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A beaver swimming with its head up, facing the camera. Photo by Michelle Beltran.

Seed Harvest!

As if the stunning fall colors weren't enough, plants make this a dazzling season with seeds! Seeds come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Not only are seeds lovely to look at, they also have fascinating adaptations for dispersal. Some seeds create a fleshy fruit that's edible. Animals will consume the fruit and the seed and later poop the seed out. Other seeds are super light weight and are designed to float effortlessly through the wind. Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) has a particularly dramatic adaptation for seed dispersal. When the seed is mature, it explodes out of its shell. Each of these strategies work to spread seeds away from their parent. When you explore our grounds, take a moment to look for seeds, but always remember to leave them be. The collection of any plant, fungi, or animal is prohibited in The Arboretum. Our staff collect seeds to aid in the conservation of rare and endangered plant species. 

Cucumber tree seeds posed in front of an orange boom lifta hand holding blue ash seeds in front of brown paper bags full of seeds

Our summer was super dry! While mature trees can handle the stress of a dry season, the drought made it difficult for some trees to produce a lot of seed. Despite the challenging conditions Fraxinus quadrangulata (blue ashes) put out a stellar seed crop!  Magnolia acuminata (cucumber trees) also managed to produce a decent number of seeds. 

staff standing in front of an orange boom liftThis year's seed harvest was supported by a boom lift loan and technical working-at-heights training for staff, thanks to Skyjack and Cooper Equipment Rental. The boom lift has been an awesome tool for reaching seeds that are well above our normal reach. We are continuing to pick more Fraxinus quadrangulata (blue ash) seed this week for the National Seed Bank. The Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree) is just ripening, as well as Gymnocladus dioicus (kentucky coffee-tree). The Skyjack boom lift will stay onsite until mid-November.

Top Left: Fraxinus quadrangulata (blue ash) seeds. Photo by Sadie Campbell. Top Right: Magnolia acuminata (cucumber tree) orange seeds popping out of their black seedpod. Photo by Michelle Beltran. Bottom Left: Maggie, Michelle, Sadie, Nathan, Sarah, Kellen, and Caroline in front of a boom lift. Photo by Skyjack. 

Memorial Forest Plantings!

staff standing with shovels behind freshly planted treesMaggie, Cael, Kellen, and Sadie standing behind a newly planted bur oak (Quercus marocarpa). 

This month our horticulture team planted over 400 more native trees and shrubs in our Memorial Forest! Redbuds (Cercis canadensis), oaks (Quercus), maples (Acer) and other species were planted along reforestation edges and throughout trails. The Memorial Forest grows year-round through donations to a 35-year partnership with Wall-Custance Funeral Home and Chapel. Community members give to honour a loved one, and one symbolic tree is dedicated each year with a plaque. In memory of each person, additional trees and shrubs are planted throughout our grounds, forest trails and collections. This year’s tree was a bur oak and our video ceremony honouring the dedication memories can be found here.

Jaguar Safari
Chris Earley, Interpretive Biologist and Education Coordinator

A jaguar laying on a tree branch
My job for the next few days of our Quest Nature Tours Brazil trip was to ensure a high probability of my participants seeing a Jaguar in the wild.  No pressure. Thank goodness we were in the best place to see this elusive cat - Brazil's Pantanal.  The rivers in this massive area (the world's largest tropical wetland) have a high population of Yacare Caiman, a favourite food of the Jaguar.  We had three boat safaris scheduled to go along a main river and its tributaries to find our quarry, but our start was less than promising:  our very first boat ride was delayed by a huge thunderstorm.  When the storm had passed, we finally left the dock but after searching unsuccessfully for an hour or so, the storm returned and we had to zoom back to our lodge, getting literally soaked to the skin in the process.  Our local guide, Carlos, and I checked the weather forecast for the next day, and our last two rides, and it was promising a lot of rain.  Oh no! 
a jaguar standing in amongst green plants
After a worrisome night, however, we woke up to a brighter-looking day and we headed off on our morning boat safari with high hopes.  Only 12 minutes after we left the dock, we saw two boats stopped along the shoreline.  "They have seen one", Carlos whispered.  Just as I was about to ask where exactly, a large spotted cat walked into view on top of the riverbank.  A Jaguar!  It gave us a quick look, scanned the water's edge (presumably for caiman or Capybaras), and then walked along, disappearing and reappearing from the dense jungle of undergrowth that lined the river.  Amazing!!!  Even more amazing, in the next hour and a half we saw 6 more Jaguars:  another single adult, a female with two mostly-grown cubs and another female with one large cub!  The final female even put on a show as she climbed a tree that slanted out over the river and was basically right above us!  Here she cleaned herself with her large pink tongue, gazed around and took a nap.  Our boat seemed to float above the water's surface on our way back to the dock since we were all so elated with our sightings.  The afternoon boat safari found us one more new Jaguar as well as the second adult that we saw in the morning, giving a total of 8 individuals (and 9 sightings) for our trip!
a close up of a jaguar's face
Want to find out what else Chris and his group saw on his Brazil adventure?  Sign up for our upcoming virtual program series, Virtual Travels with a Nature Geek: Six Continents of Life! Proceeds from these presentations will help The Arboretum continue to offer educational programming on a wide range of natural and horticultural topics.

Top: A jaguar (Panthera onca) laying on a tree branch. Middle: A jaguar standing among low growing plants. Bottom: A close up shot of a jaguar's face. All photos are by Chris Earley. 

Upcoming Workshops

stary night. trees sit in the forefront. a shooting star is on the top right hand sideVirtual Constellation Workshop
Learning the night sky is like getting to know a new neighborhood. At first, it may seem big and confusing, but as you strike out and become more and more familiar with prominent landmarks, the day comes when you realize that the neighborhood is no longer new. It’s home. Nov. 17th 

grid showing 8 close up images for birds that the bird ID course will cover.Virtual Bird ID
Birding has become even more popular hobby in recent years. Why not take it to the next level? This workshop series includes eight noon-hour lectures on eight different bird groups: hawks, ducks, sparrows, sandpipes, gulls, spring warblers, fall warblers, and spring migrants. ID techniques, field marks, shapes, behavior clues, and more will be covered! Starts Nov. 23rd.

A lepordVirtual Travels with a Nature Geek: Six Continents of Life. 
Since 1999, Chris Earley has traveled the world as a nature tour leader for Worldwide Quest. Each of his six talks focus on a different continent and showcase the amazing life that is found there. You'll meet wildlife you know such as whales, leopards and penguins, and wildlife you may not know, such as lorises, mobulas, silvereyes and geladas. Starts Jan.4th.

tree bud pictureVirtual Winter Tree I.D.
No leaves? No problem! In this workshop you will learn about the variety of tree features that are useful for winter identification of deciduous trees as well as evergreens. From buds and leaf scars to bark and needles, we will take an in-depth look at the surprisingly distinctive characteristics that let us unlock the identities of trees in their dormant season. We will focus on native Ontario tree species. Starts Jan. 9th.

seedlings in potsVirtual Starting Vegetables from Seed
An introduction to growing vegetables from seed. This course will cover topics such as, selecting the best types of seed, maturity dates, GMO seeds, hybrids vs heirlooms, starting early indoors, and planting direct in the garden. This is an ideal course for the first time vegetable gardener. Jan. 18th.

seedlings in potsVirtual Starting Plants From Seed
This is a two part course that will introduce you the wonders of growing all kinds of different plants from seed and will draw on Robert Pavlis’ experience growing over 2,000 species of plants from seed. Part one will cover the fundamentals of seed germinations and part two will focus on practical aspects of seed germination. Jan. 25th and Feb. 1st.

a design of a gardenVirtual Wildlife Garden Design Course
Learn how to design a diverse garden space that attracts native wildlife species through key design elements, plant choices and maintenance needs. This course will draw from concepts found in The Arboretum’s Gosling Wildlife Gardens, while also offering insight on design features and plant species that have proven to be successful in our local Ontario setting. From attracting endangered pollinators to gardening with native plants, participants discover the relationships between plants and wildlife and how these ideas can be applied to a backyard! Feb. 28th.

grid showing 8 close up images for birds that the bird sounds course will cover.Virtual Bird Song Series 
Join Chris Earley, for a series of eight virtual noon-hour lectures to cover over 150 bird species! We will focus on songs and some common, distinctive calls and will apply different methods to remember them. Learn how to make your own calls, read a sonogram, make up your own memorable bird song sayings and more!  Starts March 8th. 

Check out our website to see other upcoming workshops!

Wednesday Walks!

Wednesday Noon Walk Poster. Text reads: Wednesday Noon Hour Walks. Arboretum Kisok. 12:15pm. Free! Questions, contact Sun, cloud, and rainy cloud icons symbolize the forecasted weather. The Arboretum's logo sits at the bottom left corner. In the background there are yellow ginko leaves
Nature is known to be unpredictable and unexpected, so what awaits us today? Michelle, The Arboretum's Naturalist Intern, will be leading free 1 hour long walks every Wednesday. Walks start at The Arboretum kiosk at 12:15pm. For more information contact Michelle at or ext. 53615. Please note that the hike may be cancelled if there is inclement weather. Cancellations are posted on our social media pages.

We kindly ask that walk participants follow the current University safety protocols, found here.

See Ya Later, Herptiles!

Michelle Beltran, Naturalist Intern

While I enjoy so many aspects of this cozy season, there is a small bittersweet note to fall. Some of my favorite animals are reptiles and amphibians, often referred to as herptiles or herps. Throughout the upcoming cold months herps will seek shelter from the extreme cold and remain in a dormant state until spring. So let's take a moment to cherish these fantastic critters one last time before we bid them farewell until spring. 

Warm, sunny fall days may offer you the perfect opportunity to run into herps that are moving to their over-wintering grounds. In the past couple of weeks, I've run into a handful of Dekay's Brownsnakes (Storeria dekayi) and a Red-bellied snake (Storeia occipitomaculata). Both of these species are likely common in The Arboretum, but are seldom seen due to their secretive nature. Dekay's Brownsnakes and Red-bellied snakes are both nocturnal and tend to hide under ground cover during the day. These snakes eat invertebrates like slugs and snails, if you find one in your garden, thank it for taking care of some of your garden pests!
redbellied snakeDekay's Brownsnake

Left: Dekay's Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) Photo by Chris Earley. Right: Red-bellied snake (Storeia occipitomaculata). Photo by Michelle Beltran.

At the end of summer we had the incredible joy of finding Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) hatchlings. The experience was made better by our opportunity to share the amazing sighting with summer camp kids. We brought the hatchlings to the nearest pond, wished them good luck, and released them. Snapping turtles are important scavengers. They keep aquatic habitats clean and healthy by eating dead animals.
Common snapping turtle hatchling
Common snapping turtle hatchling (Chelydra serpentina). Photo by Michelle Beltran

It's hard to not love frogs. Their large eyes on the sides of their head give frogs a silly, yet dapper look. Whether it's the reflecting pool outside of The Arboretum Centre or the pond in Victoria Woods, frogs seem to inhabit every aquatic habitat in The Arb. We love seeing frogs because they're a bioindicator for good water quality. Since frogs partly breath through their skin, they're very sensitive to pollutants in the water.Green frog sitting water
Green frog (Lithobates clamitans) sitting in the reflecting pool. Photo by Michelle Beltran.

It won't be too long before herps come out of their winter dormancy. Until then, nature always has something special to explore. We have owl prowls, winter tree ID, and tracking animals in the snow to look forward to!

What To See

To learn more about what is happening or what to look out for at The Arboretum please follow us on social media. We are on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  @uogarboretum.
[Click on the photos below to see the posts and more on Instagram.]
An American Robin bathing in a puddle Not only is bird bathing incredibly cute, it’s also important! Bathing helps keep a bird’s skin clean and their feathers in good condition. 

a maple leaf showing it's brilliant red fall color. the picture is centered and framed by a red borderIn the fall, the leaves on trees change colour due to changes in the length of daylight and temperature which causes the leaves to stop their food-making processes. The chlorophyll (which gives leaves their green colour) breaks down causing the green to disappear and the beautiful yellow, orange and reds to appear. The variation in colours we see in the autumn foliage is due to the varying amounts of chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaves.

red jack in the pulpit seedsBy producing brightly coloured berries in the fall, jack-in-the-pulpit plants are employing migrating birds to disperse their seeds. The timing works because there are more birds around right now and some of them have done something miraculous: they have changed their digestive systems to be more efficient at digesting fall fruits after spending a spring and summer eating insects. Fruits provide the energy and fat that migrating songbirds need and plants have “known” this for a while!

From the Archive: Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

This article was written by Sean Fox for The Green Web newsletter in Spring 2007. The Green Web newsletter (and other back issues of our newsletter in its various iterations) can be found on the Newsletter page of our website. 

The Arboretum displays unique plants from many parts of the world in its various plant collections. According to the Canadian Plant Hardiness Zones Map, Guelph sits in zone 5A, and theoretically we should only be able to cultivate plants with an estimated hardiness rating of 5A or less. A large array of trees from the temperate areas of the globe will endure this climate, but there are still some limitations with what we can successfully cultivate here.
A sweetgum tree with fall colors. the leaves have turned a purple-red color
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) showing its stunning fall colour. Photo by Sean Fox. 

The Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, is a wonderful ‘Tree To See’, but if I were to tell you to go take a look at one, I’d normally suggest you head south, as it is too cold for these trees to survive in Guelph. This seems like a reasonable assumption to make as the Sweetgum is generally classified as being hardy to zone 7A. That’s two full zones warmer than Guelph. However, this fact didn’t deter Henry Kock from giving this species a try during his early days at The Arboretum as Plant Propagator.

Sweetgum is a very interesting tree with star-shaped leaves, corky-ridged bark and some very distinct spiny ball-shaped fruit. Needless to say, this eastern U.S. native and member of the Hamamelidaceae (Witchhazel) family would be a very unique addition to our collections, and Henry decided he would try to make it happen.

He began his project by collecting seeds from some wild Sweetgum in Ohio, as well as another batch from some cultivated trees growing at the cemetery in Port Dover, Ontario. Port Dover sits along the north shore of Lake Erie and while much warmer in the winter than Guelph, it was still considered to be at the northern limit of the cold-hardiness range for Sweetgum. Henry estimated that about 1000 seedlings germinated from these two lots of seeds back in the early 1980s. The seedlings were put to the test in the protected environment of the nursery for several years until only 10 young sweetgums remained. The cold was too much for the large majority of the seedlings, but these standouts were able to tough it out. This occurrence shows strong evidence to support the idea of genetic variation within a tree species. It was once thought that all individual trees within a species were genetically identical, but now we understand that there is genetic variation for things such as cold-tolerance and disease susceptibility within not only the natural range of the plant, but also the offspring of an individual tree. Just like you and me, trees are all born a little different!

After a couple more growing seasons in this climate only three trees proved hardy and they were moved into the World of Trees collection where they still stand to this day. That’s about 0.3% of the seedlings from the original two seed lots that had the genetic traits to tolerate our climate. How’s that for being unique? The trees were initially offered protection in the winter in the form of a burlap wrap until four years ago when it was decided that they had reached the size that they needed to tough it out on their own. While two of the trees, from the Port Dover seed lot, have suffered some die-back in the past three years, the third seedling, and only survivor from the Ohio seed-lot, is still gaining size every year.

While this is an amazing survival story, I’m not sure I’ve convinced you to come see these trees yet. What if I were to tell you that Sweetgum provides one of the most spectacular displays of fall colour at The Arboretum - would that help sway you?

The Sweetgum has been known to have colour ranging from yellow to dark purple in the autumn, sometimes even with several colours on the same tree. In October I liken our trees to the appearance of a gumball machine. Imagine the star-shaped leaves in various shades pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green simultaneously scattered throughout the tree, and you’ll have a reasonable vision of how these sweetgums shine in the fall. Quite incredible!

Winter and Holiday Arboretum Bookings!

A banquet table set with fall colors peaking in from the outside
Book the beautiful Arboretum Centre for your holiday party, winter wedding, or celebration of life! Our auditorium experience is wonder year round, connecting visually stunning views of The Arboretum. This space features new updates and an accessible ramp, plus we have several new approved catering vendors, in addition to our amazing U of G Hospitality Services. Contact Dawn Ann Webster to plant your event!

Photo of a set banquet table with fall colours peaking in from the west lawn. Photo by Barb Ash

In the Ecosystem

guelph film festival posterGuelph Film Festival (November 4-12 in-person, free for everyone under 30!) features several environment-themed films including: Rematriation, Pappy's Garden, To the End, and Uyra-The Rising Forest. On-line participation is also available.

Poster. Text reads "Wild Writers. Literary Festival. October 28-30 2022. Water Ontario and OnlineOn October 29th at 9:30am join the Guelph Institute for Environmental Research at the Wild Writers Festival for a discussion with Pulitzer-prize winning poets and renowned ecologists Dr. Madhur Anand & Dr. Faisal Moola.

To learn more or to purchase tickets, click here

Donation and Dedications

A donation has been made to support the efforts of The Arboretum because it connects people with nature through research, outreach, & conservation - because it is a place for people to come to enjoy nature, for special events, to learn & understand.

The summer of 2022 was the 15th anniversary of Beechwood Produce Stand. The Beechwood Park neighbourhood, near the University of Waterloo, was designed to shape the subdivision to the landscape as opposed to shaping the landscape to the subdivision.  This landscape sensitive design resulted in the protection of much of the topography and existing vegetation, a maple-beech forest.

beechwood produce stand volunteers lined up behind the produce stand
Beechwood Produce Stand volunteers lined up behind the produce stand.

The produce stand exists because of volunteers of all ages & a community of very supportive customers. It reflects a commitment to conveniently provide fresh produce, flowers & baking from local farms & bakeries. It creates the opportunity to build community amongst neighbours and friends. It helps give back to the broader community by making weekly donations of any unsold produce to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, & by raising funds to donate to the neighbourhood association, schools, and charities. In September, the community chose The Arboretum. The Beechwood Produce Stand operates every Wednesday afternoon from June to the beginning of September. It is a beehive of activity as volunteers arrive in the morning to set up for afternoon sales. Each week, reflects the seasonal changes in what is locally available from asparagus & strawberries in June to squash, peaches, apples, carrots & sweet corn in September. To learn more about the Beechwood Produce Stand, check out their website.

Gifts to the Arboretum are tax deductible. Join our community of supporters today with a gift through our online donation portal. 

We can accept donations of shares and in-kind contributions of appreciated securities. Donors receive full tax credit for the fair-market value.

Contact our director, Justine Richardson, to discuss how you can contribute.


Native Fruits and Seeds biodiversity sheet

What shrub are those red berries on? Which pine cone is this? What about those seed pods? This biodiversity sheet focuses on what woody plants produce in hopes of parenting a future generation.
Visit our Merchandise shop to order today or to check out our other cool products and educational materials.

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camera icon for photo creditThe header of this month's newsletter is of staghorn sumac in bloom. Photo by Sadie Campbell.