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Conifers are also known as evergreeens, needle-leafed trees, or softwoods. Mature coniferous trees generally have a straight central trunk with short branches which spread to form a conical or columnar crown. The leaves are either very narrow compared to their length (needle-like), or small and scale like, with straight veins unconnected by cross veins. All conifers with the exception of larch, keep their green colour over winter and leaves are retained for two or more years.
Deciduous trees are also known as broad-leafed trees or as hardwoods. The form of deciduous trees varies, but the commonest has a broad rounded crown with branches often as long or longer than the short tapered trunk. The leaves are broad compared to their length, and are retained on the tree for only one season before being shed each fall.
Prince Edward Island’s forests belong to the Acadian Forest Region classification. It is also sometimes refered to as the Atlantic Maritime region. At present however, very little of this original forest remains.
In 1806, John Stewart wrote an excellent description of Forest Trees and Other Vegetable Productions on Prince Edward Island at that time. At one point or another in PEI’s past, most of the original Acadian forests were harvested or lost through fire. In it’s place, many abandoned agricultural lands have grown up with what’s termed “old field” white spruce.
At the Macphail Woods, we are trying to return this abandoned farmland into restored acadian forests through sound ecological forestry practices. The following is an almost complete list of the native trees that may be seen on PEI, as well as along the Macphail trails.
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Native Trees of Prince Edward Island
The Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre (ACCDC) in Sackville, N.B. has been a great asset for determining what is a native plant and its rarity. They have a ranking system for plants found in each individual province (S1 to S5). Some of the species which we will be planting, such as white spruce, wild raisin and red osier dogwood, have a ranking of S5 – “widespread, abundant, and secure under present conditions”. Though common, these are still very useful plants and can be planted in a wide variety of open sites, such as in the school plantings where there is full sun.
The ACCDC rankings for rare plants are:
- S1 – Extremely rare: May be especially vulnerable to extirpation (typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining individuals)
- S2 – Rare: May be vulnerable to extirpation due to rarity or other factors (6 to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals).
- S3 – Uncommon: or found only in a restricted range, even if abundant at some locations (21-100 occurrences).
- S4 – Usually widespread, Fairly Common: and apparently secure with many occurrences, but of longer-term concern (e.g., watch list)(100+ occurrences).
- S5 – Abundant: widespread and secure, under present conditions.
- SU – Unrankable: Possibly in peril, but status is uncertain – need more information.
Over the past few years we have made great progress in increasing our numbers and varieties of rarer Island plants that can be used in a variety of landscape and restoration projects. The witch hazel we have been planting out is one of our rarest native shrubs and listed as an S1. It has been producing seed starting at about three years old. Hobblebush is one of our showiest plants throughout the year, although these shrubs are so rare that few Islanders have had the chance to see them.
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