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The Arboretum in the Classroom

colour photo of three women teaching a class of young children in a grassy field
Marika, Christa, and Michelle teach a class in the Memorial Forest.

May has been an awesome month for teaching students about nature! Our interpretive staff have been busy with field trips and school visits. From preschoolers interested in finding mushrooms in The Arboretum to high school students getting to know our native trees, we've been connecting with lots of classrooms.

Welcome Summer Crew!

colour photo of a group of people posing around a sign that reads 'r.j. hilton centre'colour selfie of a smiling group of people seated around a picnic table. A bearded man wearing a grey hat stands in front of the table holding the camera.
 The Hilton Crew Summer Staff. Clockwise from top of sign - Natasha, Maggie, Kaitlyn, Charlie, Nathan, Melanie, and Caroline.  Right: The interpretive staff on their trip to Pelee. Front - Chris, Jenny, Michelle, Brad. Back - Marika, Christa, Kitty.

Spring is in full swing, and our Horticulture and Interpretive teams are as busy as ever. Luckily, we have the help of our summer students again for another season! The Hilton staff now includes new members Charlotte and Kaitlyn, undergraduate research assistant Melanie, and returning staff Caroline, Nathan, Maggie, and Natasha. The interpretive staff welcomed Marika and Christa, who kicked off the season by joining the team on their trip to Point Pelee. Find out what they saw below!

Arboretum Naturalist Team Goes to Point Pelee National Park

Michelle Beltran, Naturalist Intern

Have you recently stumbled across folks craning their neck back, trying to find small fliting birds that seem to only enjoy hanging out at the tops of trees? What about flocks of people excitedly admiring birds? Welcome to the magic of spring migration! From listening to the faintest chirp, to identifying small brown sparrows, birders are really obsessed with birds. At this time of year, there’s an extra layer of birding madness. Stunning spring migrants are moving through Southern Ontario, as they journey to their breeding grounds. Recently The Arboretum naturalist team was able to visit Point Pelee National Park to catch some of the migration action.

colour selfie of a group of smiling people standing on a boardwalk. A man wearing a toque and green coat stands in front holding the camera, with five women and a man standing behind him.
Chris Earley, Kitty Lin, Christa Wise, Michelle Beltran, Marika Bowrin, Brad Howie, Shelley Hunt (former director of The Arboretum). Not pictured: Jenny Lin. Photo by Chris Earley.

For our new summer naturalists, Christa and Marika, the trip was an incredible opportunity to put their birding skills into practice. After spending their first week working at The Arb frantically learning their birds, Point Pelee welcomed them with birds they had studied and species they hadn’t heard of. Christa’s highlight bird species was the Common Yellowthroat because they remind her of cowboys. The Baltimore Oriole’s bright and vibrant colors made it a standout species for Marika.

colour photo of a small yellow bird with a black mask perched on a dead tree limb with its beak opencolour photo of an bird with a black back and head and orange stomach perched on a branch looking downwards
Right: Common Yellowthroat Warbler (Geothlypis trichas). Photo by Michelle Beltran. Left: Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) Photo by Chris Earley.

Bird migration was relatively slow when we visited Point Pelee. For Brad, the trip gave him the chance to appreciate a somewhat common species: Tree Swallows. Common species often go unappreciated. The magic of seeing Tree Swallows’ brilliant blue plumage seems to get lost on some people. Tree Swallows are aerial insectivores, watching them zip through the air as they chase insects is always a treat.

Colour photo of a bird with a shiny blue head and white stomach perched on a thin, horizontal branch. The bird is facing towards the camera, but looking to its right.
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) Photo by Michelle Beltran.

Warblers were of course on everyone’s minds. These small, colorful, and charismatic birds are what attracts many people to Point Pelee. A Northern Parula gave us an awesome look at its stunning plumage. Being able to closely observe the Northern Parula was a highlight for Michelle. Cerulean Warblers were Chris’ bird of the trip. Cerulean Warblers are known for staying up high in trees, making them challenging to observe and photograph. We were fortunate to come across two Cerulean Warblers moving at eye level at the end of the trip.

colour photo of a small bird with a blue head and wing and white stomach, with a yellow throat and yellow spot on its back. The bird is perched on a branch surrounded by foliage, facing left.colour photo of a small bird with a dark, shiny blue head, back and wings and white stomach. The bird has black and white stripes on its wings. It is perched on a small branch with its wings closed, facing left as if about to take flight.
Left: Northern Parula (Setophaga americana). Photo by Michelle Beltran. Right: Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea). Photo by Chris Earley.

There’s still lots of migration action to enjoy! Local greenspaces like The Arboretum often act as important stopping points for birds as they move north. A walk-through Victoria Woods and Wild Goose Woods can be filled with lots of spring migrants for people to observe.

Upcoming Workshops

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

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. This month: “Stars and Fireflies”. Summer is coming! And t’is the season to hunt for the Big Dipper, which can lead us to other parts of the sky. Jun 16

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!

Wednesday Evening Walks Return!

colour photo of a boardwalk through a flooded forest. Text on the photo reads: Wednesday Evening Walks starting June 1st. Wednesdays at 7:00-8:30 pm at the J.C. Taylor Nature Center. $2 per person, free for kids under 5. For more information, email Christa Wise at
Wednesday Evening Walks are coming back starting June 1st! Join us each Wednesday at the J.C. Nature Center from 7:00 to 8:30 PM to explore a different aspects of the world around us! Cost is $2 per person and free for kids under 5.

Topics will be announced on The Arboretum website at If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Christa at Can’t wait to see you there!  

Turtle Island Teachings: Everything but the Birds at Point Pelee

Brad Howie, Naturalist Intern

colour photo of point pelee taken from above, showing a treed point extending into a blue lake, with the blue horizon in the distance
Every year in early May thousands of people flock to the southern most tip of Canada to see bird migration in Point Pelee National Park. Not only does this park have wonderful birds but also a great diversity of flora and fauna. It can be hard to notice the turtles basking in the sun, the unique wildflowers growing along the trail, or even towering tulip trees when you’re scanning the trees for birds. Nonetheless if you take a moment to examine the environment you will notice a myriad of organisms in an exciting ecosystem. Point Pelee is situated on Lake Erie and is within the Carolinian forest zone, making it a unique place to find interesting plants and animals not found elsewhere in Canada. The Park itself has various habitats including cedar, marsh, beach, and deciduous forest. During the Naturalist team’s get away to Point Pelee from May 8th to May 10th the team seen so many wonderful species. We each picked a favorite species that we would like to share with you!

colour photo of a light brown skink with darker brown stripes down its back. The skink its curled in a circle, with its mouth by its tail.
Michelle Beltran “I saw a Five Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) behind the Nature Centre at Point Pelee!”

colour photo of turtles sunning themselves in a swamp. The surface of the water is covered in green algae, and the turtles are sitting with their backs above the surface of the water with their heads raised upwards.
Brad Howie “At Hillman marsh we seen a Blandings Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)”

Christa Wise “A favorite thing I saw was the Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vines! On Pelee they climb up the trees with their fuzzy tendrils. They were quite impressive and I've never seen anything quite like it!”

Marika Bowrin “Seeing two baby Eastern Cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) along the trails was a serious highlight”

close up colour photo of five-petaled white flowers on a tree with with some partially closed rust-coloured leaves
Chris Earley “The Allegheny Service Berry (Amelanchier laevis) at our campsite was awesome”

Whether you’re a passionate birder, a fungi fanatic, an enthusiastic botanist, or an animal aficionado, Point Pelee is one of the best areas in Ontario to visit if you are fan of nature.

Research Feature: Monitoring Abundance and Diversity of Bumble Bees in Ontario

Taylor Kerekes, York University Department of Science

colour photo of a smiling woman holding a bumble bee resting on a dandelion.close up colour photo of a bumble bee resting on a dandelion
Left: Taylor Kerkes holding a common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on a dandelion. Right: A two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus) on a dandelion.

When the topic of bees comes up most people will turn their thoughts to the well-known honey bee, however there are many species of native wild bees to keep in mind as well! Wild bees, including bumble bees, are very critical pollinators within many plant networks. They are fantastic pollinators of crops and wildflowers, providing us with many of the foods we love as well as maintaining habitats that support a wide variety of organisms. They rely heavily on floral resources for survival, so it is crucial to understand the interaction between wild bees and floral use to properly implement conservation plans for declining species.

My study focuses on the changes in abundance, diversity, and floral use of bumble bees in southern Ontario in comparison to previous records. Former studies have investigated areas within Guelph and Belwood, and have seen declines in certain bumble bee species including, but not limited to the widely known species-at-risk, the Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis). Reassessing these areas is important to see if declines have continued and can help to hypothesize what is causing these declines. It also gives information on overall trends in the bumble bee populations.
My study takes place at four different sites. Two sites are located in Guelph, one being The Arboretum, and two are located in Belwood. From April until October bumble bees will be caught, identified, and released at each site once a week. This gives insight about how many bumble bees can be found in these areas and which specific species are present at the sites. Another integral part of the project is to take note of the flowers that the bumble bees are interacting with. To do this, flower species that bumble bees are found on are recorded and pollen from the bee is swabbed to be identified as well. Since flowers are so important for providing bumble bees with pollen and nectar it is essential that we understand which flowers they seem to be relying on to ensure they continue to have the proper habitat in the future. Overall, having a better understanding of floral use of bees’ overtime can lead to a better understanding of what needs to be done to preserve natural habitats that provide the resources these bees need to survive.

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 dandelions taken from below, showing their undersidesIf you like yellow as much as we do, now is the time to visit! The dandelions in the Memorial Forest are putting on a spring show.

colour photo of bright magenta buds clustered on the twig of a redbud treeLooks like our Redbud trees have finally started emerging! This Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a magnificent sight to see in full bloom as we can admire its pink-magenta blossoms. The Redbud is also of special value to our native bees as they provide a structure for the bees to nest beneath or within or harvest nesting material!

colour photo of baby bunnies sleeping in a nest at the base of a treeBaby bunny season is in full swing, so keep your eyes open for any nests!

Eastern cottontails will nest in yards, parks, and other urban environments. The mothers will cover their babies with dried plant material and tuffs of fur to keep them warm and she will only come back a few times a day to feed her babies to avoid attracting predators to the nest. So if you don’t see the mother, don’t worry, they are meant to be left alone!


From the Collection: Tulip Trees and Cucumber Trees?

Sadie Campbell, Horticultural Intern

April and May are usually the months we associate with magnolia flowers. In the past few weeks trees like the Kobus Magnolia (Magnolia kobus) and Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) have been putting on a spring show. Though these magnolias are finishing their flowering for the season, there is still more to see in the Magnolias section of the World of Trees.

colour photo of a greenish-yellow tulip-like flower with an orange stripe around its base. The flower is growing from the end of a tree branch, with large green leaves around it.colour photo of the foliage and tulip-shaped flowers of a tulip tree.
The flowers and foliage of a tulip tree. Photos by Richelle Forsey.

In the next few weeks, our tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) and cucumber trees (Magnolia acuminata) will be just starting to bloom. True to its name, the flowers of the tulip tree resemble large, greenish-yellow tulips. The flowers emerge after leaves on the tips of shoots.

Colour photo of a yellow cucumber magnolia flower. The petals are long, thin, and upright. There are two long green leaves growing from the branch where the flower is attached to the twig.colour photo of the shady branches of a cucumber magnolia with large yellow flowers and large green leaves.
The flowers and foliage of a cucumber tree. Photos by Richelle Forsey.

The flowers of the cucumber tree are also large and greenish-yellow, with long petals. They are less showy than other magnolia species, and typically appear as the leaves reach full size. This tree gets its name from its green fruit, which looks a bit like a cucumber until it matures to a showy bright red. Both of these species can grow quite large, with the cucumber tree reaching heights of 20 metres, and the tulip tree towering 35 to 50 metres tall in ideal conditions. Due to the colour of the flowers and the height that these species can reach, their unique flowers can go unnoticed if you aren’t looking for them, so be sure to look up as you walk through the magnolias section of the World of Trees!

colour photo of a row of green deciduous trees against a blue sky with a few clouds
The cucumber magnolia gene bank. Photo by Richelle Forsey. 

These tree species are also unique for being the only members of their genera native to Canada, and are both only found in the most southern parts of western Ontario around lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Due to their rarity in Ontario, both species are also represented in our Gene Banks. The Gene Banks were established to act as a living archive of the genetic diversity of several rare species in Ontario. Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, these species exist in Ontario in several disconnected pockets. This means that the genetic material from these isolated populations cannot reach each other. This can result in poor seed production and lower genetic diversity, leaving these populations potentially more susceptible to pests or disease. To create our Gene Banks, seeds or cuttings were collected from wild populations and individuals and then were grown and established in The Arboretum. This creates an ex-situ backup of Ontario’s genetic diversity in case in-situ conservation efforts fail. This also helps to take collection pressure off of these wild populations, so that they are able to naturally regenerate without being overharvested. The Gene Bank model also helps to bring together isolated populations, so that trees grown from these sources can access new genetic material in The Arboretum. You can read more about Gene Banks here! 

Outdoor Wedding Ceremonies at The Arb

two photos side by side. the first is a picture of pink peony flowers with conifer trees in the background. The second is an aerial photo of a garden bed with peonies and conifer trees.
Looking for somewhere to host your outdoor wedding ceremony? The Conifer Outdoor Ceremony Site is a beautiful, secluded one-acre green space nestled within our Conifer Collection. It is a separate location from the OAC Arboretum Centre rental for ceremonies only, with free parking, use of the site from dawn until dusk, and a garden featuring tree peonies that flower in late spring and Japanese anemones that bloom in late summer and early fall. 

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

In the Ecosystem


We are happy to host our friends the Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners for their Spring Plant Sale, a partnership of the Nature Guelph Wildflower Society, the Guelph Enabling Garden, and Pollination Guelph on Saturday, May 28th from 9 am - 2 pm. Note: this is a separate event from The Arboretum's plant sale, which will be held as a virtual auction this fall. 

The Black-Capped Chickadee has been selected as Guelph's official bird in a landslide victory! The selection of an official bird is one step on the way to the goal of Guelph achieving Bird Friendly City certification. The black-capped chickadee was noted especially for its friendly and curious nature. Check out this article to read more, and be sure to stop by the Gosling Wildlife Gardens in The Arboretum if you want to get to know some chickadees!

Wednesday Noon Hour Walks

colour photo of snowdrops
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 Covid protocols. Current protocols can be found here.

Donation and Dedications

Thanks to a generous gift from Drs. Jennifer Caspers and Bob Friendship, the Nancy and Dr. Anthony Caspers Perennial Gardens in the English Garden underwent a major revamp this month! The garden beds, which are surrounded by low boxwood hedges, have a new planting design inspired by the Sissinghurst gardens in the UK. Themed after the sun and sky, one bed features plants that flower yellow, orange, pink, and red, while the other is filled with blue and white blooms. The new plants are selected to stagger blooming throughout the season. Keep an eye on this area as the garden establishes over the next few years.

plan image of a symmetrical garden surrounded by formal hedging. There are two symmetrical beds in the middle, one planted with yellow, orange, pink, and red flowers, and the other planted with blue and white flowers.“I am so glad to see these gardens coming back to life,” wrote Dr. Caspers, whose gift supported the redesign and plantings, as well as a dedicated summer experiential learning studentship.

Would you like to support our garden revitalizations?

colour photo of a man and a woman standing in a drained garden pond with many black buckets around them. They are removing rocks from the garden so that the pond can be renovated.colour photo of a man and a woman in a drained garden pond. They are bent over, removing rocks from the pond and placing them in black buckets.
Next up is replacing the bridge in the David G. Porter Memorial Japanese Garden, one of the most formal and beloved areas of The Arboretum. We need your help!

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 help.


With summer right around the corner, it's time to start looking out for butterflies! These winged wonders bring a smile to everyone. By studying their colourful patterns you will discover names such as crescents, admirals, commas, hairstreaks, skippers and sulphurs. Our biodiversity sheets make it easier to identify over 50 species of butterfly with bright, colourful pictures. They are popular with nature enthusiasts of all ages, and make great placemats too!

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 a bee visiting some lilacs. Photo by Sadie Campbell.