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This year's Notable Tree stands above the rest at Preservation Park

Grandparents Pine receives award from Guelph Urban Forest Friends

Lodged in a stone fence separating two farm fields just south of town in about 1877, a pinecone gave life to two sprouting trees that would join to become one and outlast generations of change in the area. 

Known as 'Grandparents Pine,' the tree has survived 144 years and counting as it stands above much of modern-day Preservation Park in the city’s south end, reaching an estimated 25 metres into the sky. 

“So many people look at a forest and they assume the forest has been there forever … when in fact this is a second or third growth forest,” said nearby resident Dave Penny, a science and nature lover who organized a Grandparents Day tour through the park which included a stop at the tree. “This is an evolution.”

Penny’s also the person who nominated Grandparents Pine for this year’s Guelph Urban Forest Friends’ (GUFF) Notable Tree award, which was presented on Wednesday. 

The award, explained GUFF representative Sue Rietschin, honours trees considered exemplars of their species and have a story or connection to the community.

Grandparents Tree, which grew from a stone fence separating the farming operations of well-known city builders Felix Hanlon and Fred Stone, is responsible for much of the pine growth in the area, Penny said, noting many of its century-old offspring can be found throughout Preservation Park, along with subsequent generations.

At the time it sprouted, there were very few trees around, as that area was largely used for agriculture and cattle farming purposes, Penny continued, adding many of the trees that had been cleared were used for building during the early years of Guelph’s growth.

“This was a mature tree at 40 (years) and that’s when people moved away from the area for greater opportunities farming in the west and then of course the First World War,” he added. “A lot of people left here at the time … and the land started to go back into a more natural forested state.”

The saplings merged for about two metres of growth, then separated and continued to push upward separately but roughly equally.

“Kids have played in this for years,” Penny adds, referring to at least two sets of rope hanging in the tree roughly 15 metres from the ground. “How old that rope is, I have no idea.”

Remnants of the stone fence remain visible around the tree’s base.

This is the second time GUFF has given out a Notable Tree award, the first given to dawn redwoods located at Woodlawn Memorial Park cemetery, the University of Guelph and St. George’s Church.

GUFF also handed out the Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship on Wednesday. This year’s recipient is Norah Chaloner. 

“We get so many benefits (from trees) – benefits to the pollinators, to the birds, to the air quality, to water underground,” said Chaloner, noting the city is solely fed by underground water sources. “If we don’t protect above ground, it is going to drastically 'desertify' the city.

“We’ve got to have the trees grabbing the water when it does come down and holding it, filtering it down into our aquifers.”

Chaloner is one of the founders of GUFF, as well as Yorklands Green Hub. She also works to educate school children about trees and environmental issues.