Knowing what it is that we see brings us meaning and gives value to what is seen. —Lynn Bevan

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Oaks & Beeches

Oaks are part of the Beech family. In Canada, Oaks are divided into two groups, Red Oaks and White Oaks. Both have simple leaves, meaning each leaf stalk has one large leaf. The Red Oak leaf is bristly and has pointed tips. The White Oak leaf has rounded lobes without bristles. 

While all Oaks are part of the same family, some Oak trees look more like cousins than siblings. For example, the Scarlet Oak has glossy green leaves, with finger-like lobes that turn deep red in the autumn. The Swamp White Oak and Regal Prince Oak, a combination (cultivar) of a Swamp White and columnar English Oak, have leaves that have almost no lobes.

The Oak’s fruits are called “acorns” – one-seeded nuts – with a tough, smooth, shell and a scaly cap.

Oaks can live for centuries and make up a great proportion of the deciduous forests of North America.  Oak trees can be spreading or more upright and are considered symbols of strength and stability. Oak is prized as hardwood and is used for furniture, flooring, and wine barrels.

Beeches are part of the Oak family. The most common type of Beech in eastern North America is the one found on the Tree Walk, the American Beech.  It grows to more than 30 metres, or 100 feet, tall. The leaves are smooth, with veins running to a central stem. They are large, oval in shape, and turn a deep bronze in autumn.

There are four species of Oak on the Tree Walk and one Beech.

Regal Prince Oak

(Quercus x warei Long ‘Regal Prince’)

This is a columnar Oak, which is a hybrid of the non-native English Oak (Quercus robur fastigata) and the Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor). The upright branches are typical of this cultivar. Leaves are lobed, with a bright green surface and lighter under surface. The acorns have a long stalk.

Northern Red Oak

(Quercus rubra)

This is the common Oak of eastern Canada. This variety can live up to 400 years and is known for its straight trunks and symmetrical crown. The leaves have bristle-tipped teeth at the end of larger lobes. The acorns are almost as wide as they are long, and the cap covers about one-quarter of the nut. When the tree is young, the bark is smooth with grooves that develop into the unbroken vertical ridges of the mature tree. It is the provincial tree of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

Swamp White Oak

(Quercus bicolor)

This small- to medium-sized tree is uncommon in Canada, but is found in southern Quebec and southern Ontario. It can live for 300 years. In shape, the upper branches ascend but the lower ones usually droop. As the name suggests, it likes to grow on the edges of swamps. The shallowly lobed leaves are widest above the middle, tapering to a wedge-shaped base. The acorns have a large scaly cap.

Scarlet Oak

(Quercus coccinea)

The Scarlet Oak is native to the eastern United States and in the most-southern parts of Canada. It is a popular ornamental because the leaves are bright green in summer and scarlet in the fall. The leaves have deeply indented, pointed, lobes. The cap of the acorn encloses up to one-half of the nut with tight, thin, light-reddish brown scales. The bark is dark brown, nearly black, with shallow furrows and irregular ridges.

American Beech

(Fagus grandiflora)

The Beech is an integral part of the mature forest of eastern Canada and can grow for up to 300 years. The toothed, ovate (egg-shaped),  leaves stay on the branches, so the russet colour glows against the snow in the winter sunshine. The distinctive, smooth, bluish-grey bark of the mature tree stands out among the hardwoods. Edible nuts are encased in a bristly husk.

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