are large Silver and Sugar Maples and Oaks, as well as Ponderosa, Scots, and Austrian Pines. And so many more!
We learned how to identify many varieties of trees, for example how to distinguish a Sugar and a Silver Maple, even without their leaves. As for pines which keep their foliage throughout the year: five-needle White Pines, two-needle Red, Scots or Austrian Pines and the unique three-needle Pitch Pine. All these types are found in our neighbourhood!
When you look up and see large trees peaking above houses, they are almost inevitably behind buildings. Many of these larger trees exist in our back yards. The city-planted trees in the front of our properties in the road allowance (city-owned property that stretch up to two meters from the edge of the road) tend to be smaller. We have a Japanese lilac in the front of our house, planted many years ago. This smaller tree has been a popular tree with the city for planting.
While all trees have benefits, smaller trees alone in an urban cultivated environment cannot offer the coolness from shade that reduces a community’s overall temperature in summer and, more locally, lessens the heat in a house nearby. Smaller trees also capture less carbon, and the oxygen they provide is proportionally reduced. Large trees also provide more homes to the squirrels, birds and insects that are necessary for a thriving healthy community. In a cultivated urban environment such as Old Ottawa South, we need variety not only of tree species, but also of size.
There was so much to learn. So many trees with rich stories and lived histories. If only we could talk their language to hear them! Come out on our next tree walk to learn more firsthand. Look for more articles in future OSCARs too, as the Tree team members write more about events, resources, tree issues and volunteer opportunities related to our local trees.
When you are walking, look up. Appreciate the beauty of what we have. Acknowledge what each tree individually and collectively gives us. And make efforts to nurture those we have and offer new space for others. We benefit so much from their presence and need them today more than ever.
A few recommended identification guides and resources (many are older publications, as trees don’t change!):
- Books – Trees in Canada (John Farrar), Native Trees of Canada (RC Hosie), City of Trees (Bradley and Alexander)
- Online – Ontario Government: The Tree Atlas
- Apps – Flowerchecker, iNaturalist, PLantNet, Seek
And these are only a few, with many other great guides available too!
Mary Johnston is a member of the Enviro Crew of OOS’s Tree Team.
Featured in the June 2023 OSCAR.