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The Toronto Tree Thread

MrSocky

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I've only noticed Northern Catalpa as a street tree in one location, where there are 4, in extended planters (3m long, tree in the middle, 2ft off ground).

Their first year was brutal, but they made it.

Since then all 4 have done well.

They are in near ideal conditions and don't have wires overhead.

I haven't seen Catalpa often enough to judge the brittleness issue.

But its a legitimate concern.

In Maples, I think Norway has been more of a problem than Silver.

But Silvers, if not pruned properly have a tendency to go very multi-stem, which makes them a greater risk for failure of limbs.

The Catalpas I've seen show strong single-stem style growth.

Is that the common natural form (I'll have to do some research); often varietal or hybrid choice is key for such things.

I haven't noticed what their salt tolerance is either. I will research and report back.
I could not agree more with you in regards to the Norway Maple, its issue are multifaceted. Its overtly shady canopy and thick root system that create dark mud laden area surrounding it are bad enough. Acknowledging its relatively short lifespan of roughly 60 years in our region that culminates with dramatic death of shattering through a weak crotch that has rotted out make it a truly awful tree to have in your yard. And this excludes the ecological nightmare is poses as an invasive species, this article below covers the topic in depth discussing the seriousness of this issue, and how we need to acknowledge that not all trees are good trees.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-city-council-ravine-strategy-tree-inventory-1.4320431

A favourite street tree of mine that has recently been getting more popular is the Tulip tree. Its relatively native, being from the Carolinian forest(As you noted, Toronto is a transitional area for forest types, which leaves us with a lengthy list of nativish trees). Its fast growing, beautiful flowers, and upright nature make it a wonderful large shade tree. Its wood is lightweight and not the strongest in wind storms either though, and its pollution tolerance is weak at best therefore negating its use in our "tree coffins".

Unfortunately we are still making the same mistakes of the past, over planting certain species that are in fashion. The Autumn Blaze maple(acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred') is one that is planted at stunningly high rates by landscapers right now. Its fast growth, red fall colour and bullet proof resistance to drought and pollution make it an obvious choice for many homeowners. Thankfully towns have begun to embrace diversity with their plantings, hopefully this mentality will one day make its way to the average homeowner.
 

Northern Light

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So I asked a friend who is a forester by trade about Catalpa.

What I heard back was:

Yes, it is quite brittle, but storm damage is much less than you would expect relative to the brittleness.

In his experience, less risk of serious limb-loss than either Norway or Silver Maples.

In good planting conditions, he thinks its an excellent choice.

While it is invasive to the south of us, there is yet no evidence of that here.

It does reproduce here, but not aggressively.

Salt tolerance isn't high, but is no worse than the majority of street trees.

On balance should be used more.
 

Northern Light

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I could not agree more with you in regards to the Norway Maple, its issue are multifaceted. Its overtly shady canopy and thick root system that create dark mud laden area surrounding it are bad enough. Acknowledging its relatively short lifespan of roughly 60 years in our region that culminates with dramatic death of shattering through a weak crotch that has rotted out make it a truly awful tree to have in your yard. And this excludes the ecological nightmare is poses as an invasive species, this article below covers the topic in depth discussing the seriousness of this issue, and how we need to acknowledge that not all trees are good trees.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-city-council-ravine-strategy-tree-inventory-1.4320431

A favourite street tree of mine that has recently been getting more popular is the Tulip tree. Its relatively native, being from the Carolinian forest(As you noted, Toronto is a transitional area for forest types, which leaves us with a lengthy list of nativish trees). Its fast growing, beautiful flowers, and upright nature make it a wonderful large shade tree. Its wood is lightweight and not the strongest in wind storms either though, and its pollution tolerance is weak at best therefore negating its use in our "tree coffins".

Unfortunately we are still making the same mistakes of the past, over planting certain species that are in fashion. The Autumn Blaze maple(acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred') is one that is planted at stunningly high rates by landscapers right now. Its fast growth, red fall colour and bullet proof resistance to drought and pollution make it an obvious choice for many homeowners. Thankfully towns have begun to embrace diversity with their plantings, hopefully this mentality will one day make its way to the average homeowner.
Acer Freeman is (sort of) a naturally occurring hybrid between Silver and Red Maple.

The main problem w/planting so much of it, is that its all a clone hybrid.

If anything goes wrong.........its another catastrophic loss for canopy in our city.

It is over used.

***

Tulip tree shows promise in better conditions.

But I see strong evidence it is not salt tolerant.

It needs to be set back from busy roads.
 

Copper1212

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I live in Cobourg and one neat thing the arborist and parks department has done is to keep the little tag on new trees so you can see what they are. There is a major push to diversify the tree stock.

Three I noticed yesterday were Maidenhair Ginkgo Biloba, Sycamore London Planetree and Tulip Tree. Funny I don't think any of those are natives (perhaps tulip tree is?), which is another thing they are pushing for, but I believe in certain circumstances they will go with non-native in tough growing conditions.

Anyways I think people are finally coming to realize the importance of our urban forest. The largest reason old neighborhoods are so sought after IMO is the mature tree canopy. Old city of Toronto really exemplifies an urban forest.

On the topic of the Autumn Blaze Maple have any of you seen the Redpointe Maple? It is said to be a stronger tougher cultivar without the issues of Autumn Blaze.
 
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TrickyRicky

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I was going to mention the tulip tree as well because the City planted it as a replacement for a Maple a few years back at a property I take care of. I always thought that the tulip name was about the leaf shape but earlier this year I saw it’s flower on a tree in a small park my daughter plays in. That’s a funky flower!

I planted a red bud in my back yard a few years ago and it’s thriving although I was initially concerned about it’s winter hardiness.
 

Kitsune

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weird question ... as we near autumn ... what trees tend to change color first, last or is there no particular order ?
 

Northern Light

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weird question ... as we near autumn ... what trees tend to change color first, last or is there no particular order ?
For the most part, no order, at least in southern Ontario.

Colours change locally based on sunlight level, temperature divergence (cool nights, warm days), moisture level etc.

So that a stressed tree due to drought may already be showing colour change in August; while one that is super happy with open full sun, and just the right moisture level might hold out for mid-October or even later.

There are a few predispositions.

Staghorn Sumac tend to be a colour-leader in our area (this is this shrub below, which turns bright red; its usually in front by a week or two vs everything else.)

Photo from Connan Nursery, in Ontario



Most other species are fairly closely aligned, subject to local conditions.

I find Maples are bit more susceptible to early change, but that's more at an individual level than across all of them.

You do find some trees, however, that may hold leaves, even in colour, for longer than others. Beech often holds its yellow/gold hued leaves well into winter.

Oaks will sometimes hold leaves quite late also, but they typically turn brown at about the same time as other species.
 

Copper1212

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ah thank you ! I from Calgary so its prolly the altitude differences giving me the thought there was a bit of an order.
I would imagine areas further from the Lake would start to change colour first. The moderating effect of Lake Ontario means warmer Autumn nights closer to the lakeshore and less threat of frost.
 

steveintoronto

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I would imagine areas further from the Lake would start to change colour first. The moderating effect of Lake Ontario means warmer Autumn nights closer to the lakeshore and less threat of frost.
That's correct, and elevation and exposure to inclement weather. I spent five years in Guelph and travelling back to Toronto would always marvel how Toronto appears to have at least a weak longer growing season at beginning and end (maybe more, I'm loathe to overstate what might be just an impression). Thermal mass and heat loss might also be a factor as well as lake proximity for Toronto. Once north of the city it also seems to be a shorter season, at least for garden plants and frost.
 

Northern Light

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I would imagine areas further from the Lake would start to change colour first. The moderating effect of Lake Ontario means warmer Autumn nights closer to the lakeshore and less threat of frost.
That's correct, and elevation and exposure to inclement weather. I spent five years in Guelph and travelling back to Toronto would always marvel how Toronto appears to have at least a weak longer growing season at beginning and end (maybe more, I'm loathe to overstate what might be just an impression). Thermal mass and heat loss might also be a factor as well as lake proximity for Toronto. Once north of the city it also seems to be a shorter season, at least for garden plants and frost.
Both right. Bit more detail to it.

Temperature is a partial key, but so is temperature differential (warm days, cool nights). The urban heat island effect of Toronto specifically increases low temperatures at night, more so than daytime temps.

As such this delays plant cycles slightly.

The Lake itself does have a moderating effect, though its only acute in the first 5km from the Lake, and all but gone beyond 15km.

Elevation difference between Toronto and Guelph is notable. Toronto (downtown) is only 74m

Guelph is 334m.

Lastly, note carefully the impact of micro-climate zones (small pocket areas that show unique characteristics.)

For instance, many Toronto valleys show a noticeable difference in climate from the areas on the tablelands above them. We're talking a difference of 2 degrees C at night; they also tend to get less sun.

A good spot for seeing the striking difference is passing along Eglinton as it drops from Bermondsey, towards the East Don Valley. Colour change in that valley is always 7 to 10 days ahead of the top of the hill.
 

TrickyRicky

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What about the place of origin of the tree? I read somewhere that sometimes our nursery trees are grown in the US quite a bit south of here. When I was a kid we planted a red maple from Muskoka in our back yard and it always turned red and shed it's leaves early. Does the tree adapt completely or always retain some of it's inherited range of behaviour?
 

WislaHD

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Glad this thread was created, I have already learned a lot. I also like that it is in the Infrastructure forum, I believe trees should be recognized as part of our infrastructure.

Question: Are there any particular downtown(/and area) developments where one could point to and say that the developer did a really good job in selecting, planting and protecting the trees in the project? I'm afraid that these are not details that I personally make note of (partially due to my own personal ignorance on the subject) when I walk by development projects. So I am curious what 'getting it right' looks like, and more importantly, why they got it right.
 

WislaHD

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I could not agree more with you in regards to the Norway Maple, its issue are multifaceted. Its overtly shady canopy and thick root system that create dark mud laden area surrounding it are bad enough. Acknowledging its relatively short lifespan of roughly 60 years in our region that culminates with dramatic death of shattering through a weak crotch that has rotted out make it a truly awful tree to have in your yard. And this excludes the ecological nightmare is poses as an invasive species, this article below covers the topic in depth discussing the seriousness of this issue, and how we need to acknowledge that not all trees are good trees.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-city-council-ravine-strategy-tree-inventory-1.4320431
So I read this article and I understand the dilemma posed by the Norway Maple. It is effectively creating a green desert where it's invasiveness is reducing the biodiversity of the canopy and the ravine as a whole.

What can actually be done about it?
 

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