Trees Please Hamilton

Green Solutions to Air Pollution

Winter Tree ID Hike

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It was a perfect wintry day this past Saturday for a hike along the Radial Trail. With a great turn out and a light snowfall, our local guide, Charlie, let us in on a few winter tree identification secrets.  We explored some natives and invasives along the trail, and then some beautiful neighbourhood trees in Kirkendall.


Stopping first at a Staghorn Sumac, we learned that the female plants are easily identifiable in the winter by the cones of red fruit. The name “staghorn” comes from the branches covered in velvet.  Male trees to not bear the cones, but are still identifiable by the staghorn branches.


Ash trees are being ravaged by the Emerald Ash Borer in Hamilton, and Charlie pointed out some small White Ash trees in the forest still surviving for now, identifiable by the “chocolate chip” bud at the branch tip.  Most ash trees will have to be removed in Hamilton, leading to a massive loss of our urban tree canopy.  This stresses the importance of planning a diverse tree canopy that can withstand a breakout of targeted pests or disease.


Black Walnut is a native species known for inhibiting growth around it, although Charlie explained that many of our own native species have adapted to survive with it.  One winter ID trick is to look at the branch tips – the leaf scar of this species looks like a little monkey face!

Red Mulberry is native to our area, but extremely endangered due to major competition from White Mulberry. Brought over from Asia with lofty dreams of replicating the silk industry with this favourite food of the silkworm, the plans did not pan out and the White Mulberry has spread weedily through our country.  In the summer, this tree has a delicious purple fruit that stains the sidewalks below and spreads its seeds through birds.  In the winter, we can identify this species from the yellowish branches, which are accentuated when wet.


While native Black Cherry bark has a distinct burnt cornflake appearance, Charlie explained that these horizontal lines called lenticels are indicative of the cherry family.  This particular tree was an example of an escaped horticultural cherry variety.


A huge thanks to the very knowledgeable Charlie for guiding this hike along the Chedoke Radial Trail!  He’ll be back later in our Restoring Resilient Green Spaces workshop series to tell us everything he knows about gardening with native plants.  Check out the details for all our workshops on and register early by emailing!



Author: treespleasehamilton

A project of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and Environment Hamilton. Funding by Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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