The Nut Tree Trail
Mer Bleue Conservation Area
Ottawa Canada

main nut plantations are shaded grey
A: access signs
1: white oak sign
2: bur oak sign
3: dedication to Moe Anderson
4: red oak sign
5: white pine sign

The trail is maintained by National Capital Commission volunteers. The signs, made in Y2K, are to be redone in 2015 by the NCC.

The Dolman Ridge was a sand bar in the Ottawa River of 10 000 years ago. The bed of the river was solid clay laid down by the glacial Champlain Sea.
For about a hundred years, until the 1960's, the area was mostly plowed farmland. The west end of the trail, on the sand ridge, passes through trees that were left along the edges of farmers' fields and spread rapidly by windblown seeds, primarily birch and red maple.
Feeding chickadees and red squirrels is a popular pursuit of visitors to the Dolman ridge. Feel free to bring some seed for them.
Fungi are an essential part of forest ecology. They recycle old trees into nutrients for new ones. Since this forest is so young, there are few places where you can see them in action. Everything cleared for the trail was placed on the forest floor near by, to promote a healthy forest ecology for the future.
Club mosses, such as these Lycopodium obscurum found along the trail, appeared on earth 400 million years ago, long before the seed trees you see around them.
After a heavy rain, the woods are very wet for a week or so.
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
needles in bunches of five
bark deeply furrowed vertically
produces our most valuable softwood lumber
the tallest conifer in eastern Canada
began growing about 1960
This tree died, so the sign has been moved to a grove of pines on Trail 50.
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
leaves with pointed lobes and bristle tips
smooth grey bark with vertical fissures
shallow acorn cup
our fastest growing oak
wood valuable for furniture and flooring
planted 1974

These red oaks are showing exceptional timber production.
Products from our forests have been major contributors to the prosperity of Canadians ever since Samuel de Champlain shipped out a load of squared timber from the Ottawa Valley in 1611. By the 1960s, most of Canada's exports were forest-related. So, as part of Canada's centennial programming of 1967, the government of Canada established here a Central Research Forest (CRF) to aid us in maintaining our forest-based prosperity.
This oak grove is part of that research forest. It was planted in part by Mogens Leif Anderson, then a forester with the CRF.
Oak wood is one of our finest hardwoods for furniture and flooring. This grove was created for studying the growth of our native oaks in a managed plantation context, where the quality of timber produced can be much greater than in an uncontrolled setting. However, the research was moved to Petawawa in 1979. Since then, these trees have been on their own.
Now, in the year 2000, we have taken on the task of restoring the grove to optimum health to demonstrate the value of hardwood plantations as timber producers and as contributors to our natural ecology.
On May 20, 2000, this grove was named the Mogens Leif Anderson Oak Plantation, in honour of Anderson's work to promote Canadian forestry.
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
fine white hairs under leaves
corky ridges on twigs
cup almost covers acorn
grows in almost all soils
acorns are valuable food for wildlife
planted 1974

The bur oak on the ridge are beginning to thin themselves. In another 20 years, there will be successful trees at an average of 6 m spacing; the smaller trees will lose the battle for survival.
From the hill, a reminder that the site is in the middle of a modern city. This area is periodically destroyed by hydro crews, and is then left to recover from roots and seeds.
The base of the hill is very damp, and kept cleared for the hydro lines overhead. Clayton's fern, field and wood horsetail, and wet meadow flowers can always be found here.
One of the few cedars not cut for fencing and a bridge mark the north access to the trail where it crosses an old farming road.
White Oak (Quercus alba)
leaves with deep rounded lobes
scaly grey bark
knobby acorn cup
acorns used for flour by First Peoples
wood used for barrels (it holds water)
planted 1976

Many of the white oak in this area have been eaten to shrub height by voles for the last 20 years. Protective sleeves are being used over winters until their bark grows thick enough to withstand vole girdling.
Voles killed many of the red oak planted in the clay of the valley floor. The remaining trees are not growing well because they don't like the wet heavy soil.
The bur oak here on the clay are growing more evenly than those on the sand of the ridge. This tree displays the ruggedly twiggy form of fine bur oak.

176 species of plants have been identified along the trail. There are 19 species of birds that regularly breed there, 10 common mammals and 3 common dragonflies.

Now that you have taken a virtual walk along the trail, I invite you to come for a real visit. It is free, and open year round. (Skis or snowshoes are advisable in winter, rubber boots in early spring or after heavy rain.)

John Sankey