The Lavant Shagbarks

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The Northern Shagbark Hickory

The Lavant Shagbarks

These shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), located north of the Clyde River at 45°08'N 76°35'W in zone 4b, are believed to be the most northerly-climate naturally-reproducing population of their species in the world. They are extraordinary for their species, growing right up to the tops of the most exposed, driest rocky ridges. The Clyde River was a well known canoe route of the Algonkians, and it is possible that these trees are descendants of some planted by them. Their distribution indicates an origin prior to the mini-ice age centered on 1500 AD.

Deer and ruffed grouse droppings are common throughout the area. There are a few red squirrels, and little activity by woodpeckers. No sign has been seen of hare or grey squirrel. Very few set significant seed over 2000-2, however there are young trees where they have light to develop (in pink on the map below). One tree had a good crop in 2002, and 450 nuts were collected for propagation; most sprouted successfully. Collections in 2003 and 2004 were similar; nuts were transferred to the Ferguson Forest Center for germination and distribution. In 2005, there was essentially no crop; in 2006 red squirrels collected all the seed before it was sufficiently mature for propagation.

The preservation of the obviously unique genome of these trees has begun at several sites. One is in the Ottawa Greenbelt, under the aegis of the National Capital Commission. Another is along Clarence Creek on private land.

Besides the preservation of the genetic diversity of Canada's forests, this genome is worth preserving for a second reason: its potential as the foundation of a nut growing industry in Canada. Few nuts other than black walnut have any such potential in Canada due to our cold climate. The hardiness of this species might open up significant areas of Eastern Ontario to orchard culture that are not presently usable for this.

The site has been identified as a Renewal and Tending site in the 2006-2026 Mazinaw-Lanark Forest Management Plan of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ontario, and a preservation plan for the trees is included in the 2006-2011 FMP.

The trees. Coordinates are UTM zone 18T NAD83 offset from 375000 east 999000 north. The trees are not in lines. Their positions were measured with a Magellan 315 GPS. This unit has proven itself to be totally unreliable, routinely indicating positions up to 100 m variance in northing while displaying an EPE of less than 1/10th that. Choose another manufacturer for your GPS.

Growth rate (10 year averages) of five typical trees, at breast height, covering the range of altitude at the site. Their locations are shown on the survey map in blue; numbering is from low altitude to high. All the trees are very close to the same age. It seems that there was a clearcut in the 1880's and that the resulting site conditions strongly favoured shagbark regeneration. There is also evidence that shagbarks were selected over other species. One selection must have taken place long enough ago that the downed trees have decomposed. A second involved the removal of ironwood approximately 1985.

distribution of DBH (diameter at breast height). 578 trees: 71 double trunk, 11 triple trunk, 2 5-trunked.

correlation of DBH with elevation: larger trees tend to be at lower elevations.

The survey team: Jim Ronson measuring DBH, John Sankey reading GPS coordinates, George Truscott writing everything down, Len Collett marking the tree as recorded.

John Sankey

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Updated 01/26/2010 - contact webmaster