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Aquatic Life

Michelle Beltran, Naturalist Intern
colour photo of a boardwalk winding through a flooded forest in early springThe boardwalk through Wild Goose Woods surrounded by the ephemeral pond. Photo by Michelle Beltran.

The boardwalk in Wild Goose Woods is an incredible place to visit. The flooded area that the boardwalk spans is an ephemeral pond. Ephemeral means for a short time. In the hot, dry summer months the pond dries up. You’d think that because the pond is seasonal, it wouldn’t be home to much life. In reality, just below the surface of this pond is an unseen aquatic habitat that’s teeming with biodiversity. It’s actually because of the pond’s short-lived nature that some creatures flourish. Fish can be fierce predators to some of the invertebrates that live underwater. Since the pond is ephemeral, fish cannot inhabit it. These are just a few of the species that live below the boardwalk in Wild Goose Woods.

Mosquito Larva:
Ponds are important breeding grounds for many species. Some of the terrestrial critters that we see start their lives underwater, like mosquitoes. In their larval form, mosquitoes have small, slender bodies. When disturbed, they wiggle away. It’s not easy being a mosquito, when you're an important food source for so many animals. Throughout different life stages, mosquitoes are a valuable food source for other insects, birds, bats, amphibians, spiders, and reptiles.
colour photo of a mosquito larva in a containerMosquito Larva. Photo by Chris Earley.

Frog & Toad Eggs:
In early spring, amphibians awaken from brumation ready to jump into their breeding season. Ephemeral ponds are excellent breeding grounds for frogs and toads as they have fewer predators that will go after eggs and tadpoles. Frog and toad eggs look like small black or brown pearls encased in jelly. Not only can we appreciate finding frogs and toads in Wild Goose Woods for their adorable charm, but they’re also a bioindicator of good water quality. Amphibians partially breathe through their skin, so if the water they live in is polluted the amphibian will die. Finding amphibians in The Arboretum tells us that the water quality in our ponds is good!  
colour photo of chains of black frog eggs encased in clear jelly floating in a pondToad eggs. Photo by Chris Earley.

Fairy Shrimp:
Some animals use ephemeral ponds for only part of their lifecycle. By the time the pond has dried up, the animal has moved to another life stage and inhabits terrestrial ecosystems, like toads. Fairy Shrimp, however, are an example of a truly ephemeral animal. They complete their entire life cycle in the short time that the pond is present. By the time the pond dries up, the Fairy Shrimp have hatched from eggs, matured, mated, and laid their eggs. Fairy Shrimp eggs are incredibly resilient. Throughout the dry summer and cold winter, Fairy Shrimp eggs lay dormant in the mud. When the snow melts in spring and the pond fills up with water, the eggs hatch. Right now is the perfect time to look for Fairy Shrimp. Keep your eyes peeled for small translucent crustaceans with slender bodies.
colour photo of a fairy shrimp in a white containerFairy Shrimp. Photo by Chris Earley.

Interested in learning more about the fascinating world of aquatic habitats? Join Don Scallen for an in-person pond workshop on April 23rd.

Spring Wildflowers

Colour photo of a red trillium with some trout lily leaves growing around its base.colour photo of a white trillium growing in a forestLeft: A red trillium (Trillium erectum) with some trout lilies growing around its base. Right: A white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) growing in the forest. Photos by Bradley Howie.

As the snow begins to melt and light penetrates the soil an eruption of immaculate spring woodland flowers appears. Dotting the landscape with all sorts of colours, wildflowers are a welcomed sight after a long winter of white. But do you ever wonder what kind of spring wildflowers you are looking at? Or even how to identify spring wildflowers? Please join Michelle Beltran and Brad Howie for a virtual and in-person Spring Ephemerals workshop. During the virtual session the instructors will be going over the ecological role spring ephemerals play in the great game of life, wildflower identification tools, and a motley crew of the most common spring ephemerals you are likely to come across. During the in-person portion participants will venture into the Nature Reserve for a walk along the not-so-beaten path to find spots where these wildflowers are growing naturally. To learn more or sign up please visit this link.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks for spring ephemerals! These trout lily leaves and emerging trilliums were spotted by Michelle this past week.
colour photo of a green and brown mottled trout lily leaf growing from a mossy groundcolour photo of three green trillium leaves opening around a closed budLeft: An emerging trout lily (Erythronium sp.) leaf. Right: The opening leaves and closed flower bud of a trillium (Trillium sp.). Photos by Michelle Beltran.

Upcoming Workshops

Virtual Insect Seriescolour photos of several insects The Arboretum is hosting a series of online workshops about insects. Insects are one of the largest and most diverse groups of organisms on the entire planet! From tiny, determined ants to big, beautiful moths, these creatures are amazing and often under-appreciated.  Join us to learn more about butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies, and aquatic insects. Starts Apr 20

close up colour photo of a caddisfly larvaPond Workshop with Don Scallen Ponds teem with a diversity of prey and predators that conduct their lives largely unseen below the surface. The outdoor workshop will begin with an examination of several species of pond organisms that Don Scallen will have on hand. We’ll then visit one of the Arboretum ponds to see what else we can discover. Dip nets and containers to briefly house the creatures will be supplied. Apr 23

colour photo of a smiling woman standing in front of an easelVirtual Plein Air Painting Talk with Candice Leyland  Plein air painting involves packing up your art supplies and creating in the great outdoors! This webinar will explore portable painting supplies - from affordable DIY options to plein air investment pieces and how to set up your portable outdoor studio. We will also look at setting up your watercolour palette and explore how to choose colours to suit your style and environment. Apr 25

Virtual Wonderful Spring Wildflower Workshopcolour photo of a pink and white flower This online session will introduce you to the beautiful world of wildflowers. We’ll cover identification features of spring ephemerals, along with taking a closer look at species that are common to the Guelph area. We’ll also touch on spring ephemeral natural history, lore, and helpful resources. Apr 29

Wonderful Spring Wildflower Workshopcolour photo of yellow marsh marigolds and their green leaves We’ll be exploring The Arboretum grounds in person, including the nature reserve, in search of beautiful spring ephemerals. The different habitats found in The Arboretum should allow us to find a variety of spring ephemerals. This in-person session should provide participants with the opportunity to practice identification skills learned in the virtual session. May 6

Virtual Terrific Turtles of Ontariocolour photo of a hand holding a small black turtle Ontario is home to eight species of turtles and all of them are listed as Species at Risk.  Learn lots of interesting facts about our beautiful native shelled species and meet many of them live on-screen.  Find out how you can help these animals and hopefully ensure they remain here as beneficial residents in our province. May 12

photo of a night sky framed by silhouettes of treesVirtual Constellation "Walk" with Trevor Chandler
Join us for monthly sessions as we get to know the night sky a little better. Participants will be introduced to prominent stars and constellations, where to look for them and how the motions of planet Earth cause them to appear to shift from hour to hour and month to month. You will receive a downloadable star map to help you make your way through the stars. May 12

Virtual Sensational Snakes of Ontarioclose up colour photo of a snake's head Reptiles are the most ‘at risk’ group of animals in Ontario. Our often misunderstood and maligned native snake species are actually beautiful, beneficial, and inoffensive creatures that need our help. You can meet and learn about many of these ectothermic legless friends in this engaging program with live specimens on-screen. May 19

In-Person Plein Air Painting with Candice Leyland  colour photo of a smiling woman standing in front of an easelSpend the afternoon plein air painting with watercolour artist Candice Leyland. Candice will show you her approach to painting landscapes outdoors and inspire you to create your own unique paintings. Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their work througout the workshop and can share their work and receive feedback in a group critique at the end of class. May 29

All of our virtual programs are offered live on Zoom, and recordings are made available for registrants to access for a limited time. Visit our website to learn more about these and our other programs. Register early to save your spot!

Arboretum Research Studio

The Arboretum celebrated the end of the school year with our first ever research studio on April 8th! The event began with a presentation by elder Theodore Flamand, Species-at-Risk Biologist with the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. He shared his work monitoring and managing species at risk and medicinal plants, establishing a marsh outdoor educational site at Meshkoodayaang Shkoo sii Prairie Point Marsh, and educating and engaging youth. 

The event featured undergraduate and graduate students, research participants, and community members presenting on work that they had done on the grounds. There was an extraordinary diversity of projects presented, with topics ranging from red mulberry conservation to musical improvisation inspired by The Arb.

Take a look at the the range of work shared! Artist Lynne Dalgleish from ThinkLink Graphics created this image board capturing the different presentations. 

Elm Update

colour photo of trays of top grafted elms tied together with rubber bandscolour photo of a young grafted elm with big green leaves
Left: Trays of freshly grafted elms. Yellow tags are used to note the source of the scion. Photo by Justine Richardson. Right: A healing grafted elm with big green leaves. Photo by Sadie Campbell.

Remember these elms we grafted in February? Look at them now! They've been in humidity-controlled chambers in our greenhouse, and many of them have started to heal together. In our greenhouse they have a head start on the warm weather, and are already leafing out and starting to look like little elm trees. In the next few days or weeks, we'll remove the elastic bands that secured the scions to the rootstock as the graft sites heal enough to support the scion. 

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. Search for us at @uogarboretum.
[Click on the photos below to see the posts and more on Instagram.]

a colour photo of a red winged blackbird What better way to enjoy the recent warm weather than taking a stroll through our Gosling Wildlife Gardens? These crocuses in bloom right now in our Permaculture Garden add a lovely pop of colour to the spring landscape!

colour photo of the red fruit of staghorn sumac on a snowy dayOntario has some truly terrific turtles, like the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Did you know that the Common Snapping Turtle plays a vital role in ecosystems by scavenging dead animals? Sure, it doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job, but imagine how dirty aquatic habitats would get if nothing took care of the animals that naturally die.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ontario’s native turtles, join Steve the snapping turtle, the fantastic Sciensational Sssnakes human team, and other animal ambassadors for their upcoming Terrific Turtles of Ontario workshop! 

colour photo of the leafless canopies of treesMourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) are usually among the first butterflies that we see flying in the Ontario spring. This is because they actually overwinter as adults using some pretty specialized biology. Natural antifreeze chemicals called glycerols allow them to survive the cold while hidden away in sheltered tree crevices. Unlike other species that migrate or overwinter as larva/pupa, as soon as the weather warms up, the Mourning Cloaks are ready to be up and flying!


Arb History: Amelanchier laevis 'R.J. Hilton'

Sadie Campbell, Horticultural Intern

With warmer weather starting to set in, some of our serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) are getting ready ready to flower. In the next few weeks, look out for the unique flowers of Amelanchier laevis 'R.J. Hilton'. Unlike other serviceberries, which typically have white flowers, this cultivar has pink buds that open to pink-tinged flowers in late April or early May. As you may have guessed from its name, it also happens to have a special connection to Arboretum history.
Colour photo of the pink flower buds of amelanchier laevis rj hilton beginning to opencolour photos of white-pink tinged flowers of amelanchier laevis rj hilton
Left: the pink flower buds of Amelanchier laevis 'R.J. Hilton'. Right: the cultivar's pink-tinged flowers. Photos by Sadie Campbell.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, Robert James Hilton, also known as R.J. Hilton, was a professor at the University of Guelph. Hilton was a prominent member in the Ontario Agricultural College as the Head of the Horticulture department. When the Ontario Agricultural College grew from a college to a university with the establishment of the University of Guelph in 1964, Hilton proposed the creation of an arboretum. From then on, Hilton became a prominent figure in the creation of the university’s Arboretum, becoming secretary of the Presidential Arboretum Planning Committee and participating in creation of the academic brief and master plan for the formation of The Arboretum. In 1970 R.J. Hilton was named the first Director of The Arboretum.
colour photo of a grey-haired man with glasses and a blue jacket standing next to a shrub and hold secateurs.
R.J. Hilton in Nova Scotia harvesting serviceberry cuttings 1988.

In 1984, Hilton began a project working with Agriculture Canada's Kentville Research Station to select and assess native amelanchiers from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for cultivation and commercial use. During this time, he discovered a natural selection of pink-flowering Amelanchier laevis in eastern King County, Nova Scotia. The cultivar was later named in his honour by his colleagues that the Kentville Research Station. Come check it out in flower in the next few weeks in our Amelanchier and Crataegus collection!

Your Event at The Arboretum

colour photo of a table and chairs in a room with a triangular window
Break out of the ordinary and try a unique location for your next corporate function! Whether it be a seminar for 200 or a company retreat for 30, your guests will enjoy the spectacular views and tranquil setting that The Arboretum offers year round. Our building also features new barrier-free access to the auditorium. During breaks, your guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll through gardens or walking trails, and guided tours can be arranged. Meeting facilities available for rent include the AuditoriumBoardroom, and Sunroom

For availability, rental rates and reservation, contact Dawn Ann Webster at 519-824-4120 ext. 54110 or

In the Ecosystem

colour image of people in a boat on a lake with MES written on it in white text

Thinking of continuing your education in science? The last day of applications for the University of Guelph's Master of Environmental Sciences (MES) program is April 30! Whether you are a recent graduate and have yet to start your career in Environmental Sciences, or you are already an Environmental Sciences professional who wants to upgrade your credentials, completing the MES will position you for success. In the MES program, you will study the most recent theoretical and technical advances through interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teaching and research, so that you gain both depth and breadth of knowledge. You will develop critical thinking skills and enhance your communication skills so that you can excel in a career with industry, government or the not-for-profit sector that will change the future. Follow this link to find out more!

image of the earth on a blue backgroundToday (April 22) is Earth Day! Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated globally to demonstrate support for environmental protection and raise awareness of environmental issues. The theme of Earth Day this year is "Invest in Our Planet" to highlight the importance of sustainable business practices on our climate. Follow this link to find out more and search for events in your area!

colour image of a hand holding some black ash seedThe National Tree Seed Centre is looking for input from tree and seed experts! Help build a more resilient seed to tree supply chain to reach their goal of planting 2B trees over the next decade across Canada. Your input is vital! Please fill out the survey! The deadline to share your input is April 30th. 

Wednesday Noon Hour Walks

colour photo of snowdrops
Snowdrops are blooming all over The Arb! Come on out at 12:15 by the kiosk for this week's Wednesday Noon Walk. We're bound to find more exciting signs of spring!

In accordance with the University of Guelph's policies we will ask walk participants to show proof of vaccination until May 1st, complete the university's screening form, and wear a medical style mask. Please follow this link for the most up-to-date information. Thank you for understanding. 

Donation and Dedication Opportunities

colour photo of a girl using an identification chart to identify a cedar with the words Support the Arb Give Today

The Arboretum relies on donations from generous supporters to keep our grounds beautiful and accessible every day, all year round. Gifts to the Arboretum are tax deductible, and enable efforts such as tree recovery, signage, trails, studentships, gardens, educational programs, and more! Join our community of supporters today with a gift through our online donation portal. 

Did you know that we can accept donations of shares and in-kind contributions? A gift of appreciated securities is a great way to support The Arboretum. Use the Notification of Gift of Securities form. Donors receive full tax credit for the fair-market value. Learn more about how you can give at

Donor Stories

colour photo of a boardwalk through a flooded forest with a plaque dedicated to Bruce WilkieThanks this month to Dorothy Wilkie, whose generous gifts in memory of her husband, OVC professor Dr. Bruce N. H. Wilkie, are supporting our native plantings along the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest boardwalk. Watch this summer for the beautiful bright red lobelia (cardinal flower) and other species that are getting established through these year over year efforts.


colour image of the cover of the arboretum summer garden birds booklet with an orange and black bird on itLooking for a way to keep the sun out of your eyes as the days get longer and sunnier? You can protect your skin and show off your support for The Arb with our hats! Our hats are made of a moisture wicking, UV protectant, active wear fabric. They feature an elastic buckle and a hidden velcro adjustable size system.

Visit our Merchandise shop to order today or to check out our other cool products and educational materials.

Ways you can connect with The Arboretum

Make sure to keep in touch with us on social media -  follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
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camera icon for photo creditThe header of this month's newsletter is Trilliums in Victoria Woods. Photo by Chris Earley.