BY TARA MACDONALD
Staff The Sir John Johnson Manor House is celebrating the designation of two trees – a Burr Oak and a Black Walnut tree - as “Heritage trees” by Ontario Forests’ Heritage Tree Program.
In 2016, the Manor House committee decided to have the trees dated after board member Mac Edwards who asked co-member Gregory Gooch about the age of the trees.
Mr. Gooch met Raisin Region Conservation Authority Forestry Specialist Normand Génier who “decided to estimate the age of both trees using a formula developed and used by the International Society of Arboriculture as opposed to taking core samples.” While taking core samples or counting rings from a fallen tree are the most accurate way to evaluate a trees age, it’s often avoided for more mature trees which frequently suffer from rot in the centre which can cause the increment borer to get stuck. The International Society of Arboriculture formula looks at diameter, average growth factors, site conditions, recent growth rate as well as anecdotal information.
The burr oak – estimated to be almost 270 years old – is located alongside the main entrance of the Manor House. Standing roughly 90 feet tall with a trunk 13 feet 11 inches in circumference, the tree has exceptional 75 to 80 foot canopy. According to Mr. Génier, while oak trees are common in this area, this particular oak is more than 50 years older than most and slightly larger than average. “Throughout all the years working in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, I’ve come across a lot of significant trees but I’ve never seen such a large burr oak in all my years,” said the forester.
While also a native species, the black walnut is not common to Glengarry being at the northern edge of walnut habitat in North America. The walnut tree is located far end of the property along the back tree line. It stands approximately 95 feet tall. Its sturdy trunk has a circumference of 13 feet 4 inches in circumference which supports a 95 to 100 foot canopy. At least 50 years older than other black walnut trees in the area, Mr. Génier was impressed at the good condition of the tree.
While trees of this age often suffer from internal rot and other issues, both trees appeared to be in excellent condition. “The health of the trees are amazing,” said Mr. Génier. “Many start to rot in the centre and decline after 100 years or so but these have very little decay.”
With more than a decade of experience working as a Forestry Specialist, Mr. Génier has recently expanded his company Dendrotek Forestry Consultants which provides sound forestry advice and services in the Eastern Ontario area such as site assessments and tree identification, tree pruning and removal, tree plantation management, land stewardship planning as well as Heritage Tree Evaluation along with forestry training and wildlife surveys.
“I think it’s as important to recognize these heritage trees just as much as the old buildings,” said Mr. Gooch who went on to say that the decision to apply for heritage status was the forester’s idea. “We seem to be eager to protect buildings,” Mr. Génier agreed, “but we don’t always think about the trees.”
“When I come across trees like this I often touch them and think, if a tree could talk what would it say?” Mr. Génier said. “It would have seen the whole transformation of the area,” he explained. “The transformation from mature pine forests that covered most of the area, the establishment of a saw mill, the development of agriculture and open fields to the construction of hamlets and villages such as Williamstown.”
The Heritage Tree Program collects and tells the stories of Ontario’s unique trees. Launched in 2009, in partnership with the Ontario Urban Forest Council, the program brings awareness to the social, cultural, historical and ecological value of trees.
Commemorative plaques are expected in time for the Manor House’s Summer Social today (July 17) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The event will include a talk by Mr. Gooch, and performances by musicians and dancers, a book sale, and raffle baskets to be won. Refreshments will be available, including a BBQ, pies, and ice cream.
VINTAGE TREE: Greg Gooch and Normand Génier stand in front of a tree believed to be 270 years old.