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Decorative banner with photo of tuplip tree bloom, Arboretum logo and June 2021

Celebrating the Rare Woody Plants of Ontario

Anja Bootherstone, Undergraduate Research Assistant

colourful photo collage fo treees throughout the seasons

There has been lots to celebrate in The Arboretum’s 50th year, including The Arboretum’s Rare Woody Plants of Ontario program!

Conservation of native Ontario trees in “gene banks” was part of the Arboretum’s founding vision in our first master plan approved in 1970. In 1979, Arboretum Curator Dr. John Ambrose started the Rare Woody Plants of Ontario program. The first phase was originally named “Picking up the Pawpaws” and involved surveying and documenting rare woody plants in Southern Ontario. The second phase was the development of ex-situ (not in the wild) conservation in Arboretum grounds and research areas. Seeds and cuttings were collected from wild populations to create living gene banks at The Arboretum.

The living gene bank orchards produce crops of seed with the aim to reduce the collection pressure on natural populations, increasing the ability of these populations to regenerate. Our gene banks preserve the genetic diversity of Ontario’s rare trees and they provide ex-situ back up in cases where in-situ (at the original site) conservation efforts are unsuccessful. This year we’ll be highlighting each species of #RareWoodyPlants conserved in the gene banks at The Arboretum on our Facebook page.

For more details, check out our website!

Photo: A collage of woody plants in The Arboretum throughout the seasons.

Gosling Wildlife Gardens: Permaculture Gardens

Matteo Pereira, Summer Gardening Assistant

Colour photo of a man smilingHello everyone! My name is Matteo Pereira. I am the Arboretum’s Gardening Assistant this summer. My role is supported by the Arrell Food Institute and I’ll be providing updates on the progress of the transformation and revitalization of our new Permaculture Garden in the Gosling Wildlife Gardens that I, alongside our Gardener Cael and other Arboretum staff members have been working on.

This month the Permaculture Garden has undergone dramatic changes and I’m excited to finally show everyone what we have accomplished so far and tell you about all the great things we have in store for this wonderful space.

colour photo of people standing behind raised planter boxesSo, for my very first post I will focus on the key attraction that has already been out for display-- the raised planter boxes that house some of the edible plants that we are showcasing in this space. Within these planter boxes we have species like cranberries, artichokes, Thai basil, cabbage, and strawberries. Plus, we’re putting in some U of Guelph developed varieties such as Yukon Gold potatoes, and Millenium asparagus.

Raised planter boxes are a great system that allows us to adjust the soil quality and curate the pH or drainage of the soil to support the growing requirements of a specific plant, without disturbing the composition of the soil underneath it. To promote successful growth in species like cranberries, we lower the pH of the soil to more acidic qualities by mixing a high composition of peat and acid mulch along with some sand and compost. For species like asparagus and potatoes, we increase the amount of sand in the boxes to improve drainage and meet the soil requirements to grow these species. The cages help create an enclosed space that will prevent our cute backyard wildlife species from taking a taste test of our prospering produce. The lumber used to build these have been milled and repurposed from old collapsed arbours from our very own English Garden, while the compost used to fill these comes from our own nursery piles. This adaptive reuse is part of our long-term sustainability efforts that have always been an important part of our Arboretum’s approach to our work.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the summer from our Permaculture Garden!

colour aerial photo of planned gardens

Top: Matteo Pereira, middle: AFI scholars and staff, and Arboretum staff and students in the front of the Permaculture Garden boxes, and bottom: aerial photo of the Gosling Wildlife Gardens. Photos by Richelle Forsey.

Arboretum Centre Barrier Free Upgrades

Colour artist rendering of an accessiblity ramp

We are excited about accessibility upgrades underway in the Arboretum Centre, including a ramp and automatic door openers. Working within the space connecting the upper and lower levels of the building, the plan honors architect Raymond Moriyama’s design, maintains uninterrupted views of the outdoors, and creates an environment that everyone can use, regardless of their age or abilities. This captures the spirit of the entire Arboretum. The work is part of UofG’s campus accessibility efforts and will be completed while the building remains closed to the public this summer.

Photo: Artist rendering of the accessibility upgrade by WalterFedy.

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 hover fly on a white and yellow flowerThey say beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder but this little beauty is not a bee at all! This is actually a hover fly cleverly demonstrating batesian mimicry, in which something harmless looks like something dangerous (i.e. a stinging bee) to avoid predation! One of the ways in which you can tell a hover fly from a bee is from its wings. Unlike bees (and most adult insects), flies only have one pair of wings instead of two. To maintain balance in while in flight, their hind wings have actually evolved into small nub-like structures called halteres to assist!

a colour photo of a tree trunk/barkDon’t you just love it when a species’ common name accurately describes it? Take the Shagbark Hickory tree: its name suggests that it has shaggy bark, and it does! Mature Shagbark Hickory trees have loose bark that split into long narrow plates. The nuts produced by this beautiful Ontario native tree are a beloved source of food for many animals, like squirrels, raccoons, and foxes. Over 100 species of fungi are associated with Shagbark Hickory trees, and they are host to at least 180 species of insects. Brown Creepers will even nest under the peeling bark. Is it not amazing to think about all the important roles that native plants have in nature!

colour photo ofa snake head just above a log in the forestSnakes don’t have legs or wings to quickly get away from predators. They also don’t have claws or talons to defend themselves. Instead, many snakes use their awesome ability to blend into their environment to stay safe from predators. If their camouflage fails them, Eastern Garter Snakes have a musk gland at the base of their tail that will excrete a foul smell when frightened. Snakes often get labeled as scary animals but if left alone, they are completely harmless. Next time you see a snake, admire its cute little face from afar. Whether you love them or aren’t quite sold on them yet, you do have to admit that snakes are pretty adorable.


Upcoming Workshops

Summer is here and we have workshops for the insect curious, those with who would like to know more about the night sky or who want to identify native trees, and even a special Q&A session with Arb Staff!

colour photo of a yellow bird with a speech bubble that reads bring your garden and nature questions!Ask the Arb
Have you had a burning question while walking through our grounds or exploring outdoors? Bring your garden, nature, and wildlife related questions to our free one-hour live Q&A session on Zoom with our Interpretive Biologist Chris Earley and Manager of Horticulture Sean Fox. June 29

colour photo collage of insect imagesInsect Series
Insects are one of the largest and most diverse groups of organisms on the entire planet! Join us on Fridays in June and July to learn more about the biology of butterflies and moths, the voracious predation of dragonflies and damselflies, the secret lives of bees, wasps, and ants, and the wacky world of aquatic insects. Continues June 25.

colour photo of 2 silhouetted figuesVirtual Constellation "Walk"
Become better acquainted with the night sky on a Virtual Constellation ‘Walk’. 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. A star map is be provided. Next session June 24.

colour photo of a hand holding a green maple leafTree ID
Do you love trees but can’t tell an Ash from a Walnut, a Birch from a Beech, or a Spruce from a Fir? Are you looking to connect more with the nature around you as we continue to stay close to home? Over the course of 4 Zoom sessions, with hands-on challenges to complete in between, you will learn the basics of tree ID, with a focus on native Ontario species (and their look-alike non-native counterparts). Starts July 8.

colour photo of rocks arranged in rings around a center stone and a feather on sandEco-Art therapy
In this 8-week course, participants will explore introductory concepts of Eco-Art Therapy and participate in hands-on learning experiences that are embedded in our nature-connective relationships. No previous learning or experiences required! Starts Sept 14.

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 upcoming programs. Register early to save your spot!

From the Forest: The Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar)

Casey Howard, Summer Student
colour photo of caterpillars on leaves

If you have visited The Arboretum or have taken a walk in your neighbourhood recently, you might have noticed dark, fuzzy, caterpillars on many of the deciduous trees. The Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) is an invasive and non-native forest defoliating insect that were introduced to North America in the 1860s. They were first detected in Ontario in 1961, with widespread defoliation occurring in 1981. The Gypsy Moth caterpillar’s preferential food source is the leaves on oak trees, though they can be found feeding and developing on over 200 tree species, including poplar, willow, maple, birch and even some coniferous species like eastern white pine and balsam fir.

colour photo of a cterpillar on chewed red leaves of a tree.The caterpillars feed on the leaves until early July, or for up to 10 weeks per year, after which they will spin a brown coloured cocoon and pupate, emerging as an adult Gypsy Moth 10 to 14 days later. Female Gypsy Moths, which are ivory coloured with black markings, are flightless, and remain on the same tree (or even a random object) that they emerged from their cocoon on. They produce a powerful pheromone in order to attract male moths for mating. After mating, each female moth will lay a single tan-colored egg mass covered in a dense mat of fine hairs. The eggs will overwinter and hatch the following spring into tiny caterpillars starting the cycle again. To control egg masses it is recommended to scrap away any found on the bark of trees, firewood, and other objects.

colour photos of gypsy moth caterpillars in a gloved handHealthy, deciduous trees are quite resilient to infestations of these caterpillars, and although many of the leaves will be eaten, the trees themselves will survive. Fortunately, bird species like towhees, Black-billed Cuckoos (that were featured on our Instagram recently!), Baltimore Orioles, and Blue Jays enjoy eating the furry caterpillars. The White-footed Mouse is another predator that eats the larger caterpillars and the pupae. As well, two pathogens, Nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) and the fungus Entomophaga maimaiga (Em), naturally spread throughout Gypsy Moth outbreak populations.

Gypsy Moth outbreak populations in North America have been reported to occur on average every 10 years. Though, between disease and predation, population crashes eventually occur after a few years. Population outbreaks are associated with warm winters, so as our climate continues to warm due to climate change, we should continue to expect future outbreaks of this moth species.

Photos of Gyspy Moth caterpillars by Casey Howard.

Now It's Easier To Give to The Arb

Colour aeriel image of a boardwalk in a forest

We are thrilled to share that we have a new dedicated portal for Arboretum Supporters to make direct donations! This year we are focusing our efforts on sustainability, interpretive and wayfinding signage, and the next stages of our tree conservation work. With your help we can make our efforts go further, please consider making a new gift or renewing your support this year

Photo by Richelle Forsey of the boardwalk in the Wild Goose Woods completed thanks to donor support in 2020.

Donor Stories

Colour photo of a woman holding a lilac tree stemSharon Henriques donated a tree in Wall-Custance Memorial Forest in memory of her father. Sharon is a regular Arb walker who works in the UofG campus residences and delivered our biodiversity education sheets to new international students. “I love my walks through The Arboretum after work. They set a peaceful tone for the rest of my day.”


Summer Wedding Ceremonies Are Back at The Arb!

colour photo diptych

On June 14th, The Arboretum reopened bookings for outdoor wedding ceremonies with limited capacities following the guidelines of the province's Step 1 reopening plan. Summer and Fall 2021 dates are still available for the West Lawn and Conifer Outdoor Ceremony Sites!

For wedding rental rates and 2021/2022 availability, contact Dawn Ann Webster at 519-824-4120 ext. 54110 or

Photos of the Conifer Outdoor Ceremony Site by Richelle Forsey.

Celebrating Spiders

Chris Earley, Interpretive Biologist
colour photo of a spider in macro

Spiders have an image problem. They are incredibly important, both for insect control and as food for many organisms, but most people only think of spiders as pests in their houses (they aren’t) and as dangerous, venomous creatures (wrong again). If only there was someone who could get people to be more aware about the beauty of spiders. Enter the Spider Team! Gergin Blagoev, John Reaume, and myself (Chris Earley) are working on a project to help spiders get the recognition they deserve.

colour photo of a spotted spiderDr. Gergin (Gerry) Blagoev is Ontario’s only Araneae taxonomic specialist. That means he is a spider identifier extraordinaire. He works at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics. This is the largest barcode center worldwide, where sequences from all kinds of organisms are derived and stored in a huge DNA barcode reference library. With his unique experience as an arachnologist (someone who studies spiders), he has been working on barcoding these neglected animals for more than a decade. When we find an interesting spider, Gerry first does an initial morphological identification of it, meaning that he identifies the spider by looking at its body features. In this case, as it is with many invertebrates, the best way to identify spiders is to look at their genitalia (yup, the girl or boy parts). If this isn’t possible, or if we find something really interesting, the finds are barcoded to confirm the identification. Barcoding allows a piece of genetic code to be compared to known specimens allowing us to get a match for identification purposes. This is especially important for us because if we have a juvenile spider, which does not yet have specialized genitalia, barcoding allows us to still identify the young individual. Through this process, Gerry has identified and barcoded 170 spider species belonging to 24 families in The Arboretum! And of these, seven species are new records for Ontario, and three species are new to Canada! One, Eustala rosea, was found by a volunteer during one of our Bioblitzes. Many spiders do not have common names yet, so we just call this one the Mint Chocolate Chip Orbweaver for obvious reasons (see photo #2). Note that this specimen has a little heart on it to help you remember to love spiders.

Another Arboretum specimen, Admestina wheeleri (top photo), while not new for Ontario, is the first specimen in the barcoding collection library. Now, all future sequences derived of that species of jumping spider will be compared to it! And it was found my daughter, Skye, and myself while she was doing some volunteer hours for her high school requirement, proving that anyone can make big discoveries if they start to explore. One of the best Arboretum finds was by Dr. Steve Marshall of the School of Environmental Science. He found a Bolas Spider, one of very few Ontario records. This interesting species gives off pheromones that trick certain moths to fly close to it, thinking it is a female moth ready to breed. Then, the spider swings a thread of silk with a sticky droplet on the end at the moth and catches it for a meal!

colour photo of a spider on a leafGerry and I met at the 2009 Arboretum Bioblitz and this sparked the idea of making a Spiders of The Arboretum booklet. But we needed someone to provide photos of spiders for this project. Dr. John Reaume to the rescue. John, a rural family physician who has been very generous with his photos for many Arboretum projects, is an incredible wildlife photographer. Spiders are especially challenging to photograph because they are small and spread out, making it hard to focus on the tips of their front legs, their bodies, and their hind legs all at the same time. John uses special stacking software so that he can meld many photos together to have all parts of a spider in focus. Check out the accompanying photos and you can see how great he is at this! The other part of John’s amazing talent is his patience. Many spiders do not sit still very long. John can spend over two hours with a hyper spider before he gets a chance to actually photograph it. Much of this work is done at his kitchen table and since spiders can be tricksy, this means that some escape. So, the greatest patience of all comes from John’s wife, Nancy, who has more spiders in her house than would normally be expected. Nancy is also a great help by ferrying spiders from Gerry and I to John to get photographed. Thanks, Nancy!

The result of all of this hard work is the Spiders of The Arboretum booklet, now in its second printing (order your copy from The Arboretum website). But the Spider Team is not going to stop there. We have continued to collect spiders from all over Ontario and are working on a Spiders of Ontario book. We have over 1800 photographs of individual specimens of over 300 species! Why so many photographs? Because, of course, each spider species varies by sex, colour, pattern, and age, and we want to be able to show them as well as we can in the book. We hope that by being able to identify and become more familiar with spiders, the public will learn how important they are to us. And this will make one more crucial link between people and the natural world.

Top: Admestina wheeleri - "Northern Bark Jumper", middle: Eustala rosae - "Mint Chocolate Chip Orbweaver", and bottom: Mastophora hutchinsoni - Cornfield Bolas Spider. Photos by Dr. John Reaume.

Virtual Wednesday Walks With Our Summer Naturalist

colour screenshot of a woman and a beaver
Discover keystone species (a plant or animal that plays a unique or crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions) like beavers, trees, woodpeckers and more in The Arboretum.
colour screenshot of a woman holding up a fungi diagram
Join Michelle as she explores the world of Fungi and Lichen in The Arboretum.

Rainwater Harvesting at The Arboretum on YouTube

Colour screenshot with the words thinking Rainwater Harvesting could be for you?

The video of the installation of water harvesting demonstration site at our J.C. Taylor Nature Centre of the WaterFarmers RainWaterOne system in now live on Youtube! The system collects rainwater runoff from the Nature Centre roof and is used by Arboretum staff for watering the nearby Gosling Wildlife Gardens!

From the Collection: Ash

Polly Samland, Horticultural and Plant Records Technologist
Colour photo of ac grouping of small trees in front of a forest.

Throughout Eastern North America, including here in southern Ontario, Emerald Ash Borer has decimated our populations of native ash, swinging its status from ‘least concern’ to ‘critically endangered’. In The Arboretum, hundreds of dead ash have been removed from along paths and roads where their dead frames pose the most risk. In cleared sites, a thick fringe of epicormic shoots emerges from the outer bark of the stumps, which is fueled by sugars and carbohydrates stored in the existing roots of the removed tree. detail colour photos of tree ash shoots While many of these shoots are poorly attached, some are vigorous, upright, and emerge from a good connection to the root. Selectively pruning for these to remain could allow the tree a second life. Combined with robust populations of young seedlings, we hope that new generations of ash can at least grow to set seed themselves, maintaining some presence and finding an altered balance in the landscapes they evolved within.

Photos of Ash trees by Polly Samland.

In the Ecosystem

colour logo for Guelph Urban Forest FriendsDo you know of a tree or group of trees in Guelph that should be nominated for its heritage value and as a fine example of its species? Guelph Urban Forest Friends are currently gathering nominations until August 30, for 2021.

colour photo of caterpillarsGypsy moth or Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) is everywhere this season. Read more about it on our social media or in the Guelph Tribune, with comments by entomologist Gard Otis (professor emeritus at U of G who once served as interim director of The Arboretum #funfact #Arbat50!)

Merchandisecolour photo of of 2 views of a collapsible bowls

A variety of Arboretum merchandise and apparel is currently available for sale including  portable, silicone collapsible bowls, perfect for your thirsty pet while you are out on a walk, run, or hike. Measuring 5” x 2.25", carabiner clip included.

Visit our Merchandise shop to order today!

Nature for Newcomers: Life in Summer

colour photo of rolled biodiversity sheets on a counter

The summer is an amazing hub of activity out in nature here in Canada. From birds to insects to plants, everything is taking advantage of the warm weather to grow! Are you, or do you know someone new to the area? Registration is now open for our Life in Summer session of Nature Throughout the Seasons for International Students and New Canadians. This program series features different aspects of nature throughout the seasons to help those new to the area feel more connected to the environment and at home in a new country. At the moment, these programs are offered via Zoom, and participants will also receive biodiversity sheets of common plants and animals found in the summer and winter to help them identify what they find outdoors.

The Gryphons Care Fund has generously provided the funding to offer these programs and accompanying biodiversity sheets at no cost to University of Guelph international students and other newcomers to Canada.

Photo: Biodiversity sheets distributed to students on campus in the spring of 2021.

Welcome to The World of Trees

colour photo of a sign with the words World of Trees written on it

Have you seen our newly installed World of Trees sign along the Promenade? The World of Trees is a synoptic collection that presents a general overview of the woody plants that can be cultivated and displayed in our climate. The collection provides a glimpse of the global relationships among plant families and the incredible diversity of taxa (species, sub species, and regional varieties) that have evolved. Representing over 60 families and exceeding 400 taxa, The World of Trees is designed to exhibit each species in their natural state and excludes cultivated varieties (cultivars) that have been bred and selected by humans for economic and ornamental purpose. The ten families numbered on the map are incredibly important to our wild forests and cultivated landscapes. They are distributed throughout the extents of the collections, interspersed with over fifty other plant families for you to discover. Welcome to the World of Trees!

Staff Updates

Colour photo of a hand holding a tree sapling

We are excited to welcome Sean Fox back to The Arboretum as Manager of Horticulture and Curator of Collections and Conservation! Sean started on the first day of summer, after spending the spring collecting more than a million seeds. 
We are also welcoming Sarah Farquharson, as Horticulture Technician in the Greenhouse and Nursery. Sarah was trained at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture and started at The Arboretum as Horticulture Intern in 2019. Sarah brings her strong background to our greenhouse and nursery operations where she will be supporting all stages of plant growth and development.
Sarah and Sean are jumping right into a conservation project, which includes some key upgrades to our greenhouse and a focus on rooting endangered Red mulberry (Morus rubra) with partner organizations in Southern Ontario and the Red Mulberry Working Group. We’ll be sharing more about that project in upcoming newsletters.

Photo: Cutting of endangered red mulberry (Morus rubra) rooted in our Henry Kock Propagation Centre greenhouse by Sean Fox.

Save the Date!:  Arb Expo Happens September 9-12!

We are excited and hopeful that we’ll have some in-person activities for our Arboretum Expo this September. Here’s what we’ve confirmed so far (all pending public health guidelines at the time, of course!)

Book cover Finding The Mother TreeThursday, Sept. 9, 8pm, Virtual/hybrid talk
Suzanne Simard, a Forest Ecologist at UBC who studies microrhizal networks in forests will present a talk for The Arboretum community on her new book, Finding the Mother Tree. This talk is presented in partnership with The Bookshelf in Guelph and Penguin Random House. Read Barb Minett’s book review here.
Friday, Sept. 10, dusk
Borealis offers an immersive portrait of the life cycles of the forest from the perspective of the plants and animals that live there.Presented in partnership with Guelph Film Festival.

Sunday, Sept. 12
Seed Workshop with Sean Fox and Sarah Farquharson

In addition we’re planning walking tours throughout the grounds with Arboretum experts, U of G faculty, and partners all weekend, a version of our Plant Sale (to be determined), a book launch for the Ontario Tree Atlas Project, a panel on the UN Decade on Ecological Restoration in partnership with GIER (Guelph Institute for Environmental Research), and more!  Details will be announced over the summer as the pandemic situation and our collective vaccination efforts unfold.

Stay tuned! We look forward to possibly being together again.

Ways you can connect with The Arboretum

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camera icon for photo creditThe photo in the header of this month's newsletter is of a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) bloom in The Arboretum. Photo by Richelle Forsey.