Go to Part One
So according to the biologists who like to categorize broad ecosystems or biomes, Guelph is just in the Mixed Deciduous/Coniferous Association of the Deciduous Forest Zone. OK. But what do other sources tell us? I’ve begun gathering references from various sources.
My first source was:
Description of the maple Galt and crew cut down to found Guelph on page 2:
Thompson, Robert. April 21, 1877. A Brief Sketch of the Early History of Guelph (by A First Year’s Settler). Mercury Steam Printing House, MacDonnell St., Guelph.
A Description of the firing of a ‘wooden cannon’, presumably made in Guelph, and then of the food at festivities after the first year on page 3:
“large bird’s eye or sugar maple, about two feet in diameter”
“These were made of beech and maple logs about two feet in length and one-foot in diameter, with a two-inch bore, and bound with three strong iron bands, generally bursting after the first or second shot.”
“Two pot-ash kettles of potatoes were by this time also ready for serving up, together with plenty of bread, hemlock tea, and whiskey.”
Another source I found was a government document from 1953 looking at the past and present forest conditions in the Speed River Watershed:
from Introduction to the Forestry Section, page 2:
Department of Planning and Development, Government of Ontario. 1953. Speed Valley Conservation Report 1953. A.H. Richardson, Chief Conservation Engineer, A.S.L. Barnes (B.Sc.F.), Assistant Director and Forestry, R.V. Brittain (B.Sc.F.), Forestry. Toronto.
Chapter 3 in the Forestry Section describes Forest cover in 1953 and I quote liberally from this section below from un-numbered photographic plates and from the text (pages 7 through to 17):
“Mr. J. McDonald, who surveyed the Township of Guelph in 1827, described most of the dry land sites as covered in beech, maple, elm and basswood. Where the survey line of the south-east boundary line of Guelph Township crossed the Speed River at the south boundary of Divisions E and G, the forest cover is described as cedar, black ash, beech, maple, basswood, with large cedar timber and here and there a few large pine. Over the nine miles of this boundary the forests are generally described as beech, maple, elm and basswood stands.”
“A large portion of the woodland area in the Speed Watershed is located in valleys… The tree cover is mostly white cedar and poplar, with smaller proportions of tamarack, balsam fir, white elm, soft maple and black ash.”
“Type 4. Aspen: Aspen is a pioneer species which often follows clear-cutting, fire, or overgrazing. It is distributed throughout the meltwater channels and on the moraine it forms 25 per cent of the woodland in the watershed.”
“Type 24. White Cedar: Cedar is the most abundant cover type on the watershed, comprising 26 per cent of the woodland area. It occurs on wet to swampy sites in the valleys and low areas and also to some extent on dry sites on the slopes of the moraine…. A total of 9,034 acres or 25.9 per cent was mapped. Although most of this type was mapped as pure white cedar, tamarack, yellow birch, paper birch, black ash, red maple, white elm, white pine and hemlock appear as associates.”
“Type 57. Beech – Sugar Maple. This is regarded as the typical association of the climax with red maple, red oak, hemlock, white elm, basswood, shagbark hickory and black cherry. This type was undoubtedly the most extensive of any in the Speed Watershed but, because it occupies the more fertile land, its area has been further depleted… Originally most of the upland areas of the Speed Watershed were covered with beech-sugar maple. Much of it has been cleared for agriculture until now it comprises only 5.8 per cent of the remaining woodland.”
This document also boasts a map which shows the entire Speed Watershed area. I’ve pinpointed my particular area of interest on it and there may be some mistake as it labels the forest cover there (immediately adjacent to the Speed River where Marden Creek runs into it) as being White Elm. It is possible that Elm existed there at one time and was, since, eradicated by Dutch Elm disease as it can grow in swampy areas but its preferred habitat in my experience is on drier land. But the best evidence of the mistake is that there are certainly many large cedars there now that must have been there in 1953.
So I’m getting a better picture of what was likely the forest cover. To summarize: Sugar Maple, Beech, Basswood and Elm with associates (including Hemlock) on dry uplands and Cedar and Black Ash in the wetter areas. But I still have more material to go through.
To be continued