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Science & NatureShady CharactersHere Last Week, Gone Today

Here Last Week, Gone Today

Sputtering with mouth agape, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. To any passerby, it might even have looked comical. It was there the other week. I’d come back to get a shot without any leaves and to take measurements. With its impressive summertime canopy, this was indeed a fine shady character to feature in a column. Now it was gone. This backyard tree and neighbourhood treasure was missing. There was no stump and no branches on the ground, only a scattering of wood chips to mark where it had once been.

This month’s column is dedicated to the big Manitoba maple that grew at the edge of Meadowglen Park, along Spring Street in Almonte.

 Meadowglen Park Manitoba Maple 1 September 8 2011Still in full foliage when this photo was taken on September 8th, the wide and irregular crown of the big Manitoba maple at Meadowglen Park in Almonte was supported by four main limbs.

Also known as box-elder or ash-leaved maple, Manitoba maple is a common tree in our area and easy to find. Look for it in habitats that range from dry vacant lots in town to wet locations along rural stream banks. It has an irregular form. The trunk divides near the ground into a few long, spreading limbs which branch irregularly to support a broad uneven crown.

Meadowglen Park Manitoba Maple 3 September 8 2011The large limbs of the Meadowglen Manitoba maple must have been tempting for climbing to any neighbourhood adventurers.

It’s a fast-growing tree that can survive dry and extremely cold conditions, so Manitoba maples have been widely planted for shade and shelterbelts in the prairie provinces. It continues to spread eastward and now ranges into northern New York. The Manitoba maple is shade-intolerant, growing rapidly for the first 15-20 years, and living about 60-75 years.

Being rather short lived, and susceptible to weather damage, it doesn’t usually grow to be a very big tree compared to the larger sugar maple in our region. The largest Manitoba maple found in Ontario was located in 1984 at Zorra Township in Oxford County. It had a diameter of 1.36 m (4.46 feet) and was 16 m (52.4 feet) in height.

This common tree has weak spreading branches that are easily damaged by wind, wet snow, and ice. The wind storm that broke a large limb off the Shepherd Street maple (December 2011 column) was also the demise of the Manitoba Maple at Meadowglen Park. After the storm blew through, one of the large limbs had come down and the trunk was split. The damage was extensive.

 Meadowglen Park Manitoba Maple 4 November 15 2011When this photo was taken on November 15th, only a scattering of wood chips marked where the big Manitoba maple had grown at the edge of Meadowglen Park in Almonte.

The tree couldn’t be saved and an arborist crew was called in to remove it. The adjacent tree in the back yard had to come down as well. Neighbours cried, I learned, as these two old souls were cut into blocks and taken away.

 Give me a land of boughs in leaf,

A land of trees that stand;

Where trees are fallen there is grief;

I love no leafless land.


A.E. Housman (1859-1936)


Thank you to Duncan Abbott, Mississippi Mills Councillor, for nominating the Manitoba maple of Meadowglen Park on that fine September day.


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, < >, 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.

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




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