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Hi <<First Name>>, Get ready to start celebrating 50 years of The Arboretum!

Virtual Programs / Workshops

a colour photo of a bird with a dragonfly in its beak with the number 8 written on the photo.

ID that bird! If you guessed the GrEIGHT Crested Flycatcher, you are correct! What’s up with the 8? We are offering 8 virtual bird id lectures for $8 each. Or sign up for all eight and only pay for seven! Topics include gulls, sparrows, spring migrants, spring warblers, fall warblers, sandpipers, ducks and hawks. The hour-long talks are done by Chris Earley, Arboretum Interpretive Biologist and author of five bird field guides. The presentations will include a question period and will happen on Fridays at noon from Oct 23 to Dec 11.

For details or to sign up visit our website. Money raised will help support our educational activities.

Photo of the Great Crested Flycatcher by Karl Egressy.

The Arboretum in the News

a man stand in a field of trees on a trail path

Why autumn leaves turn the colours they do?

Sean Fox, The Arboretum’s Manager of Collections, discussed the science behind the brilliance of this year's fall colours of the leaves on CBC news.

Portico Magazine

Keep your eye out for the Fall 2020 issue of Portico, the University of Guelph Alumni magazine, which will feature an in-depth profile on The Arboretum at 50.

Temporary Entrance

Due to construction on College Avenue, please enter the main Arboretum from the Victoria Road entrance (near Stone Road.). Visit our website to view the map and parking directions.
On the North side of College Avenue, the new Arboretum Recreational Side Trail will be a closed loop until that road reopens. Visitors may park at the trail lot on the south side of Victoria Road bridge and cross the road to enter the side trail. Thanks to Jim Hoare and Peter Jaspers-Fayer of Guelph Hiking Trail Club for the map!
map of trail loop


Are you spending more time in nature this year? Do you need some help in identifying things you are seeing? Do you want to learn more about what you are seeing? Check out our biodiversity sheets and publications. We are still shipping these items.

Tree Leaves (pictured) - comes in an English-only or an English-French-Anishinaabemowin version.  We also have some activity pages that work with this sheet.
Arboretum Merchandise

It's time to start celebrating 50 years of The Arboretum!

Poster for the 50th Anniversary kick-off event for the Arboretum GuelphJoin us on October 18 at 7pm for a free virtual public talk on “Local Leadership and Global Impact: Botanic Gardens Advancing Food Security” by Dr. Saharah Moon Chapotin, Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden. Dr. Chapotin’s talk will address the important and increasingly urgent work of arboreta in the long-term conservation of biodiversity and its unique role in supporting food security. Chapotin is a plant scientist with a passion to educate people about the importance of plants and agriculture. She holds a bachelor of science in biology from Stanford University and a doctorate in plant physiology from Harvard University. She has worked on food security issues and speaks about the unique role of arboreta and botanical gardens in global plant conservation efforts, such as preservation of genetic diversity through conservation of wild crop relatives. She has conducted forest ecology and canopy biology research throughout the United States, Madagascar, and Costa Rica.

Dr. Chapotin's talk kicks off a year-long series “The Arboretum’s Living Laboratory – Fifty Years and Growing” which celebrates the Arboretum’s history and looks forward to the future.

This hour-long online event is free and open to the public. Register online at:

What to See in The Arboretum

Check out some of our recent posts below from our social media accounts. If you are interested in learning 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 on Instagram.]

A photo of a hand holding a colourful dragonfly gently by the wings.Check out the colour on this Variable Darner that was hanging around recently! While males tend to have more blue, females like this one can show some incredible lime green markings. We tend to see darners like this later in the season because they’re better at regulating their body temperature than some other species, which allows them to fly even as the days start to cool down. They can do this by using more powered flight than gliding, basking, moving their wings, and even changing the circulation between their thorax and abdomen!

A colour photo of orange berries on a vine growing under a trellis.We showcase lots of different woody plants here in The Arboretum, including trees, shrubs, and vines. Check out this American Bittersweet vine growing at the Arboretum Centre. The fruit are beautiful and a favourite food for many birds, but fun fact: they’re actually poisonous to humans!

A close up phot of the tree trunk of a Amur Cork treeOn our grounds, you get the opportunity to encounter a variety of tree species ranging from native Ontario trees to trees from across the world! This Amur Cork-tree is native to Japan and China, and it actually gets its name from the corky texture of the funky-looking bark. What cool trees have you seen lately?

Time Flies

By Cael Wishart, Horticulture Technician at The Arboretum

A garden with construciton conesI took this picture on August 28, 2018. Look familiar? This was the state of the Japanese Garden more than 2 years ago. 2 years is a lot of time. I had just graduated from the University of Guelph and began my internship here at The Arboretum, and that feels like forever ago. If someone would have told me back then what would be going on in the world when we finished this project I would have laughed, because it seems unimaginable. But here we are, in October 2020, and things are much, much different than they were 2 years ago. Things are much different in our Japanese Garden as well. A project that has gone through in depth planning, collaboration, and involvement from the collective Arboretum staff has finally come to a conclusion. What a feeling. It’s admittedly strange seeing a picture you took and re-imagining your life back then, how it’s changed in the matter of only a few years. But this perhaps is the most rewarding feeling for me working at The Arboretum, seeing the evolution of the grounds over the years. Being on the grounds everyday it is difficult to notice the changes that are happening, but once you step back and think about all that’s been done in that time it’s quite a rewarding feeling.
A photo of fenced off dirtThis past week, we wrapped up the ongoing construction of the Japanese Garden entrance. Many already know, but this project was done to replace the old vandalized fence and a neglected thyme garden with a more durable and long lasting solution. The fence was designed to reflect traditional Japanese design elements which takes a great amount of time and care. The wood was burned and torched in a traditional Japanese wood preservation technique called Shou sugi ban, or also know as Yakisugi. Yaki means to cook/burn, A photo of plants in pots laid on dirt while sugi refers to the species of tree, cedar. The wood you see here is all untreated cedar, scorched and torched to a charred black that not only preserves the wood for longer but also forges a unique aesthetic.
To complement the fence, we are in the midst of restoring the thyme garden bed. This bed was  completely redone to eradicate the seed bank from all those pesky weeds that made their way into there. Once tilled, I contoured the bed to reflect a rolling landscape of valleys and miniature mountains. The thyme has grown extremely well a photo of a japanese style garden fenceover the months since it was planted as it is already filling into a lush carpet. Just a bit more ‘thyme’ and this will be a rolling green landscape. An additional low rise fence was constructed over these past few weeks to incorporate the thyme bed with the rest of the garden and reflect the design of the entrance fence. From years, to months, to weeks, the Japanese Garden entrance has been restored. Someone get the champagne, finally!

Photos by Cael Wishart.

Wednesday Walks

Join us for our Wednesday Walks, Virtually! A great way to connect with nature this fall and get ideas for things to look out for on your own walks and hikes. Click on the images below and join naturalists Kitty and Jenny on their recent walks: Tour of the Native Tree Loop- pt. 2 (top left), A Fun Time with Fungi (top right), A Tour of the English Garden (bottom left), and Trees and their Leaves (bottom right).
photo of a hand holding a leaf
Watch Tour of the Native Tree Loop- pt. 2
We know, we know, we've already covered the Native Trees Loop a couple of videos back... but it's just such an awesome trail! Join Naturalist Interns, Kitty and Jenny, as they revisit the Native Trees Loop and check out a couple of new trees!

a photo of a woman standing in a manicured garden
Watch A Tour of the English Garden
Our Horticulturalists do an amazing job of maintaining the gardens here on the grounds and of keeping them true to their styles! In this video, we'll be visiting one of these lovely gardens- the English Garden!
photo of a woman crouched by a log in the forest
Watch A Fun Time with Fungi
Jump into the wonderful world of mushrooms in this video with Naturalist Interns, Kitty and Jenny! Disclaimer: The Arboretum is a non-consumptive space and things like mushrooms are not to be removed from it.

a photograph of leaves on the ground and figure with their head cut off my the photo frame
Watch Trees and their Leaves
Those fall leaves are definitely a stunner. But why do only some of them change colour and drop? Join our Naturalist Interns, Jenny and Kitty, as they discuss just that!

Historical Perspective

In celebration of 50 years of The Arboretum’s Living Laboratory, we’ll be looking back and looking forward all year.
Then and Now of Arboretum View Southwest toward Main Campus. Circa 1972 and 2020.
Arboretum View Southwest toward Main Campus. Circa 1972 and 2020.

Do you have photos of the Arboretum over the past 50 years? We’d love to see them. Email us at

Weathering the Winter

By Jenny Lin, Naturalist Intern at The Arboretum.
The title of this article might at first seem woefully inappropriate for the time of year - you might even be looking out your windows at your snowless backyards and having a little chuckle at my expense - but don’t give up on this read yet! Fall is an important time of year for lots of different critters out there. Without the luxury of heating and blankets, winter is a tricky season to navigate out in the wild and fall is when all the prep work for survival happens. There are more strategies involved than we can wrap our heads around, but it mostly boils down to three categories: migration, hibernation, and acclimation. With that said, let’s take a look at what a few arboretum creatures are doing to get ready for the Canadian cold.

Photo of a turkey vulture flying in a blue sky

First up, we have migration. In the fall, you get birds across a ton of species (raptors, shorebirds, warblers) moving south; their movement mirrored by a bunch of nerds with binoculars (it’s ok, I can say that-I’m one of those nerds) flocking to specific areas to get a glimpse of them. That being said, whether you’re staking out migration hotspots or not, it’s likely you’ve seen some of these migrants passing by. Especially on your drive to work. That’s right folks, I’m talking about Turkey Vultures! This amazing species is an ultimate migrator and can often be seen in huge kettles above highways and freeways on their annual journey. But why do they follow human routes? Well, it has to do with how they fly. Different species are adapted for different styles of flying and the Turkey Vultures use something called thermals. On a sunny day, the sunlight warms the ground differently based on the substrate. Certain substances, like rock (or the pavement on a highway), are great at trapping that heat in and getting very hot. As the ground heats up, it starts to heat the air above it too. As we know, hot air rises so now we have this pocket of hot rising air- this is an air thermal. Turkey Vultures, with their big wings and specialized feathers, are great at trapping this hot air underneath them and riding it up like a hot air elevator! In fact, a lot of the times you see these birds circling in the sky, they’re not circling down to prey but up as they ride these thermals. Once they reach the top floor of this elevator, they glide on down to the next thermal and so on and so forth. This lets them fly huge distances and make huge journeys without flapping their wings very much at all! This style of flying is called soaring. The reason we always see Turkeys Vultures migrating along the same routes as our highways is because those large expanses of pavement have made, unseen to our eyes, another highway of hot air in the sky! Pretty cool stuff!

A Wood Frog checking out the leaf litter.But not all animals jump ship here in Canada when it comes to the winter. Hibernation is another common strategy where animals go into a state of dormancy to save energy during those tough cold months. Hibernation (or torpor) is risky business though. If you don’t find the perfect spot to hibernate, you risk being found by predators or being too exposed to the elements. That’s why, in the fall, a lot of animals are out on the prowl for that perfect hibernaculum. One of my personal favourites is the Wood Frog. Right around this time, you might find these little masked cuties in the forest, rooting around in the leaf litter and ignoring the fashionable method of hibernating deep in the water like the rest of its amphibious brethren. Why? Great question! Most other species of frogs need a body of water deep enough that the bottom doesn’t freeze to overwinter. This is because when tissue freezes, the ice crystals that form puncture and damage cells and organs. Wood Frogs however, shrug in the face of this deadly frost damage and say, “not today”. In the fall, as the days get shorter and colder, hormones stimulate the Wood Frog to produce a bunch of glucose which acts as a form of natural antifreeze. As water freezes beneath its skin, this glucose prevents ice crystals from damaging the delicate cells. In the spring, it’s just a matter of thawing back out and this hoppy little friend is good to go again!

An Eastern Gray Squirrel carrying a big food prize.Now the last couple of animals we had a look at were pretty spectacular, so it seems fitting that we are ending our article on the humble Eastern Gray Squirrel. This familiar, unassuming animal is a master at surviving the winter through acclimation (changing with the seasons)! Some animals go about this by changing their pelage, building shelters, or maybe joining a flock. Gray Squirrels acclimate by caching away food to ensure that they will have enough to eat through those tough months. In the fall, you’ll often see them cramming little morsels into tree cavities or pits as they prepare. Interestingly, many squirrels are larder hoarders, where individuals store food in a central area that they defend; but Gray Squirrels are scatter hoarders, collecting and burying one nut at a time throughout home ranges up to 7 acres in size. In addition to its real caches, they also practice deceptive caching where they only pretend to deposit a nut in hole before covering it up, leaving behind an empty cache site to fool would-be cache thieves. Between the locations of the fake and real caches, that’s a lot to remember! Good thing Eastern Gray Squirrels have amazing memories. In a 1989 article to Natural History, Lucia Jacobs, at the University of California Berkeley, reports a nut recovery rate as high as 95%! So, the next time you walk past a squirrel caching something, have a closer look and take a moment to appreciate this often overlooked animal.

There are so many more cool adaptations out there! The next time you venture outside to enjoy the changing leaves and lovely fall weather, challenge yourself to look a little closer at the animals and ask, what are they doing to prepare?

Figure 1. A Turkey Vulture soaring high in the sky! Figure 2. A Wood Frog checking out the leaf litter. Fig0re 3. An Eastern Gray Squirrel carrying a big food prize- will it cache it? All photos by The Arboretum's Interpretive Biologist and Education Coordinator Chris Earley.

A Look Back at The Arboretum Plant Sale

old photographs pf a plant sale
This year we hosted our Plant Sale as a first-ever virtual auction! Rather than cancel due to the pandemic, our horticulture team selected 71 plants from our greenhouse and we went online. We surely missed the crowds of visitors and our dedicated and passionate volunteers. People had fun bidding; and many “winners” had never attended previous plant sales in person! The Arboretum’s Plant Sale, begun in 1992, has had many iterations over the years. Photos here from the 1998 sale held at our nursery near the Hilton Centre on the north side of college Avenue, show our in-person sale in its heyday. Some will remember Henry Kock announcing plants over the microphone and loudspeaker!    

Photos sourced from The Arboretum's photo album: What a fine lot of Plants and People.

Importance of The Arboretum’s Victoria Woods as a reference point to study soil organic carbon sequestration and soil health

By Sowthini Vijayakumar and Naresh Thevathasan, School of Environmental Sciences, UofG

Part of our research program is the investigation of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration and soil health in different land-use systems including agricultural fields, and herbaceous biomass crop fields (e.g. switchgrass and Miscanthus). As an undisturbed old growth forest, the Victoria Woods woodlot in The Arboretum serves as an ideal reference point to predict the maximum SOC sequestration potential associated with these other land-uses. Data from the Victoria Woods, along with baseline SOC data from an agriculture field at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI) were used to assess SOC gains associated with fields that were converted to perennial biomass crops in 2009. In the context of soil health, earthworm numbers were quantified in all three land-use systems (Figure 1).

 a photo of Sowthini Vijayakumar (PhD student) assessing earthworm populations in the Victoria Woods woodlot at The Arboretum.

Figure 1. Sowthini Vijayakumar (PhD student) assessing earthworm populations in the Victoria Woods woodlot at The Arboretum.

The results of our research show that SOC stock is highest in woodlots (an un-disturbed forest ecosystem), followed by switchgrass and Miscanthus fields (a perennial grass ecosystem), and lowest in annual agriculture systems (Figure 2).

The increase in SOC stock since 2009, was 10.4 Mg C/ha under switchgrass and 7.5 Mg C/ha under Miscanthus compared to SOC stock quantified in an agricultural system in 2016. This shows that biomass crops (perennial grasses) have the ability to accumulate more SOC in soil compared to agricultural crops, and may have the potential to reach the levels of SOC found in undisturbed systems such as the Arboretum woodlot. Given that these land-use systems have the same soil type, the conversion to perennial grasses could mobilize close to 230 tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide as SOC in a hectare of land. Adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs), such as residue inputs, no-till, manure application, cover crops, etc., can also contribute to enhance SOC levels in agricultural systems.

A graph of landuses

Figure 2. SOC stock (Mg C per hectare) in different land-use systems at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI) and in the Arboretum in 2016 [Note: switchgrass and Miscanthus fields were established in 2009 by converting a portion of an agricultural field at the GTI].

Earthworm populations at these locations also followed the same pattern as SOC stock: highest in the woodlot (13 individuals/m2), followed by switchgrass (12 individuals/m2) and Miscanthus (8 individuals/m2), and lowest in the agricultural field (7 individuals/m2) (Figure 3). This indicates that increasing SOC levels in the soil may help maintain soil health and fertility.

a graph of land uses

Figure 3. Earthworm populations (individuals per m2) in different land-use systems at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI) and in the Arboretum woodlot.

In conclusion, our results indicate that retiring low-productive agricultural lands to perennial biomass crops (perennial grasses) and adopting BMPs in agricultural lands have great potential for sequestering carbon, and contribute significantly to Canada’s climate change mitigation initiatives, and still maintain healthy and fertile soils.

The authors wish to acknowledge funding received from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) for this research work.

Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Planting 2020

A photo of a tree on a memorial path at sunset in fall.

Our Wall-Custance Memorial Forest partnership has become a uniquely Guelph program, which supports reforestation to connect the old growth forests at two corners of the Arboretum and other native plantings on the grounds. The ceremony, which draws nearly 3,000 people to campus each September, was cancelled this year. Instead, we recorded partner messages and created a video highlighting the sapling’s journey from our greenhouse to the planting site. In addition to the hundreds of reforestation plantings supported, one symbolic is tree planted each year. This year we planted an elm from our Elm Recovery Research Project.

The video Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Planting 2020 is available on The Arboretum website for dedication families and the public.

Thank you!

a photo of boardwalk support posts in the mud along a trail in the woods

We are finishing the Wild Goose Woods boardwalk this fall, thanks to many generous donors who contributed to our June appeal letter. Your contributions have a positive impact on everyone who visits The Arboretum. Thank you!  
Correction Notice In July's edition of our newsletter, the research article "A New Squirrel in Town!" was attributed to Aron Fazekas, when in fact the author was Alannah Grant.

Ways You Can Connect With The Arboretum

Make a Donation Download & Print an Arboretum Map Consider Volunteering
camera iconThe photo of the colours of fall in the Arboretum in the header of this month's newsletter was taken by Richelle Forsey
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