Trail Talk 144 November 11th 2020

Tree on the Mavis Trail Nov 2nd
Staghorn Sumac

We had an early taste of winter on Sunday and Monday  (Nov 1st and 2nd) with some snow and strong winds. I am not sure of the damage on the Maitland trail which is closed to hunting. There was one windfall on the Varna Mavis trail which has been cleared as has the windfall on the Clinton Conservation Area trail. On Tuesday a windfall partially blocked the GART in the 2 -3 km section.  The Front road trail had no windfalls, and I heard that there was one on the Naftel’s Creek trail.   The Bannockburn trail had no windfalls and on Thursday it was nice to see a work crew installing new planks on the rest of the long boardwalk. Two shorter boardwalks having recently also been renewed. On Friday in the Falls Reserve there was finally water flowing over the whole falls, last time I was there the water was only going over the falls near the two river banks.

Someone was asking me which species a tree was. I find it very difficult to determine the species of many deciduous trees in winter. Some are very easy as they have very distinctive bark, such as the beech tree, mature black cherry, aspen ,and hawthorn.  Then some like the female staghorn sumac keep their fruit for a long time, the male has green flowers that don’t last. The female staghorn red berries are said to have a zingy lemon taste, by soaking them in cold water for up to 24 hours, strain them and then if the drink is too sharp add a little maple syrup.  I have no personal knowledge of this as I have a very sweet tooth.

Ash tree showing attacks by emerald ash borer and woodpeckers

Some trees have a distinctive shape, such as the elm, when it is in an open area, but if trees are close, it can be difficult to recognize.  The mountain ash has distinctive horizontal lenticels on the trunk. However to determine whether one is a European mountain ash or an American one you have to be an expert to know the difference in the twigs and buds.  Many of the white ash trees are easy to recognize as their bark is quite distinctive. If they have been attacked and killed by the emerald ash borer then their tracks can be seen just under the bark, which is often seen falling off.   One of my challenges is to determine the difference between a young choke cherry and a young black cherry.  The flowers and leaves are very similar and I am not sure at what age the black cherry develops its distinctive black “corn flakes” appearance.

Thinking of the age of trees a rough estimate can be made by determining the diameter of the tree at shoulder height in inches then using a factor which varies from 3 times the diameter for some oaks to 7 for shagbark hickory or 6 for a beech. The factor for most species is in the 4 to 5 range.  One major exception is some white cedars  Steve Irvine reports that “Most people hiking along the Bruce Trail on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario hardly pay any attention to the scrubby little cedar trees clinging to the escarpment face. They’re too busy enjoying the beautiful views out over Georgian Bay some 100 to 130 ft (30 to 40 m) below. But those little cedars have a secret: they’re ancient! Recent studies by Professor Doug Larson of the University of Guelph have shown that many of those inconspicuous cedars are centuries old, with the oldest found so far being just over 1,000 years. Growing in just a handful or two of earth that collected in a crevice, in an austere but safe environment, they patiently grew older and older.”

Notes:  Hikers are expected to be socially distant from others.

The Woodlands nature trail is still probably closed past the bridge due to uncleared storm damage.

The Lobb trail may be closed for logging, timing uncertain.

Tuesday November 17th 2 p.m.  Join the Bayfield Trail Association for “Take a Hike Day” on the Taylor and Mavis Trails. Meet at the Stanley Complex near Varna.  Leaders: Gary Mayell 519-441-0141, Wayne Nielsen

Tuesday Trompers meet at 9 a.m. every week at different trails for a one hour hike.

Uneven day hikers meet at 8:30a.m. for 1 ½ to 2 hour hike on Wednesday or Thursday whichever has an odd date, e.g Thursday November 19th   Contact pcapper.

If you have questions or something of interest for Trail Talk email me Patrick Capper at