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Urban Trees From Seed

We started a fantastic new project this year, thanks to funding from the Gosling Foundation and from Landscape Ontario. The goals of the project are:

  1. To engage elementary students in growing native trees from seed on their school grounds, connected to science curriculum and other subject areas

  2. To develop a community of practice within school communities sharing knowledge and resources on native tree establishment and care

  3. To disseminate locally grown native tree seedlings from local seed sources back into the community

  4. To include and enhance student awareness of the importance of native trees to Indigenous people and cultures

Cedar tree cones (Thuja occidentalis) – collected this fall for spring 2018 planting

The Science:   Native trees grown from seed will be better adapted to the microclimatic conditions of the city. Growing from seed protects biodiversity within the species, allowing future arborists toselect for desired characteristics such as disease or pest resistance. We cannot know all of the effects of climate change, and biodiversity is the best insurance for native species’ survival. We do know that some trees planted in Toronto are sourced from elsewhere and are not adapted to our region, thus failing.

The project continues into 2018, when students will resume planting, collecting seed and maintaining the school tree nurseries.

In spring, students gathered Kentucky Coffee Tree seed pods from a local tree. They had to “scarify” the seed using sandpaper.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Seedlings growing in greenhouse

Teams planting in school ground nursery

Student work relating to the project. Students were fascinated by the role of the now-extinct Mastodon, the animal that ate the large pods and through its digestive system helped the seed to sprout.

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