Lindsay sycamore trees awarded heritage designation by Forest Ontario

By Roderick Benns

Lindsay is outside this tree's normal hardiness zone. Photo: Jamie Morris.

The five sycamore trees lining Victoria Avenue just north of Peel Street in Lindsay have been given Heritage Tree status by Forests Ontario, a distinction only bestowed on about 100 trees in Southern and Central Ontario.

The trees are well known to Lindsay residents and remarked upon by visitors. Sycamores are Eastern North America’s largest deciduous trees and these five, 132-years old, dominate the skyline as you look north from Victoria Park or the farmers’ market. Their canopies arch across to the boulevard and the mottled, patchwork appearance of the trunks (the species is “exfoliating” and regularly sloughs off bark) make the trees instantly recognizable.

With the approval of the City’s Parks Department, the trees were nominated by the  Canopy Project Kawartha Lakes (CPKL), a volunteer-led community group whose goal is to protect and enhance the urban canopy in the settlement areas of the City of Kawartha Lakes, for Heritage Tree status with Forests Ontario. 

They join roughly 100 trees from across Southern and Central Ontario, including three from our region: a bur oak that may date back 380 years marked the head of the Fenelon Portage during fur trade days and can be seen at Maryboro Lodge, where it’s known as the “Grand Old Lady”; a 130-year-old white ash in Balsam Park; and a sugar maple near Port Perry on the ancestral lands of the Mississauga First Nations.

To be eligible the trees had to meet criteria set by Forests Ontario. A tree could qualify as “a prominent community landmark,” as “a noble specimen because of its size, form, shape, beauty, age, colour, variety, genetic constitution, or other distinctive feature” or because of association with “a historic person.” 

The sycamores qualify on all three counts. Local landmarks for sure, but also “noble specimens.” Lindsay is outside their normal hardiness zone and sycamores don’t normally grow this far north. In a letter of support for the application Tom Mikel, coordinator of Fleming College’s Urban Forestry Program, described the trees as “incredible specimens,” and the highlight on his annual Lindsay field walks with students. “For most students,” he noted, “this is the first time they may be seeing an American Sycamore (P. accidentalis) in real life, and almost certainly their first time seeing ones so massive.”

The “historic person” associated with the trees is Richard Sylvester, who planted the trees as two-year-old saplings in 1892. He and his brother operated Sylvester Manufacturing Co. The factory, which stood in the space now occupied by Tim Horton’s, Home Hardware and Lindsay Dry Cleaners, made agricultural and farm implements and employed roughly 100 residents.

Sylvester lived in the large white brick house at the corner visible to the west of the trees. His donation to the town of the land that became Victoria Park was a significant contribution to the community. Planting those sycamores back in 1892 was another important contribution. The final word goes to Tom Mikel: “The forethought someone had in leaving this legacy over a century ago is astounding.”

Interested in learning more about these and other notable local trees? Join the Winter Tree ID Walk Friday March 4 at 11 am. The meeting point is the Victoria Park Gazebo and the walk will be led by Tom Mikel and Jack Radecki (a consulting arborist and former Executive-Director of the Ontario Urban Forest Council).  After checking out the park’s trees it will be on to the sycamores then other trees within easy walking distance.

1 Comment

  1. George Malcolm says:

    Awesome piece of history…great to see these majestic trees so well appreciated

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