Legacy Trees Turn Over New Educational Leaf

Randall Van Wagner, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, Environmental & Forestry Project Coordinator hammers in the plaque on the Shumard Oak. July 2 2014. (Photo by Trevor Thompson)

Heritage tree owners can nominate their living landmarks for Canada 150 celebrations.

It’s part of a province-wide initiative to promote the protection of heritage trees. To mark the milestone birthday, Forests Ontario is collecting and telling the stories of the province’s diverse and unique trees from the roots up.

The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority recently had two trees recognized — one of North America’s last remaining American white elms on Queen Street in Chatham and a Shumard oak in Tecumseh Park.

Randall Van Wagner, manager of conservation lands and services, says the large elm tree survived a deadly outbreak of the Dutch elm disease back in the 1960s that wiped out most of the species in Ontario. It’s also identified by the University of Guelph as being a native seed source.

The rare Shumard oak, which Van Wagner estimates is more than 200-years-old, is listed as a species of Special Concern under Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resourses.

Recognizing these legacy trees is about turning over a new educational leaf, say Van Wagner.

“A lot of times people just drive by and they don’t really take notice, and there is a lot of interesting trees in this area,” he says, adding the designation doesn’t prevent landowners from removing these trees if they want. “But hopefully once you get a plaque on the tree and people learn about it, it will provide some type of protection for that tree in the future.”

Another six trees were nominated, for a total of eight in Chatham-Kent. The trees are featured in a local documentary ‘Living History: Trees of Chatham-Kent,’ which will be shown at the Chatham Library on April 20 at 6:30pm.

You can nominate a tree for the Forests Ontario Heritage Tree Program until May 31.