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Native Trees of Canada


This book has been prepared to meet a growing demand on the Forestry Branch for publications of this kind. In it are described over one hundred tree species native to Canada, including all the commercial species and many of minor or no economic importance. Several of the species described are ordinarily little better than shrubs but are found in arborescent form somewhere in their natural range of occurrence. No distinct line can be drawn between trees and shrubs. They grade one into the other. Many trees are reduced to mere bushes when growing under unfavourable circumstances.

The descriptions have for the most part been confined to those features of the tree by which it may be readily recognised in the field and, in order that the book may best serve its purpose, terms which are unfamiliar to one who has not made a study of botany have been avoided as far as possible. [Those desiring a more complete and scientific description are recommended to consult such well known books as Sargent’s “Manual of the Trees of North America” or Gray’s “New Manual of Botany.”]

The description includes in the case of the more important commercial species a brief paragraph on the physical properties and uses of the wood. Where a genus is represented by many species, especially when they occur in the same range or where there is likely to be confusion between trees of different genera, their distinguishing features have been arranged in tabular form for the sake of ease in comparison.

The region over which each species occurs naturally in Canada is briefly described in the text and in some cases is shown by the hatched areas on accompanying maps. It is not claimed that these descriptions and maps are absolutely correct, as the exact range of many of the species has not yet been clearly defined, especially of those trees extending into the unsettled north. However, from the reports of surveyors and explorers, as well as from a knowledge of the requirements of each species in regard to soil, climate, etc., the approximate range of the more important ones has been fairly well determined.

The province of Ontario, and especially that portion of it forming the peninsula between the Great Lakes, possesses a greater variety of tree species than any other part of the Dominion. Here are found growing trees occurring nowhere else in Canada. Trees such as the tulip, chestnut, black gum, papaw, flowering dogwood, and others characteristic of the forests of Ohio and other states to the south, reach their northern limits here. Similarly in the province of British Columbia, the mild and humid climate of the southern coast, Vancouver island, and portions of the Columbia and Kootenay valleys permits the occurrence of many species which are typical of more southern forests and which are not found elsewhere in Canada.

The drawings herein were made by the author, for the most part from specimens in the collection of the Faculty of Forestry of the University of Toronto. To this Faculty thanks are due for the kind permission to use their collection. Thanks are also due to the British Columbia Forest Branch for the information regarding the range of trees native to that province.

So far as space on a page of this size would permit the engravings illustrating the different species of the same genera have been arranged so that they may be conveniently compared. .


In selecting the common or vernacular names for the trees described in this book the chief consideration has been to avoid confusion. Existing names that have enjoyed accepted common use for many years have been retained wherever possible, if their use is consistent. Where two or more names are equally common one has been selected that best describes the characteristics of the tree and has, therefore, the highest name value.

In this connection the-name “red pine” has been chosen in place of “Norway pine” for Pinus resinosa, because of the darker colour of the wood as compared to white pine and the distinct reddish colour of the bark; whereas the name “Norway pine” has little or no real significance.

When one name is used to describe two or more different trees confusion is sure to arise. In all such cases the aim has been to avoid this confusion, even at the expense of the name value of the name adopted.

Two different trees, Ostrya virginiana and Car pinus caroliniana are called “ironwood,” “hornbeam,” and “hop hornbeam” indiscriminately. The name “blue beech” is also applied to Carpinus as the tree has smooth bark and is not unlike a young beech tree in general appearance. The name has never been applied to Ostrya, and it has therefore been used in this book, as it is at least distinctive. The names “hornbeam” and “hop hornbeam” have been discarded.

In deciding among several possibilities common names were favoured when these were translations of the botanical names, as in the case of limber pine (Pinus flexilis). There are certain species native to British Columbia and the Pacific coast that are not found east of that province, although other species of the same genera are found in Eastern Canada. Among such cases are western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and western white pine {Pinus monticola). In British Columbia these trees would be known as “hemlock” and “white pine” but the prefix “western” has been added in each case to distinguish these trees from their eastern relatives, hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and white pine (Pinus Strobus).

The first name given in the description of any species is the accepted botanical name following the Vienna Rules of Nomenclature (so called because they were adopted at an international convention of botanists held in Vienna in 1905). After the name of the tree is given the abbreviation of the name of the botanist who is credited with having first properly described the species. At the right hand side of the page is given the accepted common name adopted by the Forestry Branch in all its publications. Following this is a list of the common or vernacular names used in Canada and the northern United States. Where the name has only local use confined to a certain region, this region is indicated in brackets after the name. Where a common name is marked by an asterisk the fact is indicated that the name is also used to describe one or more entirely different trees, or chat its use is to be avoided because of some other inconsistency.

The importance of having a standardized list of common names of trees, if only for purposes of reference, is evident from the difficulties that frequently arise out of this confusion of common names.

A purchaser of lumber, structural timber, pulpwood, ties, cooperage stock, or other forest products should be able to specify the wood of a certain species without the possibility of misunderstanding. He can only do this by resorting to the botanical name or to a standardized common name. The average layman has neither the time nor the inclination to memorize botanical names, although he is able to recognize the different species and to give them the common name used in his neighbourhood. If, however, this common name does not correspond to the name used elsewhere he is sure to be misunderstood.

While the universal adoption of a standard list of common names is only an ideal it is hoped that the list given in this book will at least be a step in the direction of uniformity of nomenclature.

Download this book here in pdf format
The book carries many maps showing the location of the trees

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