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Science & NatureWoodland Elegance

Woodland Elegance

by Neil Carleton

Refined in appearance, and graceful with its sweeping branches, was my first impression.  In the April sunlight it was certainly an elegant tree.  I knew I’d have to come back and see this sugar maple in its autumn splendor.  It was an invitation to visit the Yeaman property, on the Blakeney Road, that created the opportunity to meet this distinctive shady character.

With warmer temperatures and longer days, the first flush of green was just starting in the woods on April 4. Swelling buds on branches and wild leeks pushing up through last year’s leaves on the ground were encouraging signs of spring.
Six months later, on October 13, the scene had been transformed to a golden autumn day. This, I thought, would be a suitable view to share on a shorter and perhaps darker November day.

The sound under my feet was softer than the crunch of older brittle leaves in the woods.  Walking through the new yellow carpet on the forest floor created a shuffling sound as I explored in October.  In preparation for winter dormancy, deciduous trees in our part of the world shut down chlorophyll production and shed their food factories soon after.

When fall breezes stirred, golden showers of maple leaves drifted down from the tree to cover the forest floor.

Measuring 0.81 m (2.66 ft) in diameter at chest height, this local Acer saccharum is a relatively young tree.

The largest sugar maple in Ontario was recorded in 1973 at the Town of Pelham, Niagara region.  The Comfort maple, 1.91 m (6.27 ft) in diameter, is estimated to be about 500 years old.  The trunk measures 6 m (19.68 ft) in circumference at the base.  This remarkable tree is named after the Comfort family who acquired the land in 1816.  Further information, including directions to the site, can be found at

The bark of a younger sugar maple is smooth and gray. As the tree matures, its bark becomes darker and splits into ridges that curl out as the tree matures.
Can you find the moth in this close up shot? It was using exquisite camouflage to hide from predators.

Thank you to Julie Yeaman for nominating this month’s shady character.

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, <>, 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 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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