Ontario's Old TreesWhat's New Ontario's Old-Growth Forests

Ontario's Oldest Trees

Ontario's trees are often older than you'd think. Ancient cedars growing on the Niagara Escarpment germinated over 1300 years ago, and hemlock and yellow birch trees in Algonquin Park are more than 400 years old. The table below will surely surprise you, but even the trees listed here are probably not the oldest ones on Ontario's landscape. You can learn more about Ontario's remarkable trees by going to the Ontario's old-growth forests page.

Ontario's Oldest Native Trees, Modern and Historic

Species Status* Age Location Notes Source
Black Spruce Living 343 North of Smooth Rock Falls Core had 326 years at breast height (BH). Black spruce takes 17 years to reach BH under good growing conditions. For this tree, 343 years is a conservative estimate. Vasiliauskas 2006
  Living 330 Sleeping Giant Prov. Park Roughly 25 cm diameter Girardin et al. In press.
Hemlock Living 454 Algonquin Park 430 year count, plus 24 years (average for Algonquin) to reach breast height. This tree was only 50 cm diameter. Vasiliauskas 1995
  Dead ~460 Mark S. Burnham Prov. Park 439 year count at breast height. This tree was 53 cm DBH, and was (recently) dead when cored. Henry 2005
Jack Pine Living 246 Blue Lake (near Timmins)   Girardin et al. In press.
Red Pine Living 400 Blue Lake (near Timmins) Roughly 65 cm DBH. Growing since 1606 Girardin et al. In press.
  Living 385 White Bear Forest, Temagami 55 cm DBH. Core was taken at BH. Quinby et al 1998
  Dead 500 near Granite Lake, Kenora This tree was cut in 1992 when a power line was put in to a set of cottages near Kenora St. George 2006
White Cedar Living 1316 Niagara Escarpment Dwarfed cliff cedar ***. Germinated 688 AD. Kelly and Larson 2004, Larson 2005
  Dead 1890 Niagara Escarpment Cliff cedar. The age of this cedar was obtained by crossdating three slices in different parts of the dead bole. Larson 2001, Larson 2005
  Living 344 Sleeping Giant Prov. Park Growing in swamp forest Girardin et al. In press.
  Living 326 Lake Abitibi Model Forest Growing in forest on sandy soil Lefort 2005
White Pine Living 486** Dividing Lake Nature Reserve Age reported to be accurate within +/- 23 years Guyette and Dey 1995
  Living 388 Quinn Lake, Algoma Growing since 1603 Arbex 1991
  Historic >500 Swan Lake, Algonquin Park Preserved underwater Guyette and Cole 1999
Balsam Poplar Living 207     Vasiliauskas 2005
Beech Living 204 Backus Woods 51 cm DBH Larson et al. 1999
Black Ash   (319) Lac Duparquet, Quebec In the Quebec claybelt, east of the Ontario border. Tardif and Bergeron 1999
Black Gum Living 407** Backus Woods Actual ring counts in Backus Woods were 300 years. Mccaw 1985
Black Walnut Dead 260 Rondeau Provincial Park Rings were counted from the stump of a windthrown tree Bartlett 1958
Ironwood Living 230 Algonquin Park Actual ring count. Diameter was less than 20 cm. Vasiliauskas 1995
Red Oak Dead 280 Rondeau Provincial Park Rings were counted from the stump of a windthrown tree Bartlett 1958
Shagbark Hickory Dead 250 Rondeau Provincial Park Rings were counted from the stump of a windthrown tree Bartlett 1958
Silver Maple Living 380 Backus Woods This was the counted age on a tree core taken from a 51 cm silver maple. Martin and Martin 2001, Martin 2006
Sugar Maple Living 500** Pelham The "Comfort Maple" - The original source of this widely cited age is unconfirmed Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority 2005
  Living 460** Peter's Woods Counted age of the core was 280 years. Tree was 66 cm DBH, length of core was 20 cm. Rings reported as "very narrow throughout" the core. Martin and Martin 2001, Martin 2006
     380 Waterloo County The "Merlau Maple" http://www.whatonearth.org/
waton/climate.html
Trembling Aspen Dead 213 Lake Abitibi Model Forest   Lefort 2005
Tulip Tree Living 245 Backus Woods 71cm DBH Larson et al. 1999
White Ash Dead 260 Rondeau Provincial Park Rings were counted from the stump of a windthrown tree Bartlett 1958
White Elm Dead 267 Bruce County Tree was cut because of dutch elm disease http://www.flyingsquirrels.com/sauble_elm/
sauble_elm/
White Oak Living 450** Peter's Woods Counted age of the core was 330 years. Tree was 91 cm DBH, length of core was 30 cm. Rings reported as "very narrow throughout" the core. Martin and Martin 2001, Martin 2006
  Historic 560 Hamilton area Wilkie counted the rings of a cut stump about two metres in diameter Wilkie 1837
White Birch Living 240 Rainbow falls Prov. Park Roughly 35 cm diameter Girardin et al. In press.
Yellow Birch Living >387 Algonquin Park Actual ring count. Tree had heart rot beyond 387 rings. Vasiliauskas 1995
  Living (610)** Algonquin Park Age was corrected for heart rot from a short section of core - this age may be unreliable. Martin and Martin 2001, Martin 2006

* Living= alive at time of sampling, may or may not be alive today
  Dead= tree was dead when rings were counted
  Historic= tree died prior to or during historic cutting of Ontario's original forests, mostly >100 years ago

** The ages in this list are from accurate ring counts, but ages marked with double asterisk may have been extrapolated when incomplete cores were taken from trees with some heart rot. When ages are extrapolated, a formula is usually used which is based on the growth rate of the core that you have but which accounts for faster growth in the center of trees where wood is missing. These trees could be either older or younger than the ages given here.

*** Click here to learn more about dwarfed ancient cedars. Note that a 1653 cliff cedar was for a time listed on this website as the oldest living tree in Ontario. This was an error on our part, that ring count was actually from part of a dead tree - the oldest living tree in Ontario germinated in 688 AD, and was 1316 years old at time of sampling.

Sources

  • Arbex Forest Development Co. Ltd. 1991. Life science resource features of selected areas containing old white and red pine (site region 4E - Ontario)
  • Bartlett, C.O. 1958. A study of some deer and forest relationships in Rondeau Provincial Park. Wildlife series No. 7. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests.
  • Girardin MP, Tardif JC, Flannigan MD, Bergeron Y (in press) Synoptic scale atmospheric circulation and summer drought variability of the past three centuries, boreal Canada. Journal of Climate, in press.
  • Guyette, R.P. and W.G. Cole. 1999. Age characteristics of coarse woody debris (Pinus strobus) in a lake littoral zone. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 56: 496505.
  • Guyette, R.P. and D.C. Dey. 1995. Age, size and regeneration of old growth white pine at Dividing Lake Nature Reserve, Algonquin Park, Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Forest Research Institute, Sault Ste. Marie, Forest Research Report No. 131, 11p.
  • Henry, M. 2005. Unpublished data.
  • Kelly, P.E. and D.W. Larson. 2004. The Niagara Escarpment Ancient Tree Atlas Project; Volume 2. Unpublished Report, 54p.
  • Kelly, P.E. and D.W. Larson. 1997. Effects of rock climbing on populations of presettlement eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) on cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment, Canada. Conservation Biology 11: 1125-1132.
  • Larson, B.M., J.L. Riley, E.A. Snell and H.G. Godschalk. 1999. The Woodland Heritage of Southern Ontario: A Study of Ecological Change, Distribution and Significance. Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Don Mills, Ontario. 262 pp.
  • Larson, D. W. 2001. The paradox of great longevity in a short-lived trees species. Experimental Gerontology: 36: 651-673.
  • Larson, D. W., Personal Communication, November 15, 2005.
  • Lefort, P., Personal Communication, February 20, 2005.
  • Martin, N.D. and N.M. Martin. 2001. Biotic Forest Communities of Ontario. Commonwealth Research, Belleville, Ontario. 195 pp.
  • Martin, N.D., Personal Communication, April 1, 2006.
  • McCaw, P.E., 1985. The status of black gum ("Nyssa sylvatica" Marsh.) in Backus Woods, Southern Ontario. Masters Thesis, University of Toronto. 136 Pages.
  • Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, 2005. Personal communication.
  • Quinby, P., M. Henry and T. Lee. 1998. Unpublished Data.
  • St. George, S. (Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona), Personal Communication, February 21, 2006.
  • Tardif, J., and Y. Bergeron, 1999. Population dynamics of Fraxinus nigra in response to flood-level variations, in northwestern Quebec. Ecological Monographs. 69(1): 107-125.
  • Vasiliauskas, S. A. 1995. Interpretation of age-structure gaps in Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) populations of Algonquin Park. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Biology, Queen's University. 170 pp.
  • Vasiliauskas, S. A., Personal Communication, November 25, 2005.
  • Vasiliauskas, S. A., Personal Communication, February 9, 2006.
  • Wilkie, D. 1837. Sketches of a summer trip to New York and the Canadas. Edinburgh.

These are Ontario's oldest known trees, a list of Ontario's biggest trees of each species can also be found online at The Honour Roll of Ontario Trees.