The heritage bur oak at 211 Daniel Ave.

Diameter at breast height: 121 cm

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Estimated age of tree: 200+ years old

The bur oak that towers over four properties from a place of pride in the backyard at 211 Daniel Ave. represents the largest and oldest of Champlain Park’s bur oaks.

Gnarled? Yes, that’s a good word for heritage bur oaks.

In recent days, since the announcement that it will receive heritage status from Forests Ontario, Dennis Van Staalduinen and Jeanette Rule have been reflecting on its place in their lives.

When Jeanette and I first bought the house in May 2004 as a newly married couple, we thought of our bur oak as a “feature” of our purchase. Sure, we thought we were lucky to have it, and we marvelled at the beauty and sheer scale of this enormous, shaggy and gnarled behemoth behind the garage. But we thought  of it as just another thing we were buying.

But over time, we realized this tree was far more than a “feature” of our house. For one thing, it was clearly far older than the house, and so the builders had made a choice to leave that then-mature tree where it was. They’d built our garage with its back wall to the tree, and over the years, the tree had simply grown INTO the wooden wall – pushing it relentlessly back from the middle, until the wall now has a dramatic curve around the trunk of the oak.

This tree has a force field that threatens a garage wall.

And it was also clear that the oak was a world unto itself – hosting countless small birds, crows, and squirrels, a family of raccoons, and for a few years, a noisy sparrow hawk that chose its top branches as its perch of choice. This tree was the largest individual left in this area, and as a native part of the ancient forest that covered this river shore, its kin had shaded and fed the first peoples.

We don’t think of it as a “feature” any more. If anything, we think of ourselves as guests who are privileged to live and raise our three kids under its spreading boughs.

 

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