Friday, June 20, 2008

Copper Beech - Ontario Trees in Spring

As I write this post, it is now officially the first day of summer. When I took these pictures earlier this afternoon at Rhododendron Gardens in Mississauga, Ontario, it was still Spring.
Copper Beech
There are a number of copper beech trees here in the park. These are the first I had ever seen, as they are not all that common in Canada. Here in southern Ontario, remnants of Carolinian forest can be found, and so we have beech trees.

Copper (purple) Beech leaves
The most striking feature of these trees is their dark leaf color, almost burgundy, though I believe some refer to it as purple. I've seen a type of maple tree with similarly dark colored foliage, but when you look closely at the leaf, you can tell at once it is not a maple leaf.

Copper Beech late May
The picture above was taken during the Rhododendron Gardens tour on May 25. This stand of copper beech is at the top of the hill in the Gardens, and the leaves are indeed coppery in the sunlight. Someone told me that these beech leaves can turn green later on, but if memory serves, they remained the deep color all summer.

Beech Grove Near Lake Ontario
Still in the Gardens, but down the hill from the stand in the above photo, you'll find more beech trees just steps from the waters of Lake Ontario. (There are also a few beech at the entrance at Lakeshore Road and Shawnmarr, on the west side.)

Bark and Trunk - Copper Beech
As well as the striking foliage, and the shape of the leaves, the bark, too, is different from the usual deciduous trees. Very smooth, almost inviting you to reach out and touch it. This year, I'll pay particular attention to color changes, and take pictures when September comes.

Spring has been cooler and rainier than normal, and the trees are lapping up all that moisture. Let's hope it continues. Last summer's near drought stressed many of our forests and gardens.

If you're up for a road trip, or biking the Waterfront Trail through Mississauga this summer, do stop for a while and stroll through Rhododendron Gardens. It's free, there are lots of benches and shady trees, the rose bed is being planted as we speak. There's even what's termed a 'comfort station' - a building housing the restrooms!