The term "native species" refers to vegetation that grew naturally in southern Ontario prior to European settlement. Though there are many wonderful non-native species, here at LEAF we love native species because they’re well adapted to our climatic condition, provide wildlife habitat and typically, once established, require less care. Plus, planting native is a great way to preserve the diversity of our urban forest!
So, which native species do our Residential Planting Programs staff like best? This is what they had to say:
“My favourite tree is the mighty tamarack (Larix laricina) because it is a rule breaker. At first glance, you think it’s an evergreen because it’s conical, has soft green needles and bears small cones. But, its needles also turn a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall before dropping for the winter, making it a deciduous conifer. Although unique, the tamarack is quite widespread geographically and it is found in every province and territory across Canada!”
Residential Planting Programs Manager
“One of my favourite trees is the trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) because of the sound its leaves make in a summer breeze. Aspens are distinguished by striking white bark, brilliant yellow fall colour and heart-shaped leaves that gracefully flutter and shimmer in the wind, creating the most stunning performance. They are often seen growing in dense groves because they reproduce by sending up new stems from a single root system, making all the trees in the same grove genetically identical!”
Residential Planting Programs Operations Supervisor
“The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), one of the tallest broadleaf eastern hardwoods, is easily my native tree of choice. It has uniquely-shaped glossy green leaves throughout the spring and summer that will typically turn a vibrant yellow in the fall. And, the tulip-like yellow-green flowers that the tree produces when mature are well worth the wait. This tree requires some special conditions to thrive, such as nutrient-rich and well-draining soil. That said, it can withstand various different climatic conditions and can be spotted as far south as central Florida and as far north as southern Ontario.”
Planting and Stewardship Coordinator
“I fell in love with the white pine (Pinus strobus) after seeing its iconic windswept look while hiking near Georgian Bay. Because white pines are evergreens, their majestic beauty can be admired year-round, making them a sight for sore eyes in the grey winter months. As Ontario's provincial tree, they are easily identified by their needles that grow in bundles of five. If you want to enjoy the white pine up close like I do, you don't need to worry about getting pricked and poked – its needles are soft!”
Residential Planting Programs Operations Coordinator
… And, that’s it! It was really fun and exciting for me to speak with my colleagues on a topic we’re all so passionate about. This was so fun that I think I may have to do a Part 2 and interview our Community Program staff, as well!
Do you have a favourite native tree or shrub? I encourage you to visit our Species Offered page to discover the beauty and wonder of our native species. If you’d like to plant one of these amazing trees or shrubs on your own property, apply to our Backyard Tree Planting Program and our arborists will work with you to find the right species for you and your property!
Daniela Serodio is the Marketing and Communications Manager at LEAF.
The Backyard Tree Planting Program is supported by the City of Toronto, the Regional Municipality of York, Durham Region, the City of Markham, the Town of Newmarket, the Town of Ajax, the City of Oshawa, the City of Pickering, the Township of Scugog, the Town of Whitby and Ontario Power Generation.