Toronto is fortunate because it is located where two big forest regions overlap: the Great Lakes St Lawrence forest to the northeast, and the Deciduous or Carolinian forest to the south. This makes tree planting exciting as there is a lot of variety to pick from. For the TCHC Planting and Stewardship Initiative, 11 communities welcomed 150 new trees from 11 native species. Read on for distinctive traits that set each of these neighbours apart.
1. American elm (Ulmus Americana) has a very unique shape that can be spotted from a mile away. With its slender trunk and wide spreading limbs, this tree resembles an umbrella or fan.
2. Sometimes referred to as the “bee tree”, basswood (Tilia Americana) trees have small creamy yellow flowers that attract all kinds of pollinators, including native bees! The flowers are also fragrant additions to a cup of tea.
3. Bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) love to “throw shade” with their dense canopies. These large trees are also very long-lived, thriving for hundreds of years and providing benefits to wildlife and people for centuries!
4. From moist, fertile soils to dry and rocky locations in full sun, hackberries (Celtis occidentalis) are tough trees that are able to tolerate a variety of challenging urban environments. This makes them a tree neighbour you can count on.
5. Don’t let the name of the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) deceive you! It may sound sweet, but this tree sports large thorns all over the trunk and branches! Thankfully, thornless varieties of the tree are planted to keep everyone safe in the city and it’s what we planted at TCHC properties.
6. The Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) sports the largest leaf among all of the native trees in Canada, growing to be 60 to 90 cm long. But, you wouldn’t think so unless you knew to look for their distinctive double compound leaves that divide into smaller leaflets.
7. Mature silver maple (Acer saccharinum) trees are great neighbours for animal lovers as wildlife, like squirrels, raccoons or nesting birds, will often use them for refuge.
8. The Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii) has the best of both worlds as a hybrid between its two North American parents, silver maple and red maple, which make it a hardy tree with vivid fall colour ranging anywhere from bright yellow to scarlet red.
9. Another head-turning neighbour is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) whose leaf is the national symbol of Canada and displays a bright gradient of colour from green to yellow to orange to red in the fall. This sweet tree is also the source of the majority of our maple sugar and syrup!
10. Serviceberries (Amelanchier laevis) are popular tree neighbours because they produce red-purple fruits that taste similar to blueberries and are perfectly edible by humans, yum! These fruits can be added into baked goods, made into jams or eaten straight off the branch if you can get to them before the birds do.
11. Grey dogwood (Cornus racemose) brings all the birds to the yard with clusters of white fruit that often persist into the winter, acting as a quick snack for hungry wildlife.
These #TCHCTrees neighbours not only look great but have added quirks that make them a valuable member in the urban forest.
Visit our Species Offered page for full profiles on all the native species mentioned here and more!
** Note: Though not native, ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba) were also planted at Toronto Community Housing Corporation properties to fulfil TCHC needs
Lam Tran is the Education Coordinator at LEAF. She holds a Master’s of Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto.
The 2018 Toronto Community Housing Corporation Planting and Stewardship Initiative was supported by funds from Every Tree Counts, a partnership between Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation and the City of Toronto. Additional support in the form of trees and planting services was provided by City of Toronto Forestry. Cohen & Master Tree and Shrub Services also provided in-kind support to the project.
The 2019 project is supported by funds from Every Tree Counts, a partnership between Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation and the City of Toronto. It is also supported by funds from TD Green Space Grant from TD Bank Group (TD) and the Arbor Day Foundation, which support innovative urban greening and tree planting projects in underserved areas of the community. Support in the form of trees and planting services is provided by City of Toronto Forestry.