Trees We Know and Love….

Canadian Provincial Trees (and Birds)

We found this chart interesting, learning about the symbolic trees of our beautiful country of Canada. We have randomly picked a few trees to feature this week, not only because trees are incredibly amazing from a carbon capture standpoint, and not just because our blog is generally about trees, but because trees have so much history and so many purposes not to mention stunning beauty. Lucy is a birder too, so we thought, why not list the provincial birds as well.

  • British Columbia- Western Red Cedar and Stellar Jay
  • Alberta- Lodgepole Pine and Great Horned Owl
  • Saskatchewan-White Birch and Sharp Tailed Grouse
  • Manitoba- White Spruce and Great Grey Owl
  • Ontario- Eastern White Pine and Common Loon
  • Quebec- Yellow Birch and Snowy Owl
  • New Brunswick- Balsam Fir and Black Capped Chickadee
  • Nova Scotia- Red Spruce and Osprey
  • Prince Edward Island- Red Oak and Blue Jay
  • Newfoundland/Labrador- Black Spruce and Atlantic Puffin
  • Yukon- Subalpine Fir and Common Raven
  • Nunavut- possible candidate is Willow and Rock Ptarmigan
  • North West Territories- Tamarac Larch and Gyro Falcon

Source: Wikipedia at:

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

To watch this pine tree blow in the breeze is a thing of beauty so Lucy was not surprised to be told it is the subject of paintings by the Group of Seven. The Eastern White Pine is the Provincial Tree of Ontario and is known as the “tree of peace”. (These tree facts make Ontario resident Catherine very happy to know now; she would agree that this favourite tree does indeed evoke feelings of peacefulness and is aptly named.)

According to Wikipedia, this pine is only seen in the eastern part of North America from Newfoundland to Manitoba and south along the Appalachian Mountains as far as northern Georgia. It can live over 400 years and grow over 200 feet tall. The seeds of this tree came from England to Maine in 1605. It is somewhat resistant to fire, and mature survivors are able to re-seed burned areas. It is a tree of low maintenance.

This pine tree has been overly forested in past for lumber for paneling, floors and furniture, as well as for masts, and for turpentine, so only one percent of these trees remain. It has also been used for medicine like to treat dandruff and for food for the native Americans who use its inside trunk for flour, and pine cones in stews, as it is loaded with vitamin C. (Allan is now worried that Lucy is going to serve him pine tree stew, but luckily for him it is a protected species). Smaller trees are used as live Christmas trees and the branches for wreaths and garland because of their soft feathery needles. This beautiful pine tree provides food and shelter for numerous forest birds, such as the red crossbill and small mammals such as squirrels

Birch (Betula)

We want to credit Allan (Lucy’s partner), who suggested right from the start of our co-blogging adventure that the heading of our blog’s home page should feature the Birch Tree as it is a beautiful northerly species with which all Canadians can identify. Birch groves, as seen above, are becoming far less common. The White Birch is the tree of Saskatchewan and the Yellow Birch, as seen at the start of the blog, is the tree of Quebec.

Wikipedia describes that the Birch tree contains 60 varieties of a thin leaf deciduous hardwood that is found in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in northern areas of temperate climates and in boreal climates (including northern Europe). The characteristic bark is white which separates into thin papery plates. There are many uses for the birch including: plywood, leather oil, wintergreen fragrance, diuretic tea, lightweight canoes, bowls and wigwams, firewood that does not “pop”, sap for syrup, writing paper (in India), speaker cabinets (with Baltic Birch), and for drums, guitars and mallets.

The birch is the national tree of Finland and Russia. In Celtic cultures it symbolizes growth, renewal and stability because the birch are often the first trees to appear after fire. Unfortunately many hay fever sufferers are sensitive to birch pollen grains

The Ontario government’s website provides more information and photos to help Readers distinguish the White Birch at, from the Gray Birch and the Yellow Birch

The US Forest Service website ( offers a wealth of tree information, including this piece on how to grow and maintain a birch tree,

Oak Tree (Quercus)

Wikipedia tells us there are 600 species of Oak with New World Oak in North America and Old World Oak in Eurasia. The mighty Oak has many religious, cultural, political, historical, and regionally important meanings, all throughout the world.

Given its density, the Oak is a strong, hard wood, and, with appealing grain markings, it has many uses including: panelling, fine furniture, building frames, veneer, wine and brandy barrels, Japanese Yamaha drums, and leather tannin, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, many species of oaks are under threat of extinction in the wild, largely due to land use changes, livestock grazing and unsustainable harvesting. For example, over the past 200 years, large areas of oak forest in the highlands of Mexico, Central America and the northern Andes have been cleared for coffee plantations and cattle ranching. There is a continuing threat to these forests from exploitation for timber, fuel-wood and charcoal. In the US, entire oak ecosystems have declined due to a combination of factors still imperfectly known, but thought to include fire suppression, increased consumption of acorns by growing mammal populations, herbivory of seedlings, and introduced pests. In a survey cited on the Wikipedia page, 78 wild oak species have been identified as being in danger of extinction. Further, the proportion under threat may be much higher in reality, since insufficient information about over 300 species makes it near impossible to form a judgement of their status. In the Himalayan region of India, oak forests are being invaded by pine forests due to the increase in temperature.

Here is a cool fact about Oak Trees: mature Oak trees shed varying numbers of acorns annually. Scientists suggest that shedding excess numbers allows the oaks to satiate nut gathering species which improves the chances of germination. Every four to ten years, certain oak populations will synchronize to produce almost no acorns at all, only to rain them down excessively the following year, known as a “mast” year. The year preceding the mast year is thought to starve off the mammal populations feeding on the supply, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the overproduction in the mast year that follows. This is necessary to the survival of any given oak species, as only one in 10,000 acorns results in an eventual tree

Thanks to the Ontario government’s website, Catherine was able to learn about, and start to see differences among, the Black Oak leaf, the Burr Oak, the Pin Oak, the Red Oak, the Swamp White Oak, and her favourite leaf of all – the White Oak

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

The Sequoia is one of the three species of coniferous trees known as Redwoods. Lucy recently visited a grove of these trees in Yosemite National Park. They are the most massive trees on Earth growing up to 280 feet tall, with a diameter of 26 feet and a bark 3 feet thick. Sequoias are found only in the 70 scattered groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is about 3200 years old making the sequoia the oldest living organisms on Earth.

We learned from Wikipedia that this huge tree may have as many as 11000 cones a year and the winged seeds may fly as far as 600 feet from the tree. Their bark is unusually fire resistant and their cones will normally open immediately after a fire. The cones also open after beetles or squirrels damage them. Sequoias are principally used for tourism and horticulture as they tend to break apart on impact when cut down, making them poor sources of lumber

Catherine, too, has been fortunate to experience the magnificence of the old growth Redwoods, in her past travels to Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco. The awe-inspiring and ‘spiritual’ moment she witnessed in the morning stillness as rays of sunshine beaming through “Cathedral Heights” lit up individual droplets of morning mist hovering between these graceful giants, stays in her mind’s eye to this day.

This image from the Muir Woods website conjures up treasured memories of the amazing quality of light and tranquility that she recalls from her time spent among these Sequoias. She relates to this quote by Charles Darwin posted on the website — “Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of humans…no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel there is more in humans than the mere breath of his body.”

We found this cool site – Mother Nature Network – that features photos of 10 of the world’s oldest trees, including “General Sherman,” the world’s oldest Sequoia

Readers may want to try out tree identification Apps when out hiking or walking in Nature. LeafSnap is one such App created by Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institute, as a tool to help curious nature explorers identify the trees they are encountering. The App includes information on 185 species that are native to northeastern United States and Canada, and offers a three-day trial for free Learn more about LeafSnap and two other Apps in this review posted on the Evergreen Aborist Consultants’ website at

Tree Challenge: Can you name this tree?

Next week our Blog post will delve deeper into the climate change and food connection.

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