Toronto’s Official Tree was unveiled at a special event at Cedar Ridge Park on May 14. Mayor John Tory announced that the oak tree is now Toronto’s Official tree and will join the Coat of Arms, Mayor’s Chain of Office and the Flag as an official City symbol.

 

Toronto’s Official Tree was selected by a public vote, held from April 21 to May 10, where Toronto residents could cast their vote for the tree they felt best represents Toronto. Toronto City staff engaged with Indigenous representatives and selected the four trees that most represent Toronto: birch, maple, oak and pine. Close to 11,000 votes were received, with the oak tree receiving 47 per cent of the votes, the maple tree in second place with 31 per cent, the birch tree 14 per cent, and the pine tree received eight per cent of the votes.

Read more about the oak tree, as well as the maple, birch and pine trees below.

 

Characteristics:

  • Birch trees are sun-loving deciduous trees that can grow up to 25 metres high
  • Birch trees are fast growing, often colonizing in an area after a disturbance.
  • When birch trees are removed from growing with conifers, the birch loses vigor and dies within a few years.
  • Buds, leaves and seeds from the white birch are a great source of food for birds and animals.
  • Many animals eat the saplings and seeds of the yellow birch, and it is a favourite food source of the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
  • Peeling off too much of the birch’s bark can kill the tree.

How to identify a birch tree:

  • Commonly grow in association with conifers.
  • Easily recognized by its distinctive bark.

Ideal growing conditions:

  • Moisture: moist, preferring moist sites
  • Shade: prefers full sun
  • Soil: wide variety of soils but prefers rich moist soils

Uses:

  • White birch trees are often used in landscaping because they will grow almost anywhere, as long as they get enough sunlight.
  • The twigs and leaves of yellow birch give off the smell of wintergreen when rubbed, and are often used to make tea.
  • Indigenous Peoples have long used the tough, pliable bark for making canoes, baskets, or for waterproofing structures.

Where to find birch trees in Toronto:

  • Lambton Woods
  • Earl Bales Park
  • Morningside Park
  • Rouge Park

Birch species native to Toronto:

  • Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
  • River birch (Betula nigra)
  • Paper/white birch (Betula papyrifera)

 

Characteristics:

  • Maple trees can grow up to 35 metres high
  • Many species are hardy and fast-growing, making them good choices for street trees.
  • Their fruits, buds, and twigs are an important source of food for many species of birds and mammals.
  • Maple trees produces the sap for maple syrup.

How to identify a maple tree:

  • All maple trees have opposite leaves and branches.
  • Flowers on maple trees are found in small clusters before or as the leaves are opening
  • Fruits: dry, winged and borne in pairs.
  • Maple tree seeds are found in “keys” (“helicopters”) that fall down from the tree in the late spring
  • Native maples produce some of the most brilliant fall colour displays, which is unique to eastern North America

Ideal growing conditions:

  • Moisture: tolerates different moisture levels
  • Shade: tolerates partial shade when younger
  • Soil: grows in any soil type but prefers sand or sandy loam

Uses:

  • Native maples have strong and uniform wood that is used to make furniture, crates, and flooring.
  • Maple syrup and maple sugar can be derived from the sap of most species, most notably sugar maple because it has the highest sugar content of Ontario maple species; sap flows in spring before leaves appear.
  • Indigenous Peoples have valued the maple tree for its sweet sap and the goods derived from it.

Where to find maple trees in Toronto:

  • Lambton Woods
  • High Park
  • Earl Bales Park
  • Queen’s Park
  • Crother’s Woods
  • Sunnybrook Park
  • Rouge Park

Maple species native to Toronto:

  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Black maple (Acer saccharum ssp nigrum)
  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum ssp saccharum)
  • Freeman maple (Acer ×freemanii)

More facts:

  • The maple leaf emerged in the 19th century as a symbol of Canadian identity and the maple is Canada’s national tree and Canada’s official arboreal emblem.

 

Characteristics:

  • Mature oak trees can grow up to 30 metres high with deep roots and thick, fire-resistant bark, and are known for their strength and longevity.
  • Very important food source and shelter species for wildlife including small mammals and birds.
  • Tree crowns provide shelter, and hollow cavities in their large trunks and branches are used by wildlife for nesting and winter shelter.
  • Oak trees flower early in spring as the leaves are unfurling, using the wind to transport its pollen from male to female flowers.
  • Leaves often remain on the tree into winter.
  • Oaks are host plants for butterflies including the Juvenal’s Duskywing, Edwards’ Hairstreak, and Banded Hairstreak species

How to identify an oak tree:

  • When open grown, the branches are wide spreading and some may be horizontal.
  • Leaves and branches are arranged alternately.
  • The bark on young trees is smooth and grey, but as the tree ages it develops vertical flat-topped ridges separated by reddish furrows.
  • Fruit is an acorn with a scaly cup that looks like a hat atop the nut.

Ideal growing conditions:

  • Moisture: moist to dry
  • Shade: intolerant of shade, prefers full sun
  • Soil: adaptable

Uses:

  • Bur oak acorns are sweet and edible, and have been used both traditionally and currently as a source of food.
  • White oak acorns are sweet and edible when raw and were traditionally an important staple food for Indigenous populations.
  • Wood from white oak is waterproof and has traditionally been used as a watertight woods.

Where to find oak trees in Toronto:

  • Lambton Woods
  • High Park
  • Earl Bales Park
  • Queen’s Park
  • Crother’s Woods
  • Sunnybrook Park
  • Rouge Park

Oak species native to Toronto:

  • White oak (Quercus alba)
  • Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)
  • Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii)
  • Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Northern red oak (Quercus rubra)
  • Black oak (Quercus velutina)
  • Red-black hybrid oak (Quercus ×hawkinsiae)

More facts:

  • The oaks found in Toronto include some of the largest and longest-lived trees in the city.
  • A remnant of original oak savannah (now locally rare) occurs in High Park.
  • Since 1997, the City of Toronto has carried out regular prescribed burns in order to restore the savannah. The burns help to control invasive species, increase regeneration of black oaks and encourage success of planted native species.
  • Nuts from oak trees can be stored for later use but the animals that bury nuts may forget to return for them, allowing a new tree to grow.
  • Oak trees make up approximately 1.8 per cent of Toronto’s tree canopy species.

 

Characteristics:

  • Pine trees are coniferous trees that can grow up to 35 metres high and have a thick, fire-resistant bark.
  • Pine trees have roots that grow fairly deep into the ground and are widespread, allowing pine trees to withstand strong winds without blowing down.
  • Pine trees are hardy species growing in tough habitats.
  • Pine trees produce an excellent source of food and shelter for many birds and mammals.
  • Various pine species have distinctive pollen with air bladders that make the pollen grains very light so they can fly very high and travel great distances.
  • They are fast growing trees.

How to identify a pine tree:

  • Pine tree leaves grow in bundles of two to five needles.
  • Seeds: conifers bear pollen cones (male) and seed cones (female), which may be on different branches or even on separate trees.
  • Unlike other evergreens, red pines have only two-sides (white pine has three).

Ideal growing conditions:

  • Moisture: tolerates different moisture levels
  • Shade: prefers full sun
  • Soil: grows in any soil type but prefers rocky soil, sand, or sandy loam

Uses:

  • Pine trees can retain their needles longer than other conifers and are often used for Christmas trees.

Where to find pine trees in Toronto:

  • Earl Bales Park
  • Queen’s Park
  • Sunnybrook Park
  • Rouge Park

Pine species native to Toronto:

  • Red pine (Pinus resinosa)
  • Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

More facts:

  • Eastern white pine is the official tree of the Province of Ontario.
  • Eastern white pine is the tallest tree in eastern Canada.

Official symbols and emblems are a source of pride for people in their communities and reflect their identity when used by governments in a meaningful way. They are used to communicate history and culture, highlight important features of the environment, and instill pride and unity amongst community members. In Canada, these symbols range from different types of flora and fauna to tartans, colours and food. Many Canadian governments name a type of tree as an official symbol. Most cities also have a family of ceremonial emblems that celebrate their uniqueness, their history and contemporary identity, and many have as one of their official symbols a tree which helps raise awareness and reaffirms their commitment to grow, enhance and protect their urban forest.

The City currently has three official symbols: the Coat of Arms, Flag and the Mayoral Chain of Office.

Selecting a New Official Tree for Toronto

Trees provide a range of environmental, ecological, social, cultural and economic benefits and play a meaningful role in our city through their hard work absorbing water, cleaning the air, providing shade, reducing erosion, flooding and wind tunnels, and decreasing heating and cooling costs.

The City of Toronto has signalled the importance of trees to Toronto through multiple Council decisions and most recently through its commitment to TransformTO. Trees have played a meaningful role in the historical development of Toronto from the origin of its name, to their use in commemorating events and people, including many of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service during times of war (for example Coronation Park, Memory tree).

By selecting an Official Tree that is a native tree species, easy to identify and found across Toronto, the City has an opportunity to raise awareness about our diverse urban forest, strengthen our connection to nature, and reaffirm our commitment to grow, enhance and protect Toronto’s urban forest.