Discovering the family story DNA can tell reminds us of just how diverse genetic roots can be in a human life. Farmers know that the genetic variations within wheat, corn, millets and other food plants hold the key to disease resistance and future food security.
The same value comes from keeping forest genes going. The genes of the bur oaks honoured today in Champlain Park as “heritage trees” are an unbroken genetic code from the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Over multiple generations the cycle of acorn to mature tree has repeated itself here over and over again. Along the way, the offspring adapted to the thin soils, dry spells and periodic flooding of the Ottawa River shoreline between Chaudière Falls and Des Chênes Rapids. More recently, they adapted to life in the city.
It is partly for this reason that Forests Ontario today honoured the “Champlain Oaks” as heritage trees. It is also why we collect, nurture and replant the acorns of the elders of the local community of bur oaks. Since 2012, the Champlain Oaks Project has cooperated with St. George Elementary School to plant “Legacy Trees” grown from acorns dropped to the ground.
Every life has an end, and while Bur Oaks can easily live 350 years, the oldest trees in our midst will eventually pass. Their unique and valuable genetic code continues, however, in trees now growing in public and private spaces throughout the neighbourhood. The following pictures chronicle 5 years of deliberate planting of local bur oaks, in the hope that these trees will continue to grace our neighbourhood for generations to come.
Left side: Before (when planted). Right side: After (fall, 2017)