Janet McKay's picture
Posted by Janet McKay /
American Elm
It was a beautiful sunny evening in Christie Pits and more than fifty curious tree-lovers gathered in the park, ready for a guided tour and some freshly-baked pizza. With the help of our trusty LEAF volunteers Katy and Taylor to check in participants, we kicked off the tour right on time! Jode Roberts of the David Suzuki Foundation took a moment to explain how Christie Pits is a key component of the Homegrown National Park project which aims to engage residents, businesses and institutions in crowd-sourcing a green corridor through the heart of Canada’s largest city.


Our head arborist Andrea Bake started by showing us a young Ohio buckeye with “palmate” leaves.  It’s an easy way to identify this tree because the five leaflets of each leaf form what looks like the palm of a hand.  


Ohio Buckeye Tree


Next we stopped by a young white pine, Ontario’s official tree and once invaluable to European explorers who made massive ship masts from the tall, straight trunks.   


White Pine Tree


Further into the park we came to an ash tree, threatened by Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  The invasive pest, imported on shipping crates from Asia, has moved through southern Ontario at an alarming rate, destroying all ash trees its path.  There is an effective treatment and of course replanting diverse native species is a must.  LEAF offers extensive resources on EAB and is also recruiting volunteer EAB Ambassadors to help spread the word about what can be done.   Plant a native tree through our subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program if you haven’t already!


Christie Pits Toronto


Monica Gupta shared how local residents had “guerilla gardened” at the north east corner of the park, establishing a beautiful garden beneath several large Siberian elm trees.  A lovely example of how a small urban space can be transformed into a beautiful community asset!


Friends of Christie Pits


The park was originally called Willowvale Park for its stunning willow trees.  They were supported by the water of Garrison Creek, which once ran through the park but is now buried underground.  The park now takes its name from the Christie Sand Pits that were on site until the early 1900s.


Native species growing in the park include tulip trees, redbuds, hackberries and swamp white oak. In 2010, the park was visited by documentary photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo who was commissioned by LEAF to capture the favourite trees of famous Torontonians. Guests on the tour got to see Matt Galloway’s favourite tree – a maple on the northern edge of the park that provides shade to anyone who happens to drop by to catch a baseball game.


The highlight of the tour for me was the magnificent American elm, untouched by Dutch elm disease, towering over every other tree in the area like a friendly giant.  I wonder, do the residents of Barton Ave have any idea that they live in the shadow of such a wondrous tree?


Elm Tree


Our last stop was a lovely little tulip tree, planted by participants of LEAF’s Tree Tenders Volunteer Training Program.  Each course culminates in a tree planting in a local park.  This little tree is doing wonderfully and will grow into a majestic companion for the American elm in a few decades.


Tulip Tree


We ended the tour at wood-burning pizza oven where those who were patient enough to wait, were rewarded with delicious pizza cooked by David Suzuki Foundation volunteers


Pizza in Christie Pits


Sitting in the heart of Christie Pits, away from all traffic and under the cool canopy of the trees, I realized there was no place I’d rather be on a Friday evening after a long week of work in the city. 


Pizza in the Pits


Join our next tour where we will explore the tree canopy along Highland Creek in Scarborough.  The tour will include two Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI).  So many treasures to discover right here in our wonderful city!


Our Tree Tours are supported by Ontario Power Generation's Biodiversity Program, York Region and the Ontario Trillium Foundation


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