Ken Farr and Nancy Young, of the Canadian Institute of Forestry, share their knowledge about trees and forests with OFNC and CIF members

by Bev McBride, photos by Dave Moore

What a great chance to meet some new people and hear some different perspectives. Thirty-two OFNC and Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF) members joined Ken Farr and Nancy Young on a walk through the Britannia Conservation Area woods. Nancy and Ken are vice-chair and chair of the Ottawa Valley Section of the CIF and both also work as forest or forestry professionals in local and federal government.

Visitors to the woods know it has seen some changes lately, for instance as parts of the canopy have disappeared, opening some areas to more sunlight. While change is always underway, sometimes it is obvious and quick, other times subtle and slow. We learned how some tree species have structural or physiological adaptations to take advantage of changing conditions, and how they compartmentalize their diseased or injured parts to lessen the overall damage.  We also discussed the differing impacts of pathogens such as Emerald Ash Borer and Dutch Elm disease.

Our leaders also drew on forest and tree lore. Did you know that differing internal vessel structure of Red Oak (Quercus rubra) and White Oak (Q. alba) makes them suitable for barrels of different purposes? Only one is good for wine. Did you know that the common name Basswood (Tilia americana) comes neither from a fish or a low sound register, but from “bast”, meaning the phloem or inner bark layer?

You can distinguish Sugar Maple by the way the bark on older trees has curly-edged strips.

We saw signs of natural regeneration of native tree species, with seedlings and saplings of both hardwoods (such as maples, Acer species; and oaks, Quercus species) and conifers (mostly pines, Pinus species). We also saw where forest managers had planted new, young trees, including Red and Silver Maple (Acer rubrum and A. saccharinum), Butternut (Juglans cinerea) and Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).

Much of the forest understory is composed of non-native shrub species such as European or Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica). Native shrub species are still found, even along the trails, however. We saw the lovely, autumn pinks and yellows of Mapleleaf Viburnum (Virbunum acerifolium) and Downy Arrowwood (V. rafinesquianum). Then there were the bright, red boughs of Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) and the autumn-yellow, compound leaves of Common Pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum).

Covering the entire circuit of Mud Lake, we had a good morning’s hike, even occasionally at a brisk pace. Dark clouds hovered but barely squeezed out a few drops of rain. The wind was rowdy at times, making challenging conditions for our leaders who had to speak over and through it. Late fall migrating Golden- crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa and R. calendula) and wintering Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) kept the air full of their sounds.

We also learned of varieties of work in which foresters might find themselves, such as planning and managing urban woodlands for both forest health and human use and safety.

I know I can speak for all present in hugely thanking Nancy and Ken for sharing their knowledge, humour, enthusiasm and time. We asked them lots of good questions for which they always had enlightening answers. Several participants were taking notes. There is so much to learn about our local woodlands, and much to appreciate.