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The next tree giveaway with a different selection of trees will be in the fall.

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 May 25th, 2024

from 10 am to 2 pm

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 in 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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Bur Oak
Quercus macrocarpa

Bur oaks have a beautiful open crown and are most tolerant of urban conditions. 

These resilient trees are incredibly adaptable to all soil and moisture conditions. They thrive even in poor and compacted soils and are salt tolerant. Once established, their vast root system will enable them to access moisture deep in the ground and survive droughts but also seasonal flooding. 

Like all oaks, the bur oak is an ecological powerhouse:

In the spring, they support breeding birds with an ample supply of caterpillars, and even though they are wind-pollinated, they are an essential pollen source for early emerging bees, like bumblebee queens.

Many birds and mammals favour their sweet acorns, which are also edible by humans, ground into flour to make bread. 

The tree’s branches will be homes for many birds and mammals.

 

Bur oaks need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In ideal conditions, bur oaks live up to 400 years, and their thick bark allows them to survive fires.

Large​

Height: 70+ ft

​Width: 70+ ft   

Requires full sun

Adapts to moist and dry soil conditions

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Basswood

Tilia americana

Basswood trees are large, fast-growing trees with dense foliage and a uniform round crown. By providing excellent shade, they lower our energy usage and provide shelter for wildlife. 

The beautiful, huge, heart-shaped leaves support 140 caterpillar species in Toronto. The most beautiful ones are the Eastern tiger swallowtail, the Luna moth, the mourning cloak, the Promethea silk moth and the question mark. Abundant caterpillars are instrumental in stopping bird decline since they are the most essential food source for all migrating songbirds rearing their young. 

In midsummer, the bountiful yellow to cream-coloured flowers fill the air with their sweet fragrance and offer rich nectar to pollinators. 

In the fall and winter, chipmunks, songbirds, and even foxes, among other wildlife, feed on their seeds.

Basswood trees like to grow with sugar maple, American beech, ash, shagbark hickory, and oaks. Great understory shrubs are common snowberry, serviceberry, viburnum, and American hazelnut. Wild ginger, Virgin's bower, spikenard, native Solomon's seal, and goldenrods are perfect groundcover plants.

Large

Height: 60+ ft

Width: 30+ ft

Full sun to partial shade

Moist, well-drained

Source: www.lrconline.com/Extension_Notes_English/pdf/bsswd.pdf

Photo credit: Fritz Flohr Reynolds

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Red Maple
Acer rubrum

 Red maple is well named because the tree's flowers, samaras (keys containing the seeds), and autumn leaves are distinctly red. This makes for a striking contrast against the dark green of evergreens, the white bark and yellow foliage of birches, or the blue sky. Red maple can grown as a specimen tree or a multi-stemmed plant.

Red maple is a very adaptable tree and, therefore, easy to grow. It tolerates great moisture and thrives on a wide range of soil types. 

 

The red maple is a large, fast-growing shade tree that is of great value to our native wildlife. Maple sap is dripping out of small injuries and is enjoyed by birds and small mammals in late winter. 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. Finches, wild turkeys, ducks, and various mammals eat the seeds. The twigs, buds, and bark become a lifesaving winter food source for small mammals and deer. 

Great understory trees are American elderberry, hazelnut, pagoda dogwood, and fragrant sumach.

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

 

 

Height: 40+ ft

Width: 30+ ft

Requires full sun to part shade

Prefers moist soil of any type

Can tolerate swampy conditions

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Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus

The Eastern White Pine is Ontario's iconic provincial tree. The tall trees are captured windswept in the paintings of the Group of Seven. It is a big shade tree that helps reduce energy consumption and cost as a windbreaker and shade tree. Not noticeable at first glance, the tree has a high wildlife value since every part is edible- even for humans. Nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, and many other birds love the seeds. The buds, needles, bark, twigs and young cones help many animals get the nutrition they need during different seasons and to survive the winter. We can use ground pine needles in many recipes, raw or baked. The needles contain high amounts of Vitamine C and A. Indigenous peoples have used Eastern white pine to soothe the respiratory system as an effective medicinal plant. Its needles and resin have "anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, stimulating and relaxing, aromatic, pungent and stabilizing qualities, with particular benefits for the upper respiratory system, stomach, liver and kidneys. " Quote nelma.org. Dense horizontal branching attracts small birds like warblers and purple finches, bigger birds like mourning doves, crows and blue jays, as well as great horned owls and red-tailed hawks to build their nests. Many birds collect young pine needles to cushion their nests.

 

Large

Height: 50 ft

Width 20 ft   

Requires full sun to partial shade

Very adaptable to moist and medium soil moisture and all types of soil conditions

Sensitive to atmospheric pollution

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Paper Birch
Betula papyrifera

Paper birch is a medium-sized tree that can grow one or multiple stems. Its white bark is very attractive.

The role of the paper birch in ecology is to revegetate disturbed sites quickly as an early successional tree.

As a pioneer species, it can handle disturbed soil, typical for our city soil and will grow fast.

The seeds are food for many birds and mammals. The bark, twigs and buds are loved by many animals from moose to deer to beaver.

 

Paper birch is sensitive to a warm climate and grows only in the Northern part of the US and Canada.

Large

Height: 50 ft

Width 20 ft   

Requires full sun 

 prefers moist, well-drained soil

of all types 

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Serviceberry
Amelanchier laevis

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 15-25 ft    

Very adaptable to full sun and shade

Moist to dry, well drained soil of various types

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Pagoda Dogwood
Cornus alternifolia

Pagoda dogwood is an attractive small understory tree or shrub, depending if it is pruned to a single-stem tree or left to form a multi-stemmed shrub. It has clusters of white flowers in spring and provides an excellent early-season source of pollen and nectar. It allows specialist mining bees that depend on its specific pollen to reproduce but also allows a wide array of different species of bees access to its nectar through its open flower form. Pagoda dogwood feeds the caterpillars of the elegant Spring Azure butterfly as a host plant. The dark blue berries, looking stunning on their red stems, don't last long because they are a favourite of many fruit-eating birds, including cedar waxwings, juncos and cardinals. 

 

The dark green leaves turn an attractive purple in the fall. The wide horizontal branches give this tree a distinct look. When loaded with snow, they create a winter wonderland. 

Pagoda dogwood provides very high ecological value for wildlife and is beautiful year-round.

Height:15-25 ft 

   Width 15-30 ft    

Very adaptable to full sun and partial sun

Prefers moist, well-drained soils, can tolerate dry sites

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Fragrant Sumach
Rhus aromatica

Fragrant sumach is a sprawling, small to medium-size shrub that can be used as a groundcover. When crushed, the foliage exudes a beautiful citrus scent. It grows best in fertile soil and full sun. However, it will tolerate dry or compacted soils, partial shade, and other urban conditions.

 

It is the host plant for the Red-banded hairstreak butterfly.

Only female plants produce dark-red berries that persist into the winter and are eaten by resident birds. 

Deer do not like fragrant sumach.

 

The leaves have stunning fall colours with orange, red, purple, and yellow hues. 

Small

Height:3-5 ft 

   Width 6-12 ft    

Very adaptable to full sun and partial sun

Moist well-drained to dry soils

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Nannyberry
Viburnum lentago

Nannyberry is very easy to grow. It can make a great privacy hedge, by letting suckers grow, or it can be pruned back to a small tree. Nannyberry is beautiful year-round.

Showy white flower clusters offer nectar and pollen to mining and sweat bees in the spring. The berries turn almost black in September and provide a consistent food source for birds into winter. The berries are also edible for humans right off the bush or can be used in jams and jellies. In fall, the leaves glow in a rich burgundy colour. Next season's flower buds form early, so you must prune right after blooming. The leaves are the larval food for the caterpillar of the Spring Azur butterfly.

Small

Height: 10-20 ft 

   Width: 6-12 ft    

Very adaptable to full sun and almost full shade

Moist well-drained soils

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American Hazelnut
Corylus americana

Hazelnut is a beautiful large shrub that can form thickets in woodland gardens. The male flowers are long, attractive catkins emerging before the leaves, and the female flowers are small and red. Hazelnuts are a delicacy for humans and birds and are ripe in September/October. Even though the shrub can be grown in partial sun, it will produce more fruits in full sun or if a second shrub is present for cross-pollination. 

The leaves are gorgeous throughout the growing season and turn yellow, orange and red in fall. 

 

For more information, check out wildflower.org.

Small

Height: 6-10 ft 

   Width: 4-6 ft    

Full to part shade

Moist, well-drained soils

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. 

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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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