Ottawa street survivor

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Neil Carleton 2by Neil Carleton

Hundreds of people pass by every day in cars, vans, and trucks, along with motorized and pedal powered cyclists.  On their way to and from school, children walk right by it in all seasons.  With branches that extend across the centre line, this arboreal giant is familiar to everyone travelling along Ottawa Street in Almonte.  Heading up the hill, it’s on the right side, next door to 259, and across the street from 254, just a way past Marshall Street on the left.

Even in the fall, without its broad canopy of leaves, this Ottawa Street survivor is a landmark in our community.  At 3.2 m / 10.6 ft in circumference at chest height, and 1.0 m / 3.3 ft in diameter, this sizeable burr oak has reached a mature age despite some significant challenges while growing in an urban environment.  Photo: October 24, 2014
Even in the fall, without its broad canopy of leaves, this Ottawa Street survivor is a landmark in our community.  At 3.2 m / 10.6 ft in circumference at chest height, and 1.0 m / 3.3 ft in diameter, this sizeable burr oak has reached a mature age despite some significant challenges while growing in an urban environment.  Photo: October 24, 2014
Oaks tend to leaf later than other trees, perhaps a cautious adaptation to the vagaries of spring temperatures here in our part of the continent. The rich green foliage of summer changes to a range of yellow ochre in the fall. Photo: July 3, 2014
Oaks tend to leaf later than other trees, perhaps a cautious adaptation to the vagaries of spring temperatures here in our part of the continent. The rich green foliage of summer changes to a range of yellow ochre in the fall. Photo: July 3, 2014

Root growth extends well beyond the spread of a tree’s canopy at maturity.  Some tree professionals recommend planning for root growth that’s up to 3 times canopy size.  From photo evidence, the canopy of this roadside sentinel has reached about 23 m / 72 ft in breadth.

Imagine this tree’s network of underground roots extending to at least double its canopy size, or 46 m / 144 ft.  Then imagine near surface roots being dug up, chopped off, or otherwise destroyed during street, sidewalk, and nearby house construction over the years.  Photo:  June 19, 2009
Imagine this tree’s network of underground roots extending to at least double its canopy size, or 46 m / 144 ft.  Then imagine near surface roots being dug up, chopped off, or otherwise destroyed during street, sidewalk, and nearby house construction over the years.  Photo:  June 19, 2009
When roots are severed during construction events, the tree is subject to considerable stress.  If the remainder of the tree’s root system – feeder roots, transport roots, anchor roots - is able to compensate over time by providing adequate water, oxygen and minerals, the tree will continue to grow.  Photo: June 19, 2009
When roots are severed during construction events, the tree is subject to considerable stress.  If the remainder of the tree’s root system – feeder roots, transport roots, anchor roots – is able to compensate over time by providing adequate water, oxygen and minerals, the tree will continue to grow.  Photo: June 19, 2009
The giant tree on Ottawa Street is a unique survivor of construction trauma over the years.  Although snow has arrived, a summer street view of the site is available on-line in all seasons.   At https://maps.google.com/, let Professor Google find 251 Ottawa Street, then click on street view.  It’s remarkable how little natural surface area actually remains beneath the canopy of this remarkable oak.  Photo:  October 24, 2014
The giant tree on Ottawa Street is a unique survivor of construction trauma over the years.  Although snow has arrived, a summer street view of the site is available on-line in all seasons.   At https://maps.google.com/, let Professor Google find 251 Ottawa Street, then click on street view.  It’s remarkable how little natural surface area actually remains beneath the canopy of this remarkable oak.  Photo:  October 24, 2014.
Recognizing the great benefits of trees to the urban environment, many municipalities across the country have adopted by-laws and accompanying policies for the protection of the community’s arboreal assets.  This includes defining a Protected Root Zone (PRZ), usually the dripline directly below the branches of a tree, or establishing minimum distances for a Tree Protection Zone (TPZ).
Recognizing the great benefits of trees to the urban environment, many municipalities across the country have adopted by-laws and accompanying policies for the protection of the community’s arboreal assets.  This includes defining a Protected Root Zone (PRZ), usually the dripline directly below the branches of a tree, or establishing minimum distances for a Tree Protection Zone (TPZ).

Burr oak, named for its acorn’s bur-like fringed cap, is the most wide-ranging of Canada’s 11 indigenous species.  It ranges from the Acadian forest of New Brunswick across the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region to Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Quercus macrocarpa is its Latin name.  Quercus is derived from the Celtic language and means ‘tree above all others’.  Macrocarpa is from the Greek ‘makros’, meaning large, and ‘karpos’, meaning fruit.  Acorns of the burr oak are the largest of our native oaks.

The largest burr oak recorded in Ontario was located in 1984 at Burfort Township in Brant County with a trunk diameter of 2.12 m / 6.95 ft.  Burr oaks can grow up to 30 m / 98 ft tall.  As one of the most massive oaks, they’re also one of the slowest growing.  Burr oaks commonly live 200 to 300 years, with some reaching the mature age of 4 or more centuries.  Back in the 1990s, a tree ring count on a felled oak only a few miles from downtown Almonte revealed that it was just over 500 years old.

Ottawa Street Oak 3 October 24 2014
The Ottawa Street survivor has grown in open conditions away from a forest canopy.  The trunk is straight and tall, with nearly horizontal branches in the lower crown.  Photo:  October 24, 2014

Do you have a notable or 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, <ve3nce@gmail.ca>, or Neil Carleton, 3 Argyle Street, 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 Committee is Ron Ayling, 613-804-4617. In Carleton Place, the contact for the Urban Forest / River Corridor Advisory Committee is Jim McCready, 613-257-5853.

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

Photos: © Neil Carleton