Neil Carleton 2

 by Neil Carleton

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Chinese proverb

 This is a great inspirational quote. The message to many is that it’s never too late to accomplish the things you want to. In this sense, we all have trees we want to plant. They’re the personal goals that didn’t get started sooner, but can still be accomplished if started today, right now.

 From an arboreal perspective, what does a 20 year old tree look like? How tall is it, and what’s the size of the trunk after a couple of decades? Many factors influence tree growth. These include competition from other trees for sunlight, available moisture, soil depth, and disease resistance.

Vera-Lee and John Nelson planted a ginkgo 20 years ago on their property along the Old Perth Road in Mississippi Mills.
Vera-Lee and John Nelson planted a ginkgo 20 years ago on their property along the Old Perth Road in Mississippi Mills.

 The ginkgo, a native tree of China today, is known as a living fossil. It’s recognizable in rocks of the Permian, dating back 270 million years. The fossil record for ginkgos begins in the early Jurassic. Here in Canada, ginkgo leaf fossils are preserved in British Columbia rocks from the Ecocene epoch, between 56-34 million years old. Remarkably, ginkgo trees have no living relatives.

The fan-shaped leaves of ginkgo trees are unique in the world of seed plants.
The fan-shaped leaves of ginkgo trees are unique in the world of seed plants.
Ginkgo leaves are produced on the rapidly growing branch tips, as well as on short, stubby spur shoots of the branches where they cluster at the tips.  
Ginkgo leaves are produced on the rapidly growing branch tips, as well as on short, stubby spur shoots of the branches where they cluster at the tips.  

Planted 20 years ago in a well-watered and well-drained site, with plenty of sunshine, the Nelson’s ginkgo is a healthy tree.
Planted 20 years ago in a well-watered and well-drained site, with plenty of sunshine, the Nelson’s ginkgo is a healthy tree.

Almost 20 years ago, Joy Stratford and Bob Kurus planted a chestnut tree in their yard along Mictcheson Street in Almonte. With its spreading branches and large leaves, it’s become a fine shade refuge for hot summer days.

A sturdy trunk and strong branches support a thick canopy.
A sturdy trunk and strong branches support a thick canopy.
The chestnut blight was accidently introduced to North America about 1900. Before the native American chestnut was devastated by the disease, it was one of the most important forest trees of the eastern continent. Today there are many varieties of chestnuts growing across Ontario.
The chestnut blight was accidently introduced to North America about 1900. Before the native American chestnut was devastated by the disease, it was one of the most important forest trees of the eastern continent. Today there are many varieties of chestnuts growing across Ontario.

Thank you to Fern Martin for asking what a 20 year old tree looks like. Thank you to Vera-Lee and John Nelson, and Joy Stratford, for introducing me to the shady characters featured in this month’s column.

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, 613-256-4617. 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 shady characters.