Historic Trees in the Guelph area – Part 1

A common wish for many amateur and professional historians is to take that special trip back in time to see what was with their own eyes. But when they alight back in reality they have to do what everyone else does: find source material. That means slogging through records and books and microfilm/fiche and, if you’re not going back too far, interviewing those who were there. But everybody has a different version of the facts and that can make it difficult to pin anything down.

I’m researching the types of trees that grew in the Guelph area before colonization by Europeans. The City of Guelph dates back to April 23rd, 1827 when John Galt, Tiger Dunlop, Charles Pryor and several woodsmen chopped down the famous sugar maple in the rain. The site was beside the Speed River just upriver from where the tributary Eramosa River joins it. Of course, being the confluence of two rivers that flow year round, the future location of Guelph would likely have hosted many before the maple was cut down. Among surveyors, explorers, missionaries and millennia of native peoples, there had to have been a great deal of impact by humankind on the forestkind of Guelph. But forests, through most of human history, have been tough to completely eradicate. Then, in the last 200 years, we invented technologies and have really tried our leveling best. And that did the trick and to a nearly self-destructive degree. So here I am, on the midst of the end of that insanity wondering what it was that we lost.

Guelph is in the Deciduous Forest Region but within that it is close to the border (probably a little north of it) of the two northernmost associations: the Maple-Beech and the Hemlock-White Pine-Northern Hardwoods. The latter zone is considered by many to be a transition between the conifers of the Boreal Region to the north and the Deciduous Region.

Maple-Beech Association


  • Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum
  • American Beech – Fagus grandifolia
  • Other species (varied in numbers depending on location)

  • American Basswood – Tilia americana
  • Ashes – Fraxinus spp.
  • Red Maple – Acer rubrum
  • Elms – Ulmus spp. (prior to the disease, of course)
  • Oaks – Quercus spp.
  • Hickories – Carya spp.

Hemlock-White Pine-Northern Hardwoods Association

    Deciduous Stand Dominants

  • Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum
  • American Beech – Fagus grandifolia
  • American Basswood – Tilia americana
  • Paper Birch – Betula papyrifera
  • Yellow Birch – Betula lutea
  • Trembling Aspen – Populus tremuloides
  • Coniferous Stand Dominants on Dry Sites

  • White Pine – Pinus strobus
  • Red Pine – Pinus resinosa
  • Jack Pine – Pinus banksiana
  • Red Spruce Picea rubens
  • Mixed Stand Dominants

  • The Deciduous Stand Dominants above plus
  • White Pine – Pinus strobus
  • Eastern Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis
  • Other species (varied in numbers depending on location)

  • White Spruce – Picea glauca
  • Black Spruce – Picea mariana
  • Tamarack – Larix laricina
  • Eastern White Cedar – Thuja occidentalis

My sources:

  1. Vankat, J. L. 1979. The Natural Vegetation of North America. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 261 pp.
  2. BioImages Website
  3. Wikipedia:

  4. Biomes
  5. Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

Continued in Part Two


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