Even those who claim not to be able to put a name to a single tree by sight, when confronted with a branch of Maple leaves, will exclaim “Well, of course, that’s a Maple! I didn’t mean I couldn’t name easy trees.’ If you are just setting out on the naturalist trail, it does the heart a lot of good to realize that you actually know far more than you think you know. For this reason, there are included here four easily recognizable trees. Of course, although being able to identify trees is a good start, it’s always a happier state of affairs if you know something about the trees beyond their names, so memorizing one simple fact for each one should start you on your way.
What makes them easy: They bend over, trailing their branches into rivers, steams and lakes.
Weeping Willow fact: It’s a hybrid between a White Willow (Salix alba) and a Peking Willow (Salix babylonica) the latter being a popular tree in Chinese burial grounds.
Where to find them: At the boardwalk along Captain Cootes Trail @RBGCanada. Should be coming into bloom soon. You’ll recognize the male flowers, called “catkins”, as children often call them ‘pussy willows’ as them resemble fluffy, cute kittens.
When to see them: Spring
What makes them easy: They have large, showy and fragrant flowers that resemble stars twinkling in the sky. Up to 18 narrow and long white petals.
Star Magnolia fact: Native to Japan, magnolias are a symbol of beauty, love and nature and come in a variety of red, pink and yellow hues.
Where to find them: The Magnolia Collection, Arboretum @RBGCanada
When to see them: Spring; will bloom end of April, early May.
Sycamore / London plane
What makes them easy: They are a very large tree with distinct bark; like multi-coloured patches on the young branches.
Sycamore fact: The fruit is round with a tail (petiole) when dried and was used by early settlers as buttons which gave rise to its common name of buttonwood or button ball tree.
Where to find them: The tree ally adjacent to the Sakura collection (cherry trees), Arboretum @RBGCanada
When to see them: Bark can be seen year round; seeds for in the fall, some may overwinter if the squirrels haven’t gotten them yet.
What makes them easy: They have bright fuchsia flower buds that look like pea pods.
Redbud fact: Flower buds can be pickled and open flowers used in salads; sauté buds, flowers and young pods for 10 minutes in butter. Sweet, mild and nutty. Used by aboriginals.
Where to find them: Behind the NIC next to the stone stairs; Lilac Dell, Arboretum @RBGCanada
When to see them: Spring; blooms with Magnolias.
*** You are not permitted to harvest from RBG lands. ***