Just before Christmas Dr. Mac Brown, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Natural Resources Management at Lake Head University, and I, explored the tree cover along our historic road. Professor Brown helped identify the different tree species and offered some insights that you might find interesting.
An aerial view of Draper Bay at house number 477. Fall of 2011. Photo credit Steve Hunt, former neighbor on our road.
Where the road curves, at the bottom of the photo, is the boat ramp
Trees line the road starting at Draper Bay, just before the boat ramp, in the environmental area shown above. At the north side of the road is a century old apple tree orchard, most likely planted by the original owner of the red brick farmhouse, Richard Draper, in the late 1800-s. The apple trees have born abundant fruit over the years, but recently have suffered from some of the more violent storms that whirl around our neighbourhood. Last fall one big apple tree toppled and was cut up for fire wood. The base was at least one meter in diameter and the number of growth rings was too large to count but it confirmed the suggestion that it was planted in the late 1800-s.
The centennial apple orchard of the Draper Farm, now owned by Judy and Phil Quintin.
From here, a wooded limestone ledge separates the class I agricultural lands on the north side of the Aragon Road from Colonel By Lake south of the road. These lands were used for crops and livestock food. The meadows are now mostly pasture. Past agricultural practices necessitated the cutting of most trees to prepare the land for cultivation, but most likely the limestone ledge was excluded. It would have been too difficult to cultivate. Some trees in the fields were also spared as shade trees.
Cows wandering into the southernmost edge of their pastures might have killed off small trees growing on the limestone ledge and other more mature trees might have been cut over the years for firewood. That explains that most trees growing along the road are now about forty years old with some much older trees interspersed. Further east just past Graham’s farm there are remnants of giant white pines; their remaining roots and lower trunks indicate how huge and tall they might have been.
By far the oldest tree is a sugar maple in front of the first limestone house coming from the Battersea road, Drs. Duffin and Wolfe are now living there. Dr. Brown did not want to guess its age, as a scientist he needed more data such as a core sample that contains the growth rings from the time as a sapling to the current. Not being a forester and therefore not bothered by scientific principles, I made a guess that it is at least 125 years old. The limestone house is from the late 1800s and the tree was most likely planted at that time by a forward-looking owner. We are collecting more history about the house and therefore we may pinpoint the true age of this imposing tree. According to Bob Wolfe they have two rare, large, butternut trees in the backyard; they are of historic value. They may be pruned but they cannot be cut down without permission of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.[i]
By far the oldest tree, a massive sugar maple at the first limestone house past the boat ramp coming from the Battersea Road. The limestone house is now owned byDrs. Bob Wolfe and Jackie Duffin
The large trunk of this sugar maple dwarfs the author of this site, Henk Wevers.
Photo taken January 2015.
During the ice storm of January 1998, when some fifty million people in Ontario, Quebec and several Eastern States in the US were without power, our neighbour Jackie Duffin pleaded with the hydro crews who came to repair the lines, to prune the branches that overhung the hydro lines with some care and they did. It took some convincing because they were in a hurry, cold and miserable but they did prune the tree with sensitivity, our hats off to these hydro line workers.
Peter Milliken, whose grandparents Dr. & Mrs. McCuaig lived in the house writes: “I remember the big maple tree quite well. My grandparents tapped it in the spring from time to time.”
The trees surrounding the Graham farm are from 1903 when the forbears of Cecil Graham built the farm house. A plaque on the house dates it and Wilma Graham pointed out that Cecil’s grandmother had planted them when the house was built. They are hundred and twelve years old.
Trees at the Graham farm date from 1903 when the farmhouse was built
“Now there is hard evidence of the age of these trees and their size can be used as a reference for nearby trees since we might assume that soil and light conditions were similar in that area.” Dr. Brown said.
Most of the Graham trees are sugar maple and they colour wonderfully in the fall. There are a couple of large black locust trees near the house, and in the pasture land is a large elm that survived the Dutch elm disease, a fungus that came over from China.
Almost all trees along the Aragon Road are second growth. The larger ones left over from the distant past are ones that farmers spared to give shade for their cattle, according to Dr. Brown. In the woods, some giant stumps and one or two barely living giant trees are reminders of the mature forests around this area.
I asked Dr. Brown if the forest that must have been here before the Rideau was built in 1826-32, and before the early settler came to farm, was a Carolinian forest. He answered that the area around Colonel By Lake is part of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region. The Carolinian forest is a life zone in eastern North America characterized primarily by a predominance of deciduous (broad-leaf) trees. The term “Carolinian forest” is used primarily in Canada, and therefore often refers only to the northernmost portion of the overall region, in Southern Ontario. Because the major population centres of Ontario are located nearby, there has been significant loss of wetlands and forested areas to urban areas and farms. It is estimated that 90 per cent of Canada’s Carolinian forest has already been destroyed.”[ii]
Dr. Brown reminded me that the natural forests in our area were mixed hardwood and soft wood forests. Evidence of that can be seen in the environmental protection area around Draper Bay south of the Aragon Road to the boat ramp. There are some magnificent white pines that are up to a hundred years old, one right beside a very old oak tree that is estimated to be well over 100 years old. There is hemlock, beech, ash, oak, white pine, and other species.
The trees along the shore starting at the boat ramp and going east are natural grown seedlings in an area that is the right of way of the pipeline. Just over fifty years ago when it was built any vegetation must have been removed. Most of us have seen the trees in this area grow into larger trees over the 30 to 40 years and more we have lived on the road.
I find it fascinating to be able to tell our grandchildren or to remind ourselves that these trees were just little twigs when we came to live here.
In Colonel By Lake and the River Styx there are many remnants of the giant white pines that grew interspersed with deciduous trees like oak, hickory, cherry, black walnut, elm, ash and other species living in harmony in a mature forest. The roots and part of the trunks of the white pines that were preserved in the water after the flooding are called “dead heads” sometimes they are just under the surface and are a danger to boating.
WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS STORY ABOUT OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT…
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[i] More about butternut trees at http://www.ont-woodlot-assoc.org/pdf/A%20Landowners%20Resource%20Guide%20To%20Butternut.pdf