This year’s community partnership is unique in that it was a union of two groups: the Bloordale Adopt-a-Street-Tree (AAST) program and the Botanicus Art Ensemble, located in MacGregor Park. This season was the first time the two groups met, and the YUFLs performed activities to support the two groups leading up to the tour.
Tree identification, tree care and invasive species were the main points covered throughout the course of the tour. As a first step in identifying trees, Tamar explained the difference between alternating and opposite branches.
Venu introduced the Emerald Ash Borer and Tua mentioned Dutch Elm Disease, both of which have negatively impacted Toronto’s urban forest. Ash and elm trees are marked by city forestry workers, indicating that they are being monitored and treated by the city to control the spread of these pests/diseases.
Anton compared the Norway maple with native maples in Toronto, such as the red maple and sugar maple. He highlighted the differences between them and how to successfully identify native maples. He also mentioned that the Norway maple is an invasive species. These trees disrupt native wildlife habitats in Toronto's ravine systems by shading out plants growing beneath them except their own saplings which are extremely shade-tolerant.
Samantha introduced the Amur cork tree which grows well in urban areas and is a non-native species. She explained that native trees play an integral role in sustaining native wildlife, for which LEAF’s Backyard Biodiversity campaign raises awareness.
Willow and Anton also explained proper mulching techniques. Since the YUFLs had mulched trees in MacGregor Park at the beginning of the summer, participants in the tour had a chance to see proper mulching (formed in a doughnut shape). This was in contrast with some problematic landscaping techniques pointed out throughout the tour, such as planting trees in raised soil planters and mulch piled up around a tree as a volcano that suffocates the root flare and lower trunk.
At the final stop, Willow introduced the honey locust and the group gathered around a locust dedicated to the late Kirsten Fahrig, the creator of Botanicus Art Ensemble. Kit Tuck of Botanicus talked about Kirsten’s legacy and the future of MacGregor Playground.
The tour ended with a tree-themed song called “Trees Grow Slow,” by Laurence Cole, led by Tamar, followed by a native shrub giveaway. Overall the event was great fun and very educational.
The most valuable takeaways of participating in YUFL have come from working with both community partners simultaneously. The Bloordale Adopt-a-Street-Tree team demonstrated the ability local tree enthusiasts have to impact the well-being of stressed-out urban street trees and educate the public in a deep and measurable way. The Botanicus team demonstrated that drawing people together around storytelling and art about our local plants and wildlife is a strong way to connect generations and bring them closer to nature. Each group's unique approach is a key part of solving the urban forestry issues of our day. This multi-pronged approach seems like a great way to go forward from YUFL with the skills we've honed and the energy we've cultivated. With gratitude, we hope to continue working with Bloordale AAST, Botanicus Art Ensemble and LEAF to further our personal impact on Toronto's urban forest.
Learn more about LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders program here.
Learn more about Bloordale’s Adopt a Street Tree Program here.
Learn more about the Botanicus Art Ensemble here.
Also. learn about Backyard Biodiversity.
Written by: Willow Cabral, Tamar Goldberg, Tua Hytonen, Samantha Quezada, Anton Stanley and Venu Wadehra, participants of the 2019 Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL) program organized by LEAF.
The Young Urban Forest Leaders Program is offered by LEAF in collaboration with Park People and is supported by funds from Every Tree Counts, a partnership between Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation and the City of Toronto.
LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property. The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York, The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit http://yourleaf.org.