March Break Maple Tree Tour

When I was growing up, there was no better way to say goodbye to winter than with a trip to the sugar bush. The remaining snow made the perfect base for hot maple taffy, and the bright sun, new maple buds and running sap were the ultimate signs that spring was on its way.

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The stories we tell and the trees that help us remember

Humber River trail

Humber River Rec Trail

Back in June, I received a public call from a man named Mark who had a honey locust tree that wasn’t doing too well. He told me that the tree was sick and that each year fewer and fewer leaves were growing back. He said that this tree, which he had planted over 30 years ago, was the last physical reminder he had of a time when his whole family was together. After hearing this, I got pretty emotional and really wanted to help him out. I told him what I thought was causing its poor health, gave him some homework, and thought that I would never hear from him again.

Well, just yesterday, he sent me an email and a picture of the honey locust. He was happy to report that it was doing well and said it now had so many leaves that he couldn’t keep up with the raking.

Mark’s story got me thinking about the special relationship that people have with trees, not trees in general, but with individual trees. Whether it is a tree they climbed as a child, or a tree dedicated to a loved one that had passed on, or just one they passed everyday on their way home, people seem to remember trees and the trees often stay around for long enough to remind us of the stories that we created around them.

Last night, I asked some of the people in my life to share their tree memories with me. So as an ode to National Tree Day, September 24th, 2014, I’m going to share these wonderful stories with you.

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beech bark disease: Photos from Toronto and York Region site visit

Earlier today I met up with a former colleague from the City of Toronto to check out a couple of forest sites that had been attacked by beech bark disease.

Beech bark disease is caused by the beech scale insect Cryptococcus fagisuga and the canker fungus Neonectria faginata. It attacks American beech, which is a major component of Ontario’s tolerant hardwood forests and a food source for bears, deer, rodents, and birds. 

Here are some photos from my day in the forest:

red fruiting bodies of the canker fungus

Beech scale, cankers, and red fruiting bodies

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Women in forestry: a working list

In light of International Women’s Day, I’ve highlighted some of the women that have been leaders in forestry – whether they assumed roles that were previously dominated by men or in some way made it that much easier for women to enter the male-dominated field.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start.


Mona Roy (UNB Archives)

Mona Roy

In 1948, Mona Roy became the first woman to graduate from a forestry program in Canada and in 1950, broke another record as the first woman to complete an MSc in forestry.

“Those with the idea that Forestry is strictly for men, can change their minds, for Mona can swing the axe and give the Forester’s yell with the best of them.”


Marie Rauter (OFIA)

Marie Rauter 

Marie Rauter was the first woman to enrol and graduate from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry (the oldest forestry faculty in Canada). Rauter later completed an MSc in forest genetics and in 1999 was awarded the Canadian Forestry Achievement Award.

“Find a job to get paid doing whatever your hobby is. I’ve had the greatest life. I don’t think I could have chosen a better profession.”

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Winter tree tour in Trinity Bellwoods Park

What better way to break our hibernation than with a winter tree tour? This past Saturday weTrinity Bellwoods Tree ID Tour got together with Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park and over 90 participants from across Toronto and neighbouring cities. It was mild, the sun was shining and although our toes started to freeze as we approached the end, we were assured by our guide, Mark Sherman, that the buds were a sign that spring warmth was on its way!

Ice Storm 2013: tragedy or opportunity for regrowth?

To be completely honest, I can’t tell you much about the Toronto ice storm. I’ve read the articles, heard the estimates of canopy loss, the anecdotes from friends and colleagues about the backyard trees they lost, and their dangerous walks through city parks, dodging falling branches and skating down slippery paths.


Toronto ice storm 2013 (National Post)

I missed it all thanks to my friend Emily whose Christmas goal was to beat the storm – get us safely to our families at a reasonable hour, so she could watchLittle Women with her mom and sister – a family tradition.

From what I heard, not very many people in Toronto watched Little Womenthat night; they were lucky if they still had heat. Toronto was in a state of emergency, many without power, and I was sipping mulled wine in the Ottawa Valley, a place that has had its fair share of ice, a comparable storm, over a decade ago.

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