Gemmill Park in Almonte is well known for the arena, curling rink, soccer field, swings, tennis court, track, and baseball diamond. Not everyone is familiar with the woodland trails which are used in all seasons.
A review of the Park’s history will help set the stage for a walk through the forest. Please see my earlier column, April 2012, “Gemmill Homestead White Oak”.
A natural forest has survived in the heart of Almonte, and it’s a municipal treasure of arboreal diversity. This month’s column is an introduction to some of the shady characters you’ll meet on walks along winter trails.
Thinking of the forest as a multi-layered structure helps to understand its complexity.
Supercanopy Trees At Gemmill Park some tall pines reach above the canopy.
Canopy Trees Mature trees, such as sugar maple, American beech, and white ash, form a continuous ceiling that shades the layers below.
Understorey Trees Ironwood (hop hornbeam), sugar maple, and American beech are shade tolerant and can grow beneath the canopy where their growth rate is limited by the lack of sunlight. Although much smaller, they may be as old as canopy trees.
Shrubs And Saplings With limited sunlight they can grow in open areas and in the shade of mature canopy trees.
Decaying Wood Fallen branches and toppled trunks create habitat for forest reptiles and amphibians, as well invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria.
Ground Cover Mosses, flowers, ferns, and seedlings of shrubs and trees form a layer of life on the forest floor.
There is much to discover along the forest trails of Gemmill Park in any season.
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, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 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 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.