Perth Street beauty

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Photo: © Neil Carleton 2011

The shady character for October is a front yard tree. This month I’ve picked an urban example, and I hope you’ll have to chance to see it in Almonte.

The big black walnut at 237 Perth Street is a beauty. With a circumference at chest height of 3.5 m, or 11’6”, it towers over the house and dominates the front yard. Black walnuts grow slowly and this giant is indeed old.

Black walnuts can grow to heights of 30 m, or 90’. The largest one found in Ontario was located in 1977 west of Georgetown, Halton Region. It had a diameter of 1.75 m (5.74 feet) and was 27.4 m (89.9 feet) in height.

In the forest, a black walnut develops a long trunk and a small rounded crown. This one must have started growing in the open, as the trunk forks closer to the ground into large limbs with spreading coarse branches. Perhaps it started as a seedling in a clearing when this location was beyond the edge of early settlement. Black walnuts are intolerant to shade, and the inner leaves of this tree’s large open crown have not survived as they were shaded by the outer leaves.

The original owner of the house, the late Carson Johnson, collected windfall walnuts from his yard. He used the oily seed kernels to make a stain for the wooden gable ends of the house. At this time of the year, the yard under the tree is almost covered with walnuts. David and Deborah Dickson estimate that they once collected in the order of 3000 walnuts that had dropped to the ground from this local tree of renown.

There is plenty of evidence that this tree is a squirrel spa. With their sharp teeth, the neighbourhood squirrels don’t seem to have any difficulty opening the round, yellow-green aromatic nuts, about 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. They feast on the autumn harvest while sitting in the warm sunshine on the front steps of the house.

Thank you to Mary Ann Raycroft for nominating this remarkable shady character.

Do you have a favourite tree? Readers are invited to submit their nominations for an honor roll of trees in our area that could be featured in future articles. You can contact me at 613-256-2018, <carle@magma.ca >, or Neil Carleton, P.O. Box 1644, Almonte, Ontario, K0A 1A0. I look forward to hearing from you.

My volunteer columns started in March 2010, as print features, to support the tree planting and tree awareness initiatives of the Mississippi Mills Beautification Committee. The contact for the Tree Working Group is Ron Ayling, 613-256-4617. In Carleton Place, the contact for the Urban Forest / River Corridor Advisory Committee is Jim McCready, 613-257-5853. If you’d like to help, please call and say Neil sent you.

Until the next column, you’ll find me looking for and hanging out with local shady characters.