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We give out all trees that have not been picked up shortly after

1 p.m.

Native Tree Giveaway

Restoring Biodiversity - Tree by Tree

We all can plant another native tree in our yard and play an active part in making the world a better place for us, future generations and wildlife alike. Native trees don't only benefit wildlife by providing food and shelter. They provide privacy and increase property value by up to 20% for your property and neighbourhood. Best of all, they provide great shade in summer and, through transpiration, reduce the City's heat island effect by a good 5ºC. As a windbreak, they also save heating costs in winter. Their green appearance, beauty, and scent reduce stress, increase school performance, and contribute to our overall health and well-being. One Bur Oak, Northern Red Oak, Sugar Maple or other big tree sequesters over 3200 kg of CO2, mitigates about 513,000 litres of stormwater and removes around 77 kg of air pollutants during its life.

The City of Toronto has the visionary goal of a 40% tree canopy cover by 2050 to become one of the most livable cities in the world. The City has made this event possible by generously providing all trees through a

Community Planting & Stewardship Grant for this Neighbourhood Tree Giveaway. 

Therefore the trees and shrubs are for Toronto residents only and can only be planted within City boundaries. 

Scarborough Food Security Initiative has graciously allowed us to hold the tree pick-up at their 

Community Farm Garden

located at 3595 St. Clair Avenue East,

on October 21st

from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

The Scarborough Food Security Initiative will organize a Market simultaneously with local vendors, kids' games, food & drinks, live music and more. Click here to learn more about the Scarborough Food Security Initiative and support their important work.

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You can order two free native trees/shrubs to plant on your private property within Toronto borders. Check out the offered species below and match them to your garden conditions and space. 

Good to know:

  • All trees are native to Toronto and suited for our urban environment.

  • The trees come in 1 or 2-gallon pots and are small enough to be carried home easily.

  • For the long-term health of a tree, it is much better to plant younger trees than more developed trees since their root system is not damaged from growing in too small pots and becoming root-bound. When you plant any tree, make sure to open up the roots so they do not keep growing in a circle. Trees grown in nursery beds need to get their roots regularly cut and severed. The very best for the long-term success of a tree would even be to plant a few months-old saplings if you can protect them.

  • In the wild, trees grow in communities. Planting groups of at least two to three trees together on a 6-foot center is ideal. The tree roots will interlock, giving them excellent stability, and they will support each other in producing a healthy, resilient environment.

  • It is best to remove the lawn generously around the tree/s and replace it with some understory trees, shrubs, ground cover, and sedges. This enables a small ecosystem to get to work; insects will complete their lifecycle in the soil because they have a soft landing when they fall off the tree and, therefore, can fulfill their role in the food web as a protein-rich food source for other wildlife, like our birds. Additionally, the soil around the root system isn't constantly compacted by mowing the lawn, so soil biology can create beneficial mutual relations with the trees and enhance their health. Check out the concept of a soft landing on Heather Holm's fantastic website.

  • The soil around the tree must always be covered to stay alive and for the tree to thrive. Mulch, like wood chips or leaves, is commonly used. Even better are plants as ground cover, like wild strawberry, wild ginger, native Solomon's seal or native sedges. Rainfall on bare soil compacts the soil and causes depletion of nutrients and all beneficial soil life.

  • The mulch can not touch the tree trunk, which causes rot, but should be put around in a doughnut shape.

  • A pollinator garden with short plants so that the tree gets enough sunlight can also be planted around the tree and maintained as long as the tree is still small and doesn't shade the pollinator plants.

  • Fall is the best time to plant a tree since it doesn't need to produce seeds, and the roots still grow as long as the soil isn't frozen.

  • Spring is the second best time to plant a tree because trees don't need to deal with the stresses of the summer heat, but since they need to produce leaves and flowers, they need a lot more water to perform these tasks. 

  • It is imperative to protect young trees from damage. One small nick with the lawnmower will develop into a larger and larger wound as the tree grows. Trees can never heal their injuries, and the injuries will always stay a weaker entrance point for disease. 

  • Plant your trees and shrubs as soon as possible, best within a week.

  • Call OntarioOneCall at least five days before you dig. It's the law.

  • Species of the trees/shrubs are subject to availability and may change or be substituted.

  • Some of the offered species are edible for humans. Please conduct thorough research on how to prepare the plant to be safe for human consumption. Also, remember that wild food is very potent. Please always test with small quantities if you might be allergic to a particular compound. 

  Profiles of the Powerhouse Trees

Appearance. Ecological Value. Growing Conditions.

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Swamp White Oak
Quercus bicolor

The swamp white oak is a hardy, magnificent shade tree with a broad rounded crown and uniquely bicoloured leaves that are shiny and dark green on the surface and lighter on the underside. This tree lives up to 350 years and is, like all oaks, the most beneficial plant you can add to your yard for wildlife, especially birds. The leaves are an abundant food source for over 500 different caterpillars, essential for a functioning food web. E.g. one pair of chickadees needs 9000 caterpillars within the six weeks of raising their young. And oaks will produce them. To better understand how vital oaks are for our ecology, especially for birds, watch Doug Tallamy's presentation and check out his newest book "The Nature of Oaks". Oaks are the host plant for the beautiful Hairstreak butterflies. 

In fall, the leaves turn a beautiful orange and red. Once fallen, oak leaves are better mulch than wood chips. They likewise don't decompose during one season. Still, they are loose enough to offer habitat to firefly larvae, bumblebee queens, and many other beneficial insects during winter, and they are said to repel slugs and grubs.  

Their acorns are the sweetest of all oaks and offer an abundant food source for small mammals, birds like ducks, turkeys, woodpeckers, blue jays, even beavers and black bears. Blue Jays hide over 100 viable acorns up to one mile away from the mother tree every day for a month, making them the number one planter of oaks. Older trees often have cavities that provide shelter and nesting sites for birds and mammals. Check out the great article by Brenna Anstett.

Natural companion plants are Sugar Maple, other Oak species, American Beech, River Birch, Pagoda Dogwood, Chokeberry, and Joe Pye Weed.


Height: 60+ ft

Width: 60+ ft   

Full sun to partial shade 

Requires neutral to slightly acidic soil

Tolerates seasonal flooding and dry soil

Photo credit: Dan Keck

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Eastern Hemlock

Eastern hemlock is a large evergreen tree that is pyramidal. Like all evergreen trees, it offers year-round shelter and habitat for many species of wildlife, including resident birds. For more information:​


Height: 40+ ft

   Width: 30+ ft   

Full sun to part shade

Moist well-drained, preferably alkaline soils

Photo credit: Thesurvived99


Sugar Maple
Acer saccharum

The sugar maple is a large shade tree with light green leaves that turn an attractive yellow-orange or fiery red in the fall. It is slow-growing and can live for more than 200 years. Sugar Maple is of great value to our native wildlife. Maples are among the first trees to bloom in spring. Even though they are wind-pollinated, they offer nectar and pollen and are vital for pollinators coming out of dormancy. The leaves feed almost 300 caterpillar species that supply amble food for breeding birds. Orioles, wrens and warblers, and various mammals eat the seeds. The twigs, buds, and bark become a lifesaving winter food source for small mammals, birds, and deer. 

Sugar Maple trees draw water from lower soil layers. They exude that water into upper, drier soil layers, which benefits all the understory plants.

Great companion trees for sugar maple trees are ironwood, beech, basswood, white ash, black cherry, yellow birch, Eastern white pine, Northern red oak, and Eastern hemlock. Great understory trees are American elderberry, hazelnut, pagoda dogwood, and bush honeysuckle.

Native Solomon's seal, Canada wild ginger, wild geranium, foamflower and even wood asters, New England asters, grey goldenrod, blue stem goldenrod and zigzag goldenrod are perfect ground covers and pollinator plants underneath sugar maples.

Height: 60+ ft

Width: 40+ ft

Requires full sun to part shade

Prefers moist soil of any type

Cannot tolerate swampy conditions, salt, heavy air pollution or foot traffic


Eastern White Cedar
Thuja occidentalis

The Small, hardy evergreen tree is commonly used for privacy and is tolerant of urban conditions. It provides shelter and seeds for a variety of birds and small mammals.


Height: 40+ ft

Width: 10+ ft   

Full sun to partial shade 

Moist well-drained, preferably alkaline soils


Common Hackberry
Celtis occidentalis

The hackberry tree is a large-sized tree that, in Canada, is only found across southern Ontario. It is very hardy and tolerant of urban conditions and can get 150-200 years old. Hackberry will grow as wide as tall, so ample space is needed. It is a great shade tree. It produces single, dark purple fruits that hang below the leaves and persist into winter. Many birds will eat the fruit, including waxwings and robins.

The leaves are a food source for different species of butterflies, including Morning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) and Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis). The caterpillars of the Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton), Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis), and American Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta) can only eat leaves from Hackberry trees. They rely entirely on Hackberry trees for their existence.


Height: 40 ft

Width 25 ft   

Requires full sun to partial shade

Very adaptable to wet and dry and all types of soil conditions

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Blue Beech/ Ironwood/ American Hornbeam
Carpinus caroliniana

Blue beech is closer related to birch trees than beech trees. It is native to Southern Ontario and grows naturally as an understory tree in forested areas with maples and oaks close to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Blue beech is slow growing and adaptable to urban sites.

It is a larval host plant for the eastern tiger swallowtail and the rare, beautiful woodland red-spotted purple butterfly. 

Deer, beavers and other mammals browse blue beech twigs and leaves. Seeds and buds are a food source for game birds, such as turkeys and small mammals, such as squirrels. as well as songbirds. 

Blue beech wood is very dense and tough and is used to make small wooden tools.



Height: 20-30 ft

   Width: 20-30 ft   

Full sun to full shade

Requires ample moisture, tolerates seasonal flooding, prefers rich forest soil

Photo credit: Nova 

Bigger Shrubs with extremely high wildlife value


Amelanchier canadensis

Serviceberry is an adaptable large shrub or small tree, depending if it is pruned to a single-stem tree or left to form a multi-stemmed shrub. Serviceberry trees put on a show of white flowers in spring and provide an excellent early-season source of pollen and nectar. The open form of the flowers allows many different kinds of bees access to its nectar. The leaves support 100 different caterpillar species, including the caterpillars of the white admiral and the Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. The small, round, sweet berries ripen in summer. Over 40 species of birds, including orioles, bluebirds, cedar waxwings, scarlet tanagers, Northern flickers, and robins, feed on them. If the tree gets at least 4 hours of sun, it will produce a lot of berries that are edible raw and cooked, bursting in the mouth with a sweet and tart berry flavour. In fall, the leaves turn into an array of stunning colours, from orange to purple and red.

Serviceberry trees provide very high ecological value for wildlife and are beautiful year-round.

Height:15-25 ft 

   Width 10-15 ft    

Very adaptable to full sun and partial sun

Moist to dry soil of various types

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Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana

Understory tree that is naturally found along woodland edges. Leaves turn orange to yellow in the fall.

Its unique fragrant, yellow flowers bloom from October to December and stay on the tree after the leaves drop. Both leaves and flowers have medicinal properties. 

Hostplant for caterpillars of spring azure butterfly. Many birds love its fruits.

Large Shrub

Height: 8-15 ft

    Width: 6-12 ft    

Able to grow in full sun to full shade,

in wet to dry soil conditions of various types

Photo credit: Laval University

Smaller Shrubs

Shrubs are essential for birds, providing cover and nutritious berries and seeds

Shrubs also offer huge amounts of nectar and pollen to bees and often bloom early 


Carolina Rose
Rosa carolina

Naturally occurs on the edges of prairies, woodlands, savannas, and thickets, in upland forests, and in dunes. It flowers on second or third-year canes. 

The flowers attract bees and butterflies. The showy red rose hips are a great winter food source for songbirds, wild turkeys, and small mammals. High in vitamin C, they are edible and can be used in tea or jellies.  

This dense shrub provides excellent cover for wildlife year-round and attracts overwintering birds

Carolina rose makes a great hedge, and is a fantastic addition to a butterfly and pollinator garden. 



Height: 3-6 ft 
   Width: 4-8 ft    
Requires full sun 
Adaptable to moist, well-drained soil and dry soil

of various types

Spirea Alba

Up to 2 m tall and wide. Long, columned clusters of beautiful flowers, mostly white, that bloom in mid to late summer. Easy to grow.

It attracts many different kinds of tiny bees with its nectar and is

larval host to 92 species of butterflies and moths.

Height: 5-8 ft 
    Width: 6-12 ft    
Best grown in full sun but can tolerate partial sun.
Moist to dry soil of various types



Purple Flowering Raspberry
Rubus odoratus

A hardy, fast-growing shrub with large fragrant rose-like flowers. It is suitable for difficult conditions. The arching, mounded, thicket-forming growth and berries in summer provide extremely high value for songbirds and small mammals.  Its fragrant flowers attract all-size bees. The hollow stems, once cut, provide ideal natural nesting sites for native stem nesting bees.

Height: 5+ ft    
Width: 8+ ft    
Grows in full sun to partial shade
Moist to dry soils of various types

Northern Bush Honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

A hardy shrub with small yellow trumpet-shaped flowers tolerant of various conditions.

Mounded, Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love the plant’s nectar and pollen. Check out the great article about honeysuckle on

Height: 3 ft 
   Width: 3-12 ft    
Very adaptable to full sun and partial shade
Moist to dry soil of various types

How to Support Your Tree for best Growth and Health

All the offered trees and shrubs are quite easy to grow and are adapted to our climate and urban stresses. It is still important to find the right tree for your needs and the right location in your yard for your tree. 


Finding the right spot

What should the purpose of your tree be?

Space, sun and moisture determine greatly which species can grow in a given spot.

Planting Your Tree

Trees and shrubs are best planted in fall. It is most important to loosen and open up the roots in the root ball. If they have grown in a circular motion they will stay that way but become bigger and eventually strangle the tree. By taking care while planting, you can significantly increase your tree's resilience, health and the age your tree can reach.

Caring for Your Tree

Deep Watering!
It is essential to help develop a healthy root system in the first years. Keep the hose close to the tree on a slow trickle for 15 minutes to allow the water to infiltrate deep into the soil. Then, move the hose and repeat three times so that all four corners are well watered. This will encourage the tree to develop a deep rather than a shallow root system which makes your tree more resilient to drought and storms.

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