Posts Tagged ‘white oak’


We haven’t done much hiking this summer. It seemed that it had just rained, was raining, or was about to rain all summer long. But last Friday was a perfect day, too nice to waste on mundane chores, and we headed out to the Marble Rock trail, north of Gananoque, Ontario. This region is part of the Frontenac Arch, an amazing section of the rugged Canadian Shield that dips down through southeastern Ontario and connects the far north bioregions with the Adirondack Mountains in New York state. The Arch marks an entirely different landscape from the surrounding plains. You can learn more about the Frontenac Arch here.


We completed the South Loop, with a side trip to the North Loop Lookout, a total of 4.7 miles (7.5 km). The east side of the South Loop is the most demanding terrain. If you aren’t climbing up a slope, you’re clambering down another, and the rocky ground can be treacherous. But the scenery is gorgeous.


The forest is primarily deciduous, with trees just beginning to take on the hues of autumn. You didn’t have to look up to know that oak trees were well represented in the diversity. The path was littered with acorns for much of its length, a bounty for wildlife.


Oak trees (Quercus spp) can be divided into two groups, red oaks and white oaks. The red oaks have leaves with pointy-tipped lobes, while the white oaks have rounded lobes. Both were represented in the forest.

Red Oak (Pointed tips)

White Oak (rounded tips)

Acorns weren’t the only nuts to be seen. The shagbark hickory trees (Carya ovata) were also offering up a good crop.

Hickory nuts

Check out the shaggy bark on this example.


Junipers are most often encountered as low-growing shrubs on rocky ground, but there was a sprinkling of pretty, upright juniper trees (Eastern juniper or Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana) decorated with their bluish seeds.


Juniper berries

Around open, damp areas, the white berries of dogwood shrubs stood out on their red twigs.


Dogwood berries (Cornus sp)

Still climbing…


I liked the way this millipede, about 2 inches long, blended so well with the colour of an old log.

Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmida sp)

And here’s a Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar hurrying through the leaves.

Hickory Tussock (Lophocampa caryae)

This tree has been attacked by Phomopsis galls. The galls appear as a cluster of nodules tightly pressed together. When cut open they consist of woody tissue that is a bit disorganized in comparison to the normal wood. Galls of affected trees may develop for several years then die.

Phomopsis galls of hickory

This attractive vine is Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens).

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

The leaves of this clump of sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis acuta) are attractive even without the pretty flowers that will bloom next spring.


This colony of ground pine clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum) looks like a stand of tiny, 6-inch tall pine trees. Clubmosses are ancient plants that were once 50-foot giants, but now carpet forest floors.

Ground Pine (Lycopodium dendroideum)

Rock Polypody (Polypodium virginianum) seems to grow right out of the rock. Their rhizomes and roots trap leaves and other debris to build up a thin layer of soil.

rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum)

It’s not just ferns that can seem to grow from rock. We came across this very large windfall along the trail.


We were amazed to see that much of the ground that lay under its trunk was rock.


We walked through a little grove of Musclewood, or Blue-Beech trees (Carpinus caroliniana). Their smooth bark has longitudinal ridges that really do seem reminiscent of muscles, making them easy to identify.

Musclewood or Blue-Beech (Carpinus caroliniana)

Finally, we reached the North Loop Lookout and settled down on the rocky ledge to enjoy the view as we ate our well-earned lunch.


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The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) that stands just south of the house is attractive in all seasons, but it is in the winter that its hidden character is revealed. When all its leaves have fallen, its branches stand out starkly, revealing the bur oak’s typical ridged, corky bark and gnarled profile.

The range of the bur oak includes the prairies south from Manitoba and west to Texas, where it is a savannah tree. A savannah is a grassland with widely-spaced trees. The bur oak’s thick bark enables the tree to resist grassland fires, keeping trees as young as 15 years old safe from flames. As a prairie tree, in addition to producing acorns that are a food source, the bur oak is important as cover and nesting habitat for wildlife.

Oaks are divided into two general categories: white oaks and red oaks. Red oaks have leaves with pointed tips and their acorns take two years to mature. The leaves of white oaks have rounded lobes and their acorns mature in one growing season. You can see from its rounded leaves that the bur oak is placed with the white oaks.

The bur oak derives its name from its acorns, which have a deep cap with a fringed, or burred edge. The acorns, like those of other oaks, are prized by a range of wildlife, including black bears, deer, raccoons, squirrels and a variety of birds including blue jays, wood ducks, nuthatches, woodpeckers and grouse. The large acorns contain about half the tannin of those of the red oaks, and are thus enjoyed by a wider range of wildlife. An abundant crop of acorns, called the mast, is produced every two or three years.

The oak is utilized by hundreds of different species of insects. There are about 50 species of leaf miners that feed on oak leaves. In early summer, round holes in oak leaves may be a sign that Junebugs (Phyllophaga spp) have been feeding on the leaves at night. Walkingsticks (Diapheromera femorata) eat entire leaves except for the main veins, working their way in from the edge of the leaf. Many types and shapes of galls are found on oaks. Of about 800 gall-makers on oaks, most are from the Cynipidae family of wasps. For more about oak bullet galls, see the October 22 post.

With its long tap root and deep lateral roots, the bur oak is securely anchored and is rarely blown over. It is a long lived tree, with a lifespan of 200 to 300 years.

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