We reached 800 trees that were granted by the City of Toronto and had to close the order for the Spring giveaway.
You can still check out the species and plan to add some at the next tree giveaway.
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, or Sugar Maple 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 June 3rd
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.
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 or native Solomon's seal or native sedges. Rainfall on bare soil compacts the soil and causes depletion of nutrients and all beneficial soil life.
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.
Spring is a good 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.
Trees and shrubs should be planted as soon as possible, best within a week.
Call ontarioonecall at least 5 days before you dig. It's the law.
Species of the trees/shrubs are subject to availability and may change or be substituted.
A lot 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, so you should always test with small quantities if you might be allergic to a particular compound.
Profiles of the Powerhouse Trees
Appearance. Ecological Value. Growing Conditions.
Northern Red Oak
The Northern Red Oak is a large, hardy, long-lived shade tree and very tolerant of urban conditions. The attractive leaves often stay on the lower branches during winter and can add some privacy. Researchers believe this was a helpful defence mechanism to protect the young twigs from browsing giant sloths that went extinct about 13,000 years ago. Today oaks sustain a complex and fascinating web of wildlife and are the ecologically most productive tree. The leaves provide food for over 500 species of caterpillars. Caterpillars are crucial since they are the most important food source for birds raising their babies. E.g. one pair of chickadees needs 9,000 caterpillars within 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.
Acorns are an abundant food source for small mammals, birds like ducks, turkeys, woodpeckers, blue jays, and 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.
Natural companion plants are Sugar Maple, other Oak and Hickory species, Pagoda Dogwood, Chokeberry, Asters and woodland plants.
Height: 60+ ft
Width: 60+ ft
Requires full sun to partial shade
Adapts to moist and dry soil conditions
Prefers acidic soil but can grow in any soil
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 like any oak an important pollen source for early emerging bees, like bumblebee queens. Their sweet acorns are favoured by many birds and mammals and are edible, and can be ground into flour to make bread. The tree’s branches will be homes for many birds and mammals.
Bur oaks need a minimum of 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. Indigenous peoples all over Turtle Island have maintained beautiful oak savannas for millennia. Brush was cleared through burning, and the oaks were kept around 30 feet apart so that they could develop into majestic trees. Oak savannas were highly productive landscapes for everyone, humans and animals alike. The diversity and numbers of animal species were higher than in non-managed landscapes. This park-like structure allowed grasses and flowering plants to flourish between the oaks.
Height: 70+ ft
Width: 70+ ft
Tolerates seasonal flooding and dry soil
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
Bigger Shrubs with extremely high wildlife value
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.
Width 10-15 ft
Very adaptable to full sun and partial sun
Moist to dry soil of various types
Grey dogwood is an adaptable, hardy shrub with creamy white flowers in early summer, white berries on pink stems, and purple-red leaves in the fall.
It is slow-growing and thicket-forming through suckers in moister soil.
The grey dogwood is a host plant for the caterpillars of the beautiful Polyphemus Moth. The Spring Azure butterfly lays her eggs on the flower buds and her caterpillars feed on the plant.
Berries attract Northern Cardinals, Goldfinches, Yellow Warblers, and many other birds. The multi-stemmed, thicket-forming growth provides a safe nesting place for many birds.
Height: 10-15 ft
Width: 10-15 ft
Able to grow in full sun to full shade,
in wet to dry soil conditions of various types
A beautiful large multistemmed shrub. 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 like woodpeckers and bluejays and are ripe in autumn. The shrub can be grown in part sun but will produce more fruits in full sun and if a second shrub is present for cross-pollination.
The leaves are very pretty throughout the growing season and turn yellow, orange and red in fall.
Any well-drained soil of any moisture. It has an upright, rounded growth habit.
Height: 12-15 ft
Width: 6-12 ft
Full sun to partial shade
Moist to medium well-drained soil of various types
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern Red Cedar is actually a juniper.
As a very hardy pioneer species, it is great for tough places as it is wind, cold, drought, and salt tolerant and grows on sandy, rocky or heavy clay soil. But it requires a sunny spot.
Don't plant it close to apple, pear, or quince trees since it is an alternate host for cedar-apple rust, a Gymnosporangium pathogen that is destructive to those fruit trees.
Eastern red cedar provides significant food and shelter for wildlife. The fruits on female trees provide food for many songbirds, including the Cedar Waxwing and a wide variety of wildlife.
Height: 15-20+ ft
Width: 6-9 ft
Grows in full sun
Moist to dry soils of various types
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
Arrowwood Viburnum is a dense, small shrub with clusters of white flowers that mainly offer pollen in early summer to small native bees. It likes medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Arrowwood is the larval host plant for the Spring Azure butterfly. The berries feed and attract many birds, including Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, and American Robin. Prune soon after flowering to ensure blooms in the following year. The leaves display beautiful fall colours, coral, red or purple.
Height: 5-7 ft
Width: 5-7 ft
Very adaptable to full sun and partial shade
Prefers acidic soil but can grow in moist to medium well-drained soil
of various types
Common Ninebark is a wide, large, and tough shrub, tolerant of urban conditions but requires good airflow. In early summer, a sea of clusters of white flowers attract many pollinators, and their leaves feed over 30 caterpillar species, including the Cecropia silkmoth. The green leaves turn coppery-bronze in the fall, and for an all-season interest, the seed capsules persist throughout fall and winter. The birds love the seeds and the dense growing habit as a safe place.
Height: 8 ft
Width: 8 ft
Best grown in full sun but can tolerate partial sun.
Moist to dry soil of various types
Fragrant sumach is a sprawling, small to medium-sized shrub with aromatic foliage and 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.
Female plants will produce dark-red berries that the birds love. The leaves have stunning fall colours with orange, red, purple and yellow hues.
Height: 2-5 ft
Width: 5-8 ft
Grows in full sun to partial shade
Moist well-drained to dry soils of various types
Common Elderberry, also known as American Elderberry, is a hardy, fast-growing shrub that can tolerate some air pollution. Showy, big clusters of tiny white flowers bloom in July and attract small bees of different genera with their pollen. The fragrant flowers, once cooked, are incredibly delicious as fritters, syrup or jelly and reminiscent of lychee and pear. Plenty of berries ripen in August and turn black and sweet. Many birds devour the berries, including Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, and Cedar Waxwings. Once cooked, the berries are said to boost our immune system and are a treat as jellies or in pies. Many moth species can eat the leaves of this plant in their caterpillar stage, including the spectacular Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), North America's largest moth!
Height: 5-8+ ft
Width: 6-12 ft
Very adaptable to full sun and partial shade
Prefers acidic soil but can grow in moist, well-drained 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.
Assessing Your Yard
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
By knowing what to pay attention to while planting your tree, you can greatly improve your trees resilience, health and the age your tree can reach. It is most important to open up the roots if they have grown around the root ball. They would grow bigger in this circular motion and eventually strangle the tree.
Caring for Your Tree
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 3 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.
Add a Garden Sign
Raise awareness about the importance of native plants with this beautiful double-sided garden sign in your front yard. It is designed by our volunteer Janine Penev. Signs are available for $12.- for pick up in the Bluffs and available at the Tree Giveaway.