Schoolgirls restore a Carolinian Forest in the Heart of a City

1% of Canada is in the Carolinian Forest Region, an area that "gets its name from the presence of a large number of plant and animal species whose ranges extend into Ontario but are more or less centered on the Piedmont Region of North Carolina." All of this is under huge development pressure and much has been lost already. 50 years ago, as Dutch Elm disease was removing Toronto's green canopy, Norway Maples sprouted everywhere, creating heavy shade and multitudes of seeds, making regeneration of native species difficult.

A major piece of Toronto's ravine network is owned by Branksome Hall, a private girls school. (conflict note: our daughter attends) Fifteen years ago the Branksome Green Committee determined that the forest could only be restored if the Norway Maples were removed and appropriate Carolinian species were replanted. Science teacher Pat Merilees led faculty, staff and students to plant hundreds of understorey flowers, herbs and shrubs, four native saplings for every Norway Maple cut.

This was not an easy, status-quo preservation project; they had to get approval to cut down mature trees in an environmentally and politically sensitive part of town-We treasure our trees and you have to have a damn good reason to cut down any of them. This treehugger would have said that the maples are the new environment and this treehugger would have been wrong; the results, 15 years later are remarkable- slopes are now stable due to under-storey growth; native species have returned; it is a pleasure to walk through. It took guts, time and a lot of work to do this and they deserve congratulations. ::Branksome Hall

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