5 Activities to Do With Trees

When you have the chance to look at a tree with a child, or even by yourself for that matter, there are many ways you can focus your attention.

You can admire its beauty, examine its role in that ecosystem, stimulate imagination or you can get artsy by creatively incorporating it into crafts. Here are some ideas for some of your nature walks.

1. Tree Bark or Leaf Rubbing

Leaf rubbing @CWF

Put a sheet of paper against the side of a tree and, with a crayon, rub up and down to reveal the bark’s pattern in colour! If you want to do a large area and don’t have a lot of time, either use wide crayons or remove the paper off regular crayons and use the long side for a larger surface area. Compare the differences in the leaf rubbing to see if you can spot patterns between other tree species or the different heights along the trunk.

For leaves that will fall later this year, collect and press them so they don’t dry curled up. After a few days or weeks (before they get too dry and brittle) put the leaves under a sheet of paper and make rubbings for fun, as a journal or as a picture for decoration.

2. Walk or Climb on Fallen Trees

kids outside walking along a fallen tree

Caveat: only ones that you feel are safe to use (sturdy, free of lots of prickly branches etc.)! This is both fun and great for developing balance and confidence. If need be, hold the children’s hands until they feel comfortable doing it themselves.

3. Observe Leaf Shapes

Leaves do more than just make oxygen and make lovely sounds in a breeze. Leaf shapes (or even leaf buds in the colder months) can help identify a tree species and sharpen observation skills.

4. Imagine

woman standing by lake

Imagine what it must feel like to be a tree with roots grounding you into the earth and branches raised high up to the sky. Pretend to be a tree and feel connected to the earth and sky.

For very young children this might be enough. For older children get them thinking about the role of a tree. How are the roots helping (they stabilize soil) ? How are the branches helping (they are homes for animals and leaves help make the air we breathe)? How does the trunk help (they provide wood for furniture, houses, paper, tissues and toilet paper as well as homes for cavity nesting animals) ?

5. Sit Under or Near a Tree for a Period of Time

girl outside sitting under trees

A few minutes would do for a young child, but longer for older participants. While one can do this activity anywhere, there is something about trees that can help a person slow down and be fully present. You can simply use this time to quiet the mind, becoming calm and present. Or you can use this time to engage all your senses to notice what is happening around you and wonder why that is so.

For instance, are there animals singing or scampering about or are they quiet and still? If there is a breeze, do different leaves move differently? Perhaps they have a different shape to catch the wind or their leaf stem is longer or narrower allowing them to move differently (as with Trembling Aspens). Is the tree trunk smooth or bumpy on their back? Is there sun on their face or are they in the cool shade?

Liked this? Get more educational resources from The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s website.

Reviewing the Risks: The Latest Assessments at the COSEWIC Meeting

Three Canadian species at risk of disappearing from Canada are…

The assessment of 22 wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in November has highlighted a need for provincial and federal governments to work towards preventing the loss of Canada’s native species.  COSEWIC found the risk status of three species at risk of disappearing from Canada – the Polar Bear, Black Ash tree and Chinook Salmon.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

These gorgeous bears rely on seal hunting to survive. However, scientists are predicting longer Arctic summers which will make hunting this crucial prey harder. Inuit are hopeful that Polar Bears will be able to adapt and that this ability may save this at-risk bear. The Committee has listed the bear as of Special Concern.

Chinook Salmon

The Chinook salmon migration to the Upper Yukon River must travel around the Whitehorse Rapids Generating Facility via a 300 m long fish ladder. A viewing chamber partway through the ladder provides an incredible opportunity for the public to observe Chinook salmon as they approach spawning grounds

Did you know that Chinook Salmon complete the longest migration in Canada? Sadly, their journey is wrought with challenges and threats along the way.  The committee found 13 populations to be in significant decline and has listed eight populations as Endangered, four as Threatened and one as of Special Concern.

“As a founding member of the Committee for the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, CWF is concerned that 13 of the 16 population groups of Chinook Salmon assessed from southern British Columbia are at risk of extinction,” says David Browne, CWF Director of Conservation Science. “Declining quality of marine and freshwater habitat is sighted as a key factor. This is yet more reason to invest in habitat restoration and protection in the Fraser River watershed and address the Cohen Commission recommendations. This is also sad news for Southern Resident Killer Whales as their main prey, Fraser River Chinook Salmon, are determined to be at risk of extinction by Canada’s experts.”

Black Ash

Black ash leaves
@ Keith Kanoti

The malicious Emerald Ash Borer has wedeled its way into many forests in Canada. This invasive species has wiped out approximately two billion trees in North America and has no intention of slowing down (or showing much mercy).

It’s unclear how the 162 million Black Ash trees still standing will survive, and so the committee listed the tree as Threatened. Black Ash are a very important tree to our forests. They’re the most widely distributed trees in Canada and are used to make commercial items like baskets, furniture, flooring and snowshoes.

What You Can Do

upload observations to inaturalist.ca
Upload observations to iNaturalist.ca

The last thing we’d want is for you to feel helpless after reading the state of some of Canada’s wildlife. That’s why, we’ve got plenty that you can do to help!  Did you know 13 of the 22 species assessed have been observed by iNaturalist users? You can help to inform assessments of other species by downloading the iNaturalist app and be part of Canada’s biodiversity monitoring team!


7 Steps to Properly Plant a Tree for Tree Day

Trees are wonderful additions to any property.

They provide clean air, shelter and food for wildlife and so much more. Once you’ve decided on what kind of tree you want, follow these steps to ensure it’s a happy and healthy addition to your backyard.

Download step-by-step instructions

1. Best Time to Plant a Tree

best time to plant a tree calendar graphic

The best time for planting bare root trees (roots are not in a pot) is early spring (before the leaf buds open) or late fall (after deciduous leaves have fallen). Choose early mornings, evenings and rainy days to do the work.

Whatever you do, avoid planting seedlings under the hot sun.

2. Preparing the Tree for Planting

tree root ready to be planted in hole

Before you dig a hole, it’s important to take care of this lovely living thing properly. That means keeping the roots moist at all times, but don’t immerse them in water. If you must store them, do so in a sheltered, cool, shaded spot.

Bare root trees and seedlings should be planted as soon as possible.

Planting Seedlings

In the case of seedlings, remove a patch of sod about three to six centimetres wide and dig a hole three to 10 cm deep for each one—just deep enough to allow the root of the plant to be buried up to the root collar (where the roots join the stem). There should be enough space to spread the roots out without bending or curving them around.

Planting Larger Trees

In the case of larger bare root trees, you can build a cone-shaped mound in the centre of the hole that will allow you to spread the tree’s roots out over the mound.

3. Preparing the Ground for Planting

For large plants, the hole you dig should be the same depth as two to three times the width of the root ball. Allow at least 15 cm of extra space around a root. Leave a radius of at least one metre between plantings.

You’ll want to consult with an expert on the spacing required between each species of tree or shrub. Once the hole is dug, fill it with water before placing the tree in it, so the roots get a good drink.

4. Cover and Care for Planted Tree

Use the soil that you removed from the hole to fill it back in. Don’t forget to break up any hard-packed clumps and add the soil gradually. Gently tamp the soil or add water to eliminate any air pockets. Whatever you do, don’t compact the soil!

Add more soil and water again. This step ensures that air pockets are filled with healthy soil. Do not press very wet soil or it will become too compacted. If you can, water the tree immediately and slowly, letting it soak in before adding more.

Staking Your Tree

You’re only going to want to stake your tree if it’s absolutely necessary. So if it’s very windy, it might be a good idea to stake the tree. If you decide to do that, be sure to use soft, wide material strips and tie the tree loosely to allow some movement. Gradually loosen the guy wires so the tree can develop its own strength.

Watering Your Tree

The following weeks are critical to your tree. You’ll want to water the tree regularly so ensure you water long enough for the water to make its way all the way down to the root ball.

5. Add Mulch!

Adding a layer of wood chips or other mulch material around the tree or shrub will keep the tree’s roots cool and moist, prevent soil erosion and weed growth and protect the trunk from lawn mowers and trimmers.

The tree should be mulched as far out as its drip line but be sure to keep the mulch 15 cm back from the tree trunk to discourage access by mice. To break up large areas of mulch, add forest understory plants such as Solomon’s seal, ferns, wild ginger, or foamflower.

6. Tree Maintenance

Ensure that your tree has adequate water for the first few years. Start with frequent watering and gradually lengthen the time between watering.

Watering requirements will vary depending on the size of the tree, soil type, time of planting, and amount of rainfall. Generally, the smaller the tree at planting the more quickly it will adapt.

Ask your supplier for advice relevant to your area and the particular tree. Otherwise you can leave the tree be for the most part. Only prune the tree to remove dead or broken branches.

7. Protect Your Tree

Protect your trees and shrubs from any grazing animals or human damage by surrounding them with fencing. Mesh “socks” or covers can be placed over the leading shoots of young conifers to protect them from grazers.

Winter Rodents

You can also protect the trunks of your deciduous trees from rodents over winter by encircling them with tree wrap or chicken wire. You can also use a length of plastic corrugated and perforated drain pipe (available at hardware stores); however, ensure that the width you choose is wide enough to leave space between the tree and the pipe.

Learn more about some of Canada’s trees or how to garden for wildlife in your backyard.

Planting 88 Trees in CWF’s Backyard!

Our Saturday, September 22, 2018 TD Tree Day Event was a great success! Despite the tornado that hit not 15 kilometres away on Friday, loss of power and huge road delays, 13 fantastic volunteers helped us plant 88 trees and shrubs. Thanks to all who came out, including two Canadian Conservation Corps participants!

Photos © Adam Testa

Book Review – Trees & Shrubs of Newfoundland and Labrador

Trees & Shrubs of Newfoundland and Labrador

For nature buffs who want to learn more about the woody plants of Canada’s easternmost province, you might be interested in Trees & Shrubs of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s one of the latest books by Todd Boland, a founding member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildflower Society. He also happens to be the Research Horticulturalist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden. Todd has gone on to write a similar guide to the woody plants of the Maritimes covering Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI plus a series of wildflower guides on the way.

Trees & Shrubs of Newfoundland and Labrador is nicely laid out, with 3-4 colour photos per entry that clearly show different aspects of the plant. The text is easy to follow, complemented with symbols to help users find and grasp key features at a glance.

trees and shrubs of N&L - Todd Boland - 640px

It is different to other field guides in that plants are arranged by their leaves, rather than scientific classification or flower colour. But after reading the introduction and trying out a few species, I was easily able to navigate around the book.

I appreciate that the focus is on the native trees and shrubs of the province, yet includes non-natives that are also found in the area. For those cases, their introduced status is indicated. While the book is heavier than some field guides out there, it is still a great tool to have on hand if weight is not an issue, or to refer to at home.

Trees & Shrubs of Newfoundland and Labrador is published by Boulder Publications and can be bought here or perhaps at your local book store!

Check out the article Todd shared with CWF on native alpine plants of Newfoundland here.

Fall Colours

Fall Colours

Image Credit

An article I recently read explains that the early spring and dry summer experienced in many parts of Canada this year may impact the display of fall colours.

Chlorophyll gives leaves their green colour. In fall when day length gets shorter and overnight temperatures get cooler, trees stop replacing chlorophyll which allows other pigments, including the ones responsible for the beautiful oranges and reds, to become visible.

But, according to this article, the early spring and dry summer may cause leaves to change colour earlier this year and they be not be so colourful.

How are the colours in your area? I’m seeing beautiful fall colours and can’t wait to get out and explore some nature trails this long week-end!