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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Tree Tuesday: Where Trees Take You

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hawthorn fruit csl sm
Hawthorn and fruit. Photo by Tammy Halpern

Last of series of three tours of Côte-St-Luc trees. Tomorrow, Wed. Sept. 9, 5:30 – 7:00 pm. Free. Meet at Beth Zion Synagogue, 5740 Hudson, north of Guelph St.

Trees have taken me places I might never have known were it not for a request to create a tree walk. Tomorrow is my last in a series of three guided tree tours in Côte St-Luc, a city I have never explored and, previously had visited only once, more than 15 years ago, when buying a magnolia tree to commemorate the birth of our second son. It was the closest nursery to our Plateau home. I recall railway tracks and lots of open space. Perhaps we were near the Meadowbrook  golf course, famous in Spacing Montreal pages for its great bits of remnant forest and for being home to the only visible section of the Petite Rivière St-Pierre.

To talk about trees, you have to have a grasp of the era in which they were planted or seeded themselves. This hawthorn in the photo above, for instance, was a real find. Look carefully and you’ll see the 5-cm long thorns that that give the tree its name. The other half of its name, hawe, is the fruit. I’m guessing — because there are 10s of different hawthorn species and cultivars — that this is the cockspur hawthorn, or hog apple (because so appreciated by pigs and pig farmers), one of the most common hawthorns in eastern Canada.

This particular tree grows in the garden of a 1950s house on the corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Merton Street. It caught my attention from a distance because of its surprising height and the size of its bright red fruit. The owners of the house allowed me to visit behind the hedge in which the tree grows in order to get a look at its trunk. No easy task, this, as the tree is embedded in an old lilac and other bushes.

Down on all fours, my eyes adjusting to the darkness of this thicket, I could just make out the trunk — not touch it, mind you, but at least see it. I estimate that it’s a metre around, meaning that the tree is roughly 100 years old and predates the housing development of this area by a longshot. Hawthorns (Craetagus sp., aubépine) grow slowly and live long and this one I’d say is a leftover from CSL’s farming era — a scant 60 years ago — or may even have been seeded by a bird or squirrel. Hawthorns are a common pioneer species in old fields. On farms, they are appreciated for their beautiful white blossoms in sparing, similar to that of its cousin, the apple, also in the rose family (5 petals, 5 sepals – the green rigid structure supporting the flower). The fruit was also appreciated as is and used in jellies and fruit leathers.

Tomorrow, it’s the old white oaks — the bur oak (Quercus marcrocarpa, chêne à gros fruits), to be precise — that will be the star attractions along with the only sugar maple I’ve found in my explorations. In addition, we’ll see some 50-year-old catalpas, black pine, linden, and, yes, another hawthorn. Not quite as old as the one pictured here but a little easier to see in its entirety.



  1. I have to say, the image of you approaching a house to get permission to access a tree, then hunkering down on all fours, making your way through vines and brush to inspect said tree…. well, it just makes me smile. I love your passion and where it takes you.

    I’ll make it to a walk of yours one of these days!

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