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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. One Swamp White Oak, Basswood 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. They provide privacy and increase property value 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.

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 this event on the parking lot of their Scarborough Junction Community Farm

located at 3595 St. Clair Avenue East

on Saturday, April 23, 2022 

from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.  

The Scarborough Food Security Initiative has organized a Spring Market at the same time with local vendors, kids games, food & drinks, live music and more. To learn more about the Scarborough Food Initiative and support their important work click here.

You can order two free native trees to plant on your private property within Toronto borders. Check out the offered species below and match them to your garden conditions and space. Please watch the three posted videos about how to select, plant, and care for your tree or shrub before ordering your trees. They will help you make a good decision and show you how to successfully plant and care for your tree or shrub. 

Order deadline is Thursday, April 7, 2022, at 11:59 pm.

We recommend ordering early. Trees will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

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 or regularly being cut and severed in the nursery beds. It is best to even plant a few months old saplings if you can protect them.

  • In nature, trees grow in communities. It would be best to plant groups of at least two to three trees together on a 6-foot center. The tree roots will interlock, giving them great stability, and they will support each other in producing a healthy, resilient environment. 

  • 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. 

  • Late fall is the best time to plant. Trees can still develop their root system in the warm soil and don't need to produce flowers and seeds.

  • It is imperative to protect the 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 they will always stay a weaker entrance point for disease.  

  • It is best to remove the lawn generously around the tree and replace it with some understory trees, shrubs and groundcover, like 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 as a protein-rich food source for other wildlife. Additionally, the soil around the root system doesn't get constantly compacted by mowing the lawn, so the 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 amazing website.

  • The soil around the tree must always be covered either with mulch, like wood chips or leaves or better with cover plants, 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 can alternatively be planted around the tree as long as it is still small and doesn't give much shade.

  • Tees 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.

Any questions?

Contact us at​

Find available tree species and order form below

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 Available Trees 

Appearance. Ecological Value. Growing Conditions.

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Swamp White Oak

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



Sugar Maple

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 for 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 are the host for almost 300 caterpillar species that supply amble food for breeding birds. The seeds are eaten by many birds, e.g. orioles, wrens and warblers, and various mammals. 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 and 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, white pine, Northern red oak, and Eastern hemlock. Great understory trees are American elderberry and hazelnut, pagoda dogwood and bush honeysuckle.

Native Solomon's seal and Canada wild ginger are perfect ground covers.

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.


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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 single 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.


Height: 60+ ft

Width: 30+ ft

Full sun to partial shade

Moist, well-drained


Photo credit: Fritz Flohr Reynolds

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Eastern Redbud

The Easter redbud tree is a stunning small tree, tolerant of urban conditions with showy magenta flowers that bloom before the leaves emerge. It is one of the earliest blooming trees in Toronto and provides an important early source of pollen and nectar for many different kinds of early emerging native bees. The emerging leaves are reddish and unfold to beautiful heart-shaped dark green leaves in summer which support around 20 species of caterpillars. Leafcutter bees love the soft leaves to cut out perfect circles to separate their larvae in their nests. In fall, the leaves turn a bright canary yellow. The flowers give rise to clusters of bean-like pods that remain on the tree into winter and

Cardinals, Ring-necked pheasants, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and bobwhites feed on the seeds.


Height: 20-30 ft

Width: 25-30 ft    

Grows in full sun to partial shade

Requires moist, well-drained soil of various types



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

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Serviceberry is an adaptable large shrub or small tree depending if pruned as a single-stem tree or naturalized to form a multi-stemmed shrub. Serviceberry trees put on a show of white flowers early in spring and provide an excellent early season source of pollen and 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 and are devoured by over 40 species of birds, including orioles, bluebirds, cedar waxwings, scarlet tanagers, Northern flickers, and robins. 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 partial shade

Moist to dry soil of various types


Common Ninebark

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 Cecrophia 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    

Full sun with good airflow

Various soil conditions       


Flowering Purple Raspberry

A small, fast-growing shrub with large fragrant rose-like flowers and a mounded growth habit.
Provides exceptional high value for songbirds and small mammals by providing berries and safe nesting sites through thicket-forming growth. Attracts all sized bees with its fragrant flowers. The hollow stems 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

Bush Honeysuckle

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 ft    

Grows in full sun to partial shade

Moist to dry soils of various type

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. Please watch all three of these great videos to ensure you will be set up for success.


Assessing Your Yard

What should the purpose of your tree be and how to determine the right spot. In this video you will find helpful tips from Toronto's tree professionals YourLeaf.

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

Watering- watering-watering. 
It is important to help develop a healthy root system in the first years. Find out how to water properly and how else you can make a difference for your tree by caring for it.

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 will be available for $15.-at the tree giveaway on April 23rd or for pick up in the Bluffs.

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