The Tree Trust, an environmental group working to preserve trees in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM), wants to establish a local nursery that can offer plant saplings grown from highly successful native trees.
“The idea actually came from community members,” explained Betty Muise, program coordinator for the Blue Mountains’ Tree Trust chapter. “We started something but the community really embraced it. It almost just self-generated the next piece of it, which is the nursery.”
The Tree Trust is a registered charity that was established by the Elora Environment Centre in June 2019. The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) was the third community in Ontario to join the initiative, following Stratford and the Toronto Islands.
Since its launch in TBM in late July, the charity has collected enough community donations to hire certified conservation arborists to work on extending the life of two large, significant trees in the community.
And now, the organization has set its sights on a Local Native Tree Seedling Project that will aim to cultivate and plant saplings grown from native species.
“We have these 100-plus-year-old trees in our community that are spectacular. We should be closing the loop. So, the Tree Trust nursery project will focus on cultivating locally adapted native tree seedlings because these types of native plants have evolved to be successful and most adapted to local conditions,” said Muise.
The idea is that the organization will collect seed stock from trees in the community, germinate them and eventually create a local source for seed and nursery stock.
Muise explains that there are several reasons why planting native species is preferred.
“Even though you may choose a plant species to propagate that is “native” if the seed source is from far away, it may have developed and evolved different tolerances to cope with important growth and survival variables, such as soil, frost, heat, etc," she said.
"A good example is Burr Oak which grows in a massive range, from [plant hardiness] Zone 2 through Zone 8 (so Manitoba south to Texas) but a seedling from Texas would not fare well in Manitoba."
Another important consideration is disease transfer.
“If we move trees across large regions, we will move new diseases with them,” Muise continued.
The Tree Trust recently applied to the TBM's Environmental Sustainability Fund requesting $2,390 from TBM, which represents less than 20 per cent of the project costs.
“I always look for the value in our investments, and this has tremendous value,” said TBM Deputy Mayor, Rob Potter. “We could literally be funding trees for the next how many generations just from this seed money and literally seed money. I wholeheartedly support this. I think that's a great idea, and I love to see this kind of initiative.”
With some initial funding secured, Muise said the Tree Trust is moving forward with the project.
“We have had an early planning meeting to map out our objectives, a work plan and to discuss possible sites for the nursery,” she said, adding that she is not in a position to announce the potential location of the nursery yet, but that the Tree Trust hopes to be able to negotiate with the town to make use of town-owned property.
“They're favourable to the model that we would use some town property, but absolutely nothing has been committed or finalized,” she added.
Muise said in 2021, the group plans to focus primarily on securing and preparing the seedling nursery site and expects to begin collecting seeds from a variety of local mature trees in September.
“Over the winter of 2021 to 2022, these seeds will be germinated, each in conditions that match their requirements,” she said.
Along with approving the funding for the Tree Trust from its Environmental Sustainability Fund, TBM council also directed staff to prepare a report that addresses suggestions on how the town could collaborate on further with the Tree Trust on other related initiatives, such as:
- Identify significant town trees that are suitable for conservation care
- Considering the feasibility of establishing an arboretum in TBM
- Allocating of funds or programming to support a native tree seedling nursery
- Development of a tree planning plan for town and residential property
- Revival of the tree-cutting bylaw efforts
“We are very much looking forward to seeing this report and potentially leveraging additional resources to help Tree Trust make more things happen,” Muise added.