The heritage bur oak at 205 Daniel Avenue

Diameter at breast height: 94 cm

Click on image to see enlarged view.

Estimated age of tree: 180 years old

In 1948, newlyweds Madeline and Al Heavenor built the first home on what is today Daniel Ave. They raised two daughters, Susan and Anita, in a 2-storey brick house whose backyard hosts a majestic bur oak.

Nowadays, Al is 96 and Madeline is 93. They continue to live in their home, and the bur oak that was already in their yard when they moved in has aged 70 years, as have they. With a possible lifespan of 300 years, their property’s middle-aged bur oak with a solid trunk and intact crown may have another 120 years to offer shelter and food to squirrels, and shade to human homes.

The Heavenors are proud to be the first family to build on Daniel Ave. Just as much as the bur oak’s, their lives on Daniel Avenue contribute to the social heritage of Champlain Park neighbourhood.

The beauty of oaks on alvar

Like all oaks, the bur oak anchors itself on the planet via a tap root.

Throughout Champlain Park, the limestone plain with thin soils that extends from the Ottawa River to the walls of the Transitway seems an unlikely place for oaks. Wouldn’t such trees do better in deeper soils? Known as an alvar, this unique ecosystem features plants adapted to extremes of wet and dry.

The grove of bur oaks that includes the tree at 205 Daniel Ave. exists because this species is perfectly adapted to the thin soils of the alvar. Nobody planted these bur oaks, and the alvar they grow on saved them from farmers’ plows during the 1800s. Tunney’s Pasture, to the east of Champlain Park, was a livestock farm. From a local blog:

Work began in the summer of 1950 to excavate the rocky property (Tunney’s Pasture). “Only a thin film of scratchy sod and sun-dried moss covers the rock” mentions the Ottawa Journal in an article on the excavation work.

A bur oak’s thick bark makes it drought tolerant and fire resistant. South of the 49th parallel and in Western Canada, this species thrives in open forest savannas. Once established, it tolerates urban pollution and grows faster than most other oak trees.

The genetic resources embodied in Champlain Park’s bur oaks are adapted to the climate of this region and have important design value for urban environments affected by pollution, periods of drought or flood, and climate change.

They are special because of where they grow, and because they have survived so long.

Learn more about the social and natural history of the neighbourhood (PDF produced October 2013) and about the quest for heritage status launched in 2012 and 2013. At that time, the city of Ottawa refused to consider the Champlain Oaks as heritage trees.

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