On a beautiful, sunny Sunday, Justin Nicol led 28 Lambton Wildlife members and guests on an educational stroll through a section of the Rock Glen Conservation Area.
Rock Glen is located in Arkona, Ontario. It is usually known for its natural collection of Brachiopod, Coral and Crinoid stem fossils. This day, however, we were treated to an opportunity to appreciate the area for its collection of Carolinian and Great Lake native trees.
Rock Glen is in a transitional zone of Carolinian, to the south, and Great Lake zone to the north, this results in trees native to both areas growing at this site.
Justin talked about the Kentucky coffeetree, which is a Carolinian tree. It has a very large leaf that is often mistaken for a collection of leaves. The stem is actually just one leaf and each of what appears to be leaves, are actually called leaflets. This tree is one of the last to leaf out in the spring and it looses its leaves early in the fall. Sometimes, because the tree is so late to get leaves in the spring, we may think that the tree has not survived the winter. It produces male and female flowers, usually on separate trees. The seed pod is a dark leathery reddish – brown. The seeds need to be scored before planting to improve germination. Trees, at maturity, are 15-25 meters tall.
The hemlock was another tree species seen.
The hemlock is a type of pine tree and can grow up to 30 meters in height. It likes cool, moist, shady and protected sites.
We saw trembling aspens, Chinquapin aka chinkapin oak and hackberry trees, to name just a few. We even saw some fossils!
Justin spoke to us about the importance of our native trees, to the nature balance and preventing the spread of invasive species. He also said it is not always easy to tell, without a little help, which trees may be invasive. An example he demonstrated was the Norway maple and sugar maple. The Norway maple is widespread. It grows well in urban areas, sometimes too well. The sugar maple would be a much better choice for planting. The sugar maple is better for wildlife and has beautiful fall colours, while the Norway maple is a prolific seeder and has dense foliage that can choke out competing trees and plants. When unsure about identifying the two types of maples, break off a leaf from each tree. The Norway maple will have a white milky substance oozing from the stem.
It was a wonderful and educational stroll through a beautiful native forest! So nice to have people around who could answer the question “ what’s this tree / plant called”?
Want to learn more?
Trees of the Carolinian Forest by Gerry Waldron