Category Archive : Ancient Trees

It is never just about finding ancient trees and collecting seed to preserve their genetics for generations to come.  There is so much more – the human connection.  Inevitably, when you find the ancient tree, there is a human guardian connected to it.

So is the case of the St Cuthberts white oak.  The Lea family, back in 1818, was one of the founding families for the Leaside area.  By 1890, the Lea’s donated land for construction of a church.  There was no steeple built.  The white oak that was present during construction acted as the focal point of the church.  Today, to find the church just look to the sky and the giant white oak guides the way.

We were honored to meet the church representatives and tree enthusiasts last week on our quest to find this tree.  Thanks to the tree guardians, this tree has received Heritage status and still graces the side of the church.  Unfortunately, this great white oak is just a remnant of the old growth forest that once covered this terrain.

We are hoping that next year will not be a drought year and we will be back visiting the St. Cuthberts white oak on a quest to retrieve acorns.


Height 213 m
Circumference 518 cm
Age approximately 400 years old

Treaty Tree
Treaty Tree

This 400 year old tree in Niagara is the official boundary marker in the first land deed in Upper Canada signed in 1781 between the Chippawas and the Mississauga and the English Crown. The deed, signed by King George, was for a 4 mile wide strip of land bounded by the Niagara River between Lakes Ontario and Erie. To mark the boundary, the 4 First Nations chiefs chose a large, white oak, forked 5 feet from the ground near Lake Ontario at a distance of 4 miles from the west bank of the Niagara River.

This is a designated Ontario heritage tree.


We were very happy to track down the location of this magnificent tree with the help of Forests Ontario.  The 2 men responsible for getting this tree designated as an Ontario heritage tree are seen in this photo.  Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a mast year for this old tree and we managed to collected 200 germinated acorns.

This trees’ legacy will live on!

Treaty Tree in Niagara
Treaty Tree in Niagara

This weekend we went on a historic walk.  We went to the historic village of Swansea which is more than 300 years old.  This village was completely surrounded by the city of Toronto, and by 1967, had been amalgamated.

As far back as 1615, indigenous peoples and settlers have been using this area for travel.  Etienne Brule, walked the Toronto Carrying Trail and stayed at the native encampments at the Humber River.  By 1793, this area was declared a mill reserve so that the forests could remain intact for the use of the King’s sawmills.  This area was unused and eventually was turned into parks and house lots.

It was this rich historic area that we explored in hopes of finding some of the ancient white, red and black oaks.  It took a bit of sleuthing since it is old residential area with many of these ancient trees residing in backyards and private property.

So much fun – we will be back to investigate again!

The Silver Maple of Crieff Hills

Why the fuss about ancient trees? For me, the answer lies in their genetics and their gifts to their offspring. In long-lived trees such as maple, oaks, beech, and hickory, longevity is a desirable genetic trait. The longevity of these trees shows adaptability to a changing world. An ability to adapt to changing weather and climate, degrading air quality (air pollution), and soil pollutants such as roadside salts.

Silver Maple
Silver Maple

This particular silver maple was on a 300-acre farm purchased by Colonel J B McLean of the present-day McLean publications. Even by 1930, Colonel McLean could see that most of this area had been clear cut and, ‘the land was devoid of most songbirds.’ Somehow the silver maple was spared the ax and grew to its massive size beside the historic stone barn.

It was a thrill to see, this spring, the silver maple loaded with monstrous amounts of maple keys. Today, we are germinating approximately 200 seedlings from this ancient tree. And her genetics will live on.

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