This tree tour is a work in progress, but will be written and published as an ongoing project. If you notice errors, please don't hesitate to contact us through the contact form.
Welcome to Trinity Bellwoods Park -- 37 acres of green space in Toronto's west end boasting an impressive 65+ species of trees along with lovely wide open green spaces. A number of the trees are well over 100 years old and date back to the time when the Trinity College buildings stood on the land (1853-1956), and before that when Garrison Creek ran (more or less) diagonally through the park. In 1912 the City of Toronto bought the campus when the college moved to the University of Toronto, and combined it with Bellwoods Park to create Trinity-Bellwoods park. The only remaining structure from Trinity College is St. Hilda's College built in 1899 and now called John Gibson House. The college's gates were restored in 2007 and once again grace the main entrance to the park on its south end.
There was actually at one time a sign stating the park was an arboretum. However in 2011 Toronto's current Director of Parks, Richard Ubbens, confirmed that it was not an official arboretum and that when he was the Director of Urban Forestry he had the sign taken down. No matter – we are very fortunate to have this enclave of trees in the west end.
This self-guided tree tour will -- eventually -- introduce you to at least one of each of the 69 known species of trees in the park. According to a Tree Inventory which the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park commissioned in the summer of 2009, there were 811 trees in the park representing 60 species. Since then a number of trees, both mature and young, have been lost to age, disease and vandalism, but the park has also been the recipient of some 100 new saplings including nine new species. Their addition brings the total known species in the park to 69. A complete list of the species is included at the bottom of this article.
TREE NUMBERS & GOOGLE MAP
The tree numbers used refer to those assigned during the 2009 tree inventory. You can find the trees using this google map.
Let's start with the oldest trees in the park.
BITTERNUT HICKORY (Carya cordiformis) #216
GPS: 43.646182, -79.412712
Some say the oldest tree in the park is the Bitternut Hickory on the south-west fence line of the tennis courts and it's estimated at over 100 years old, some have even said 200 years old. There are a few other contenders for oldest tree in the park. Two more are the Slippery Elm just north of the circle-drive and the Red Oak on the south-west slope of the bowl -- we'll get to them later.
The Bitternut Hickory is a native tree, although Toronto is on the northern edge of its range. Leaves are compound, usually with 7 leaflets per stem but sometimes up to 11 and with toothed edges.
The four distinct ridges or seams on the nuts are a helpful identifier that it's in the hickory family. Another identifying characteristic is its bright sulfur-yellow winter buds. No other hickory has this distinguishing feature. Lot's of good information at the Ohio Ministry of Natural Resources site.
There are only two Bitternut Hickory trees in the park and the second one (#588, GPS: 43.6491624161562, -79.414629981762) is of almost equal size and grandeur.
It is perched on the north-east lip of the bowl, on the path just east of the stairs. Its bark is not quite as bubbly, but still has an almost cartoon-like stubbyness to its trunk shape.
In the fall it turns a glorious golden yellow.
BLACK LOCUST (Robinia Pseudoacacia) #169 and #592
GPS: 43.6499792337049, -79.4144472921607
Some people disparage the Black Locust as a weed tree because it seeds vigourously and thrives in poor soil, but when its covered in white blooms for about ten days every spring, ahhhh. Its sweet aroma (kind of orange blossomy) can charm those hardened hearts. There's a giant old one, with distinctive, thickly furrowed bark, on the laneway in the north end of the park. One can get a lovely long view of it across the baseball field, as seen above covered in creamy white with blooms.
I'm a fan so I consider us lucky to have a grove of Black Locusts in Trinity Bellwoods Park that have self-seeded along the north slope of the park's old creek bed. These photos were taken the first week of June 2013 -- mark your calendar for annual aromatic strolls!
There are several self-seeded Black Locust trees -- offshoots of a giant Black Locust nearby -- along the northern paved path rising out of the bowl.
It's native to the Appalachians in North America but has spread widely. It was named by the royal French gardeners Jean Robin and his son Vespasian Robin, who introduced the plant to Europe in 1601. In the American south and in parts of Europe the honey made from its flowers is prized. The Wikipedia entry has lots of other fascinating info about the tree.